Sunday, July 31, 2011


Clover is a collection of one-shots featuring four sisters' "yuri adolescence." The sisters' ages vary widely, but each one is in high school in her respective chapter.

"Next to Her" is about the youngest, Uzuki, the straight-laced representative of her class who is caught trying to climb onto the luggage rack of an empty train car by a girl named Shiho. To Uzuki's chagrin, Shiho turns out to be a transfer student in her class. Shiho keeps getting in trouble for not adhering to her new school's stuffy dress code (no nail polish, no earrings, hair elastics must be black, navy, or brown, etc) and the other girls avoid and gossip about her. But Shiho doesn't care, she and Uzuki become best friends (and Uzuki becomes more of a non-conformist), and they share a ride on the luggage rack of a train. Not really yuri (although the ending hints at the possibility), but a great friendship story.

"Bitter Girl" stars the second youngest, Midori. Midori works at a bakery, where a girl named Seiko comes every day to buy sweets. They become friends after Midori offers Seiko a job there, and when Midori bemoans not having a boyfriend on Christmas, Seiko offers to have a pretend relationship with her until they find boyfriends. Midori eventually realizes that, on her side at least, it's real- and when a boy asks her out and Seiko ends their relationship, Midori runs after her and they both admit they love each other. (It also turns out that Seiko hates sweets, and only visited the bakery for Midori.)

In "Spring Love", second oldest Fuuka gets her heart broken when the girl she likes turns out to be in love with a different girl, who likes her back even though she doesn't know it yet. Fuuka encourages the girl she likes to confess her feelings, and gets comforted later by her big sister Ichige.

"Entranced" focuses on Kazuyo, the girl who's been in love since childhood with oldest sister Ichige. Kazuyo learns that Ichige's reason for dating her loser boyfriend isn't at all what she thinks it is, and even though Ichige still isn't interested in Kazuyo, Kazuyo wants to always be there for her as her friend.

The "Happy Days" epilogue focuses on Midori and Seiko as adults. Seiko is feverishly working to become a lawyer and Midori feels like they're becoming more and more distant. (It doesn't help that they have a harder time acting like a couple in public now that they're out of high school.) Of course, they get a squee-worthy, but realistically resolved ending. Otsu Hiyori includes a bonus drawing showing both of them in wedding dresses when they get married after the events of "Happy Days."

Clover is strong all-around, but "Happy Days", Otsu's most mature story so far (as much for being about a long-term relationship as for how old the characters are), bumps it up a notch. Cumulatively, Clover is less of a straight-up romance collection than a look at the variety of relationships between women. And as with most of her work, Otsu reads like someone who is very aware of genre conventions- usually subverting them for the better as a result- and expects her readers to be also.

Story: A-
Art: B+
Overall: A-

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Just FYI/Apologies

I will definitely review Clover today. I wanted to do it yesterday, but...ugh. It's a long, stupid story. I'm sorry about the extra wait!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Orange & Yellow

Orange & Yellow is Otsu Hiyori's weakest collection, but it's still above average.

"Orange and Yellow" is a three-part story about sensible Jun and her spacy best friend Myu. Since they were little, Myu has told Jun that she loves her more than anyone, but Jun always assumed she meant it platonically. Myu gets a bad reputation at school because she's dated fifteen boys over two years, but she only dated them because of some advice Jun gave her. When Jun finds out, she tells Myu that she should only go out with someone if she has feelings for them- and Myu instantly asks her to be her girlfriend. This throws Jun for a loop, and after getting advice from some upperclassmen, she distances herself from Myu...and realizes how much she misses her. So much, that she and Myu quickly make up and start dating. "Orange and Yellow" is cute, but as a couple, Jun and Myu are more tepid than I would like. Myu's childishness is over-exaggerated, but she also has the best character moments. (The towel scene and the accidental outing.)

In "The Proof of Her Love" Yamamoto-sensei, a teacher at an all-girls' school, finds out that the new teacher, Saitou-sensei, used to be a student at the school. Saitou was in love with Yamamoto then and still carries a torch for her. This story could so easily have been creepy, but strained through the Otsu Hiyori-filter, it's a cute piece of fluff.

In the 4 page "Magical Chocolate", Ako gives Kei a piece of chocolate, saying that whoever eats it will fall for the person who gave it to them. Kei eats it, but tells Ako that she can't tell if it works because she was in love with her before eating it. ^^

"Katakoi Hime" is definitely my favorite in this collection. Saki, who has never fallen in love, comes across a girl named Mizuno lying on the ground in the rain. Mizuno jokes that she's the reincarnation of a mermaid, since her love will never be returned. Now Saki can't stop noticing how pretty Mizuno's smile is and how much she "sparkles" as a result of being in love. She realizes that Mizuno is in love with their teacher Fukami-sensei after seeing Mizuno kiss her arm where Fukami-sensei touched it. When Saki asks Mizuno about it, Mizuno says that she's weird because of her feelings, isn't she? Saki replies that she isn't (she envies Mizuno for knowing what it's like to be in love), and Mizuno cries because nobody has told her that her feelings aren't weird. Saki gathers information on Sensei to help out Mizuno, but finds out that Sensei's going to get married- which is why Mizuno thought her love was completely hopeless. Saki comforts Mizuno and starts falling for Mizuno herself. (This story pleasantly reminds me of Mermaid Line's "Megumi and Aoi", Ichijou Yukari's "That's Why I Sigh", and Kawaii Anata's "Winter-Tinged Thoughts.")

In "Tear Potion", Kanoko doesn't like Satomi, the girl who sits next to her in class, because Satomi gives her the cold shoulder for no apparent reason. Kanoko finds out that Satomi thinks she's going out with Matsui, the guy Satomi likes, but Kanoko explains that he's just her cousin...and by the way, he has a girlfriend. When Satomi starts crying in response, Kanoko suddenly feels bad and licks one of her tears away. (This scene isn't as weird as it sounds, I swear.) The next day, Satomi can't stop blushing around Kanoko and Kanoko realizes that she wants to make Satomi fall for her.

Then there's a cute epilogue about Jun and Myu.

Again, Orange & Yellow isn't Otsu's best (all of the stories in it are sweet, but only "Katakoi Hime" is on the the same level as the Kawaii Anata collection), but it's still enjoyable.

Story: B-
Art: B+
Overall: B-

Up next, Clover!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Otsu Hiyori Week: Kawaii Anata

I loved the bonus Mizu-iro Cinema booklet so much (must get my hands on iiiiiit @_______@) that I've decided to have an Otsu Hiyori week and finally write about the collections by her that I haven't covered.

The first story in Kawaii Anata ("Your Cuteness") is my favorite, "Maple Love." It's a pretty straightforward story about two university students, Kaede and Erika, meeting cute and falling in love. Erika becomes interested in Kaede almost right away and confesses to her, willing to continue to just be friends since she knows Kaede doesn't reciprocate. Lucky thing Kaede's cool with the confession and returns Erika's feelings eventually.... Even with the clunky "How do two women have sex?" gag at the end, I still love this story to bits.

In "Love Letter", Yuuka is in love with her best friend Miwa, but Miwa is in love with a boy and asks Yuuka to give him her love letter. We see Yuuka tear up a letter in her room.... Yuuka and Miwa don't get together but I felt like the ending indicated that, having finally gotten catharsis for her feelings, Yuuka would move on.

"Hoshizora Cycling" ("Cycling Under A Starlit Sky") is about Mako, who bikes to school with her best friend and crush Momo. (Momo rides on the back while Mako pedals.) When they sleep on the school rooftop one night, Mako wishes on a shooting star for Momo to love her back. When she sadly confesses what her wish was to Momo later, Momo calls her a "baka" because she'd already fallen in love with her. We last see them biking under the starry night sky as a couple. When Mako asks Momo what her wish from earlier was, Momo smiles happily and says that it's a secret.

In "Kawaii Anata", Maria has always been teased for looking like an "okama" when she wears girl's clothes, because she looks boyish. Her best friend is Akane, a feminine girl with a great snarky streak, who tells Maria that she's cute and nominates herself to play the princess to Maria's prince in the school play. Long story short, the play is almost ruined, but it turns out fine at the end and Maria realizes that Akane is the prince to her princess.

"Fuyu-iro Omoi" ("Winter-Tinged Thoughts") brings on the drama when quiet, awkward Shizuka falls for her outspoken friend Matsuri, who likes the beautiful Aya-sempai. Like "Love Letter", this story has its share of heartbreak, but it ends on a much more hopeful note.

In "Kokoro Bento" ("A Lunch Made With Love"), Shizuka and Izumi always spend lunch together and Izumi realizes that Shizuka is in love. (Although she doesn't get that Shizuka loves her.) She accidentally breaks Shizuka's heart when she asks her who she likes, and tries to make it up to her by making her a bento. Her reaction to Shizuka enjoying the (not very good) food indicates that she's falling for Shizuka but doesn't know it yet.

Even when traversing well-worn territory, Otsu Hiyori has a knack for tugging heart strings. Her happy stories are grin-inducing and the bitter ones are tempered to be bittersweet. Reading her work is the equivalent of sitting down with a warm slice of apple pie with milk. Otsu's most well-known strength is that her characters generally don't fall into simple types (or adhere to them, in the case of "Kawaii Anata") and tend to be mature and easygoing, in keeping with her mellow story-telling style. I have a special attachment to "Maple Love", partly because it's the first Otsu Hiyori story I (attempted to) read in the first issue of Yuri Hime I bought, but I really like the entire collection.

Story: B+ overall
Art: B+
Overall: B+

Friday, July 22, 2011

Best Yuri News of 2011

Now I don't feel delusional for wishing for more Nana and Hitomi- mwahahahahahahahaha!

That's right. More Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo in the same magazine that ran Girl Friends. (I will unnecessarily note that Girl Friends is the only good thing that seems to have run in Comic High, based on one issue- the one with the drama CD comic- and the Comic High selection I've seen in book stores.)

The September issue of Comic High can't come soon enough. Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo has been out of print for a while (unlike pretty much every other tankoubon published by Yuri Hime), so I wonder if those chapters will be re-printed. And only in tankoubon form, or in the magazine also, to get readers up to speed before the new story begins? We'll see....

This news was found via @Yuricon and @yurinahibi.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

An unexpected find: Hana Yori Joshi ("Girls Over Flowers")

I like Honey & Honey (I'd recommend it to anyone looking for realistic yuri), so finding a collection of books by Takeuchi Sachiko that I hadn't read in Ikebukuro's Toranoana was a treat. But I actually...didn't like this book, which is about Takeuchi Sachiko and her friends participating in public events, most of which are sex-related in some way.

One thing I like about Honey & Honey is how its "characters" don't shy away from the topic of sexuality, without being stuttering and immature about it- not that surprising for an autobiographical manga about and for adults. Some of Sachiko, Mai, and Masako's frank conversations and jokes remind me of real life conversations, say, from dinner at my dorm's dining hall, in a way that most manga never approach.

I don't like to say that an autobiographical manga is too honest, because that's the point- but this tankoubon could have been titled More Than You'll Ever Want To Know About Takeuchi Sachiko and Her Friends' Sex Lives. The sex toy chapter in Honey & Honey? Funny. Watching Sachiko paddle Kai and drool on her knees over two guys doing S&M? ... ^_^;;;;;;; I liked Honey & Honey for its autobio look at lgbt life in Japan, but this entire volume zooms in on the sex aspect of Sachiko's life at the expense of everything else.

Also- don't get what Sachiko and Kai see in each other. For the kind of story Hana Yori Joshi is, Sachiko and Kai spend virtually no time together, and don't seem all that interested in each other. (I would not continue to date someone who kisses other people, call me old-fashioned.) And I'll admit that I miss Masako. She said some really sexist things, but she also seems like the most self-aware person in the Sachiko-verse.

Overall: Read Honey & Honey. It's still good. Skip this.

When I first visited Ni-choume (I've been there three times; the second time for a women's only party, the third time just to walk around and see how much better I could find my way around it), I got directions from a gay man who offered to help me find a bar I was looking for (it was recommended by my Tokyo guidebook; the bar wasn't open to the public that night, since it was hosting a private party). When we found it (after he stopped in a gay bar and asked the bartender for directions), he asked that if I write about Ni-choume online (say, on a blog), I not write anything that makes it look bad. (This was an eerie moment, because I had never mentioned that I blog.) I kind of wonder what he would think of Hana Yori Joshi.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What I'm watching this season

Sorry about the lack of posts this past week. Back on track- I've seen everything that I thought had potential for the summer, and it's looking pretty good so far. (Need a good new yuri show though. For my lesbian TV needs, I'm hooked on Pretty Little Liars right now. Viva season 2!) So, what's worth watching?

More of this,
and less of this, 

Blood-C (2 episodes watched): Beautiful artistry (CLAMP's usual line-up of pretty girls and pretty guys- and one smoking hot teacher), some kick-ass fight scenes...and an annoying heroine. ("STOP SINGING.") They've tried so hard to make Saya loveable in Blood-C (she's a clumsy, pig-tailed, glasses-wearing miko who sings on the way to and from school and is often late because she gets side-tracked helping old ladies and kids, picking up trash, and trying to pet puppies) that it produces the opposite effect. I'll give it another shot, since it looks like something big will happen in the next episode.

Dantalian no Shouka (1 episode watched):
This was okay. Loads of similarities to Gosick, although I like how Dalian isn't as precious as Victorique and Hugh doesn't feel like as much of an audience self-insert as Kazuya. Sharp art and animation from Gainax, but still a pass for me.

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée (2 episodes watched): Sweet and beautifully atmospheric, as expected. It isn't Aria, but it's another feel-good show with Satou Junichi's thumb print on it.

Kamisama Dolls (2 episodes watched):
It has interesting elements (the sinister, tight-knit village that the main character left to live in Tokyo), but it mostly feels like a non-obnoxious take on the old Everyman-gets-thrust-into-a-crazy-fantasy-adventure-and-hey-there's-a-busty-love-interest-too set-up.

Mawaru PenguinDrum (2 episodes watched): 
Notes on the first episode:
I could feel my heart rate speed up when I started watching this. The Mad King does not disappoint. XD I re-watched it to better catch the Utena parallels (The second "Survival Strategy!" scene (which I've re-watched on its own) = the staircase/elevator sequence. The children who compare the world to an apple initially reminded me of the shadow girls, but then I remembered the student council's "the world is an egg" speech.) and make connections I'd missed. (No coincidence that you-know-who pulled out Kanba's heart before what happened in the final scene. The question is if what she did is the cause of his feelings, or if what she did to his heart made him act on pre-existing feelings. Kind of like the duelists in the Black Rose arc.) I'm also excited about the unintroduced characters in the OP- especially the girl who kind of looks like Juri. ^_^;; (Trying not to go overboard comparing Mawaru to Utena. Trying.) But yes- if you can only watch one show airing right now, it should definitely be this one.
Notes on the second episode:
Holy crap, what a creepy ending. Not much actually happened since it's a set-up episode (two more of the side characters from the OP appeared in some form here), but it was still worth re-watching. Going by the OP, Ringo isn't to to get a good ending, but we'll see.... And everyone was right about the "Survival Strategy!" scene. (I imagined Ikuhara being like, "You wanna bitch about the repetitive staircase sequence being a budget-saving move? How's this?") And even though I don't really like Hoshino Lily's art in manga form, her character designs always look beautiful and elegant animated. (Here and in Otome Youkai Zakuro.) What is the penguindrum? I'm assuming that it's something found in the heart of someone who's in love? (Or in the heart of someone whose love is "forbidden" and needs to be hidden?) I'm thinking (again) of how, after the penguin hat entity said it wanted the penguindrum, it got rid of Shouma and pulled out Kanba's heart. It didn't find what it was looking for in Kanba, so it targeted Ringo as a likely source for what it wants. That still doesn't answer what the penguindrum is (assuming my theory is even correct), but, hey, the"ability to revolutionize the world" wasn't concretely defined either.

Morita-san ha Mukuchi (2 episodes watched): A pleasant adaptation of a 4-koma about a quiet, likeable girl named Morita Mayu and her school friends. It doesn't have any service and at three minutes an episode, it's easy to follow. (Here's hoping the yuri from the manga shows up here. ^^) My one complaint is that the two boys who briefly show up in episode 2 are...really annoying. (Their commentary was in a running gag in the OVA, and I'm afraid that it's going to be the same in the TV series.)

No. 6 (2 episodes watched): My second favorite this season. (Nothing's going to beat Ikuhara.) The first episode was intriguing, the second episode was great, and I'm itching to see what happens to Shion and Nezumi next.

Nyanpire (3 minutes per episode, 2 episodes watched): 
These cats were cuter when they didn't talk. (And for such a goth-looking show, there's no dark humor.) Pass.

Sacred Seven (1 episode watched):
Sunrise, what happened? A high school boy (who always has the same grim, pouty expression- see the screencap above) turns out to have superpowers that he can use to fight monsters. A goth-loli with a mecha-piloting butler who's a dead ringer for Sebastian Michaelis and a gajillion sniper maids at her disposal sternly tells him to fulfill his destiny, before he accepts. This show's biggest downfall is that it has no sense of humor. With all of the ridiculous crap in it, it should camp it up a little instead of expecting the audience to take it completely seriously.

The Idolm@ster (2 episodes watched):
I found the first episode annoying, but decided to try the second after reading the reviews of this show on ANN. It was fine. Now that they've been introduced, the girls do a (completely un-servicey, wow) photo shoot and learn a lesson about how they should value what makes them unique. Better than I expected, even though I still won't be following it.

Usagi Drop (1 episode watched):
A pitch-perfect adaptation of the material it covers, but I can't get over what happens later on the manga. (It's a slap in the face to anyone who likes Usagi Drop for the heartwarming parent-child relationship between Daikichi and Rin. Hard to believe that a mother of two wrote it.)

I've started the first season of Natsume Yuujin-chou (thumbs up- it's a really good show), and it sounds like the recently premiered third season has kept up the franchise's quality.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Renai Idenshii XX volume 1 + Drama CD and Parody Manga

The cover for the version that comes with the drama CD.
The cover for the version that comes with a booklet containing a yaoi (i.e. the characters are all guys in it) parody of the story.
And the cover for the normal edition. (I like the second cover best.)

I love Zaou Taishi and Eiki Eiki's Haru Natsu Aki Fuyu, even though its first two chapters aren't very good. I'm not in love with Renai Idenshii XX, but it's entertaining for something different (i.e. sci-fi themed) running in Yuri Hime.

The story takes place in 2160, 38 years after an incurable pandemic has finished wiping out the male population by making the Y chromosome K.O. The population continues to replenish itself via artificial insemination, which raises the question of how the hell they can make that work over the long term. (The sperm supply has to run out eventually.)

The women who came into power following the pandemic created the Eden Project, in which the population is divided into Adams (who perform tasks traditionally given to men, like having power and jobs) and Eves (raised to be traditionally feminine, by staying home and looking pretty). Adams and Eves must pair up and form families. Relationships between Adams and between Eves are forbidden. Even though it's a really bleak set-up (as the protagonist points out), there's enough humor to keep the story from feeling bogged down, thankfully.

Koshiro Aoi is an Adam transferring to a prestigious, government-run school for Adams, where she meets Kokonoe Sakura (my favorite), an Adam who's an Etoile (a member of the highest class in society) and a Top Star (one of the top five highest academically-ranked students in the academy). Refreshingly, Sakura isn't the lofty Onee-sama or Prince type. She's an easygoing, slightly goofy foil to the hyper-serious Aoi.

Aoi decides to become a Top Star so she can get guaranteed access to to the highest stratum of society and destroy the Eden Project from within. A classmate who figures out Aoi's plan after looking into her background (Aoi's mother's life was ruined by the Eden Project because she fell in love with another Eve), tells Aoi that she can't do it alone and needs to gather allies. By the end of this volume, Aoi is a Top Star, and she and Sakura are best friends. (And Aoi is in love with Sakura, even though she doesn't realize it yet.) Sakura's snooty fiancee, who is suspicious of Aoi from the beginning, also develops a grudge against her.

Most of this volume feels like the equivalent of a runner stretching before a race, just starting to take off by the end of the volume. I'm interested in seeing how it all turns out. If you question the premise at all, it begins to unravel (and a yuri story set in a single-sex world in which the characters can't have anything other than same-sex relationships, no matter how good, will never be completely satisfying for me), but if you just take it as a speculative fiction romp by two mangaka who specialize in gender-bending (and throw out some nice shout-outs: "Top Star", the class sections at Aoi and Sakura's school being named after Takarazuka troupes, the Adams wearing old-fashioned French military-style uniforms and fencing each other, and Sakura owning a pet cat named Oscar), it's fun.

There's also a short bonus chapter that's stupid and lowbrow (hint: Zaou Taishi gets to indulge her love of drawing boobs), but still funny. (Poor Aoi. ^_^;)

The drama CD is, like the Girl Friends CD, an abridged version of the first volume of the story, with the yuri bumped up a bit. The seiyuu did a good job, but I thought Taketatsu Ayana was miscast as Aoi. (Aoi sounds completely different in my head.) The last 11 minutes feature the seiyuu answering questions like, "What would you do if there were no men left in the world?"

In the sixteen page yaoi parody booklet that comes with the other special edition, male Aoi arrives at the academy, picks a fight with a classmate (because said classmate grabbed his butt, instead of insulting Aoi's dead mother's kendo sword like in the story proper), and some creeps try to gang rape him, but male Sakura saves him and they have sex.

Story: B-
Art: A- (I love Zaou Taishi's art style.)
Overall: B-

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yuruyuri Anime Premiere

I love yuri.

If Yuruyuri were tangible, I would douse it with kerosene, light it on fire, and roast marshmallows over it.

Something isn't right here.

Yuruyuri is about three middle school girls who take over the room that belonged to their school's now defunct Tea Ceremony Club. They dub it the Amusement Club, where they do nothing in an utterly uninteresting way. Blonde Kyouko gushes about the latest doujinshi she drew starring her favorite anime character, the magical girl Mirakurun. Red-haired Akari is a fitting lead for this show, because she's utterly bland. Sensible brunette Yui acts as a foil to Kyouko. And another girl, pink-haired Chinatsu, stops by because she wants to join the Tea Ceremony Club. Rather than join because she thinks it looks like fun, she gets dragged in by Kyouko because she looks like Mirakurun, and spends most of her time making googly eyes at the impervious Yui while dodging Kyouko's advances.

Going from what I've read/skimmed of the manga, the yuri in this series will never go anywhere, and the yuri-based humor will always consist of gags like "You want to do something stimulating? Hern, hern, boob-grabbing!" and "Akari's older sister steals her underwear and sleeps with a hug pillow of her, but Akari's too innocent to notice! Bwa-bwa-bwaaaaa."

Even if this series disappoints on the yuri front, what about its other selling points? Are the leads convincing as friends? Can I understand why they would want to hang out together after school, when all they seem to do is annoy the crap out of each other? No, and duh. If they all died, would I feel anything? No.

I'll be up front and admit that while I never liked Yuruyuri, I have a special axe to grind with it because it represents everything I don't want out of yuri, but have continued to see in lieu of what I want to see since Aoi Hana and Sasameki Koto aired. (And tanked in sales.) 

I recently used an analogy on Twitter that I'll share here, meant to describe the folks who say that they love yuri when it's an element in something like Kämpfer or Railgun (I like Railgun, but it's a perfect example), but then mostly ignore canon yuri-centric love stories like Aoi Hana and Sasameki Koto. To me, they're the equivalent of people who call themselves chocolate lovers but, when a chocolate shop opens and starts selling rich, mouth-watering, inexpensive chocolates made from top ingredients, they ignore it for M&Ms and Hershey's and the chocolate shop goes out of business, leaving crappy chocolate as the only option for everyone.

Story: Where do you think Yuruyuri fits in the chocolate analogy?
Art: Consistently well-rendered, but character designs are bland. B-
Overall: F

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Go, go, Nanzaki Iku!: Sweet Little Devil

Whoo-hoo! I've been looking forward to this collection. Nanzaki Iku has been drawing fun Mai-Hime and Mai-Otome doujinshi under the name Doropanda Tours for years (the avatar he uses for his profile in this book is a panda), so it's nice to see him finally put out a collection of his own original yuri work. He's too good to stick to making slash doujinshi. (Or illustrating the Queen's Blade: Hide and Seek manga.) Sweet Little Devil, like most Yuri Hime tankoubon, is a collection of stories about several different couples- a veritable assorted chocolate box of yuri.

The first three chapters focus on SLD's alpha couple, Sayo and Ritsuko. When they were neighbors as kids, runty Sayo always followed (and crushed on) Ritsuko, who was two years older. After going their separate ways and then meeting again as teens, they fell in love and started dating. In the first chapter, "Sweet Little Devil", they resolve a misunderstanding over why Ritsuko never told Sayo about her ex, even though Sayo has been open about who she's dated. "Heart and Soul" deals with Ritsuko's upcoming graduation. In "Moment Like Fireworks", Sayo and Ritsuko go on a date at a summer festival, where they run into a friend of Sayo's who's on a date with her boyfriend. At first, Sayo introduces Ritsuko as a friend, but then backtracks and tells her friend that Ritsuko is her girlfriend. (My favorite scene in the book. ^_^ ) Then Sayo and Ritsuko continue their date.

In "Love Prep Room", Shiina is in love with her cheerful, athletic best friend since middle school Satsuki, but she won't confess and Satsuki doesn't get it. Instead, Shiina settles for a physical relationship with Eiko, who knows about Shiina's feelings for Satsuki and pretends to not have any feelings for Shiina. (The ending is hopeful for two of these characters.)

In "Our Future Plans", Azumi has a crush on Chiwasu, the owner of a pet shop she frequents. Azumi confesses to Chiwasu in a sputter-inducingly straightforward way and, after spending more time with her, gets together with her. I especially liked the ending of this one as well.

"Starting Over" is the one story in this volume that ran in Yuri Hime instead of Yuri Hime Wildrose. (I'm probably in the minority for wanting Nanzaki to draw more for regular Yuri Hime than Wildrose.) Haru decides to ask "Shima-chan", the cool, aloof-looking girl who she's had an eye on throughout high school but never spoken to, to sign her yearbook. They hit it off (Shima nicknames Haru "Yone-chan", as an abbreviation of her last name), and the story ends on a note of possibility. I would love to see Haru and Shima's story developed more.

"One And Only" is a really cute Happily-Ever-After-type epilogue focusing on Sayo and Ritsuko.

There's...something about Nanzaki Iku's story-telling style that charms me. His goofy sense of humor and the banter between his characters are both selling points, and he convincingly portrays the excitement and tension of being in love. This collection isn't ground-breaking in any respect, but it does a very good job of working within its parameters and serving up several likeable canon (duh, it's Yuri Hime) yuri characters, with a dash of queer identity to boot. The first four chapters are clearly influenced by the ShizNat dynamic that Nanzaki has spent years drawing (I imagined Sayo and Shiina speaking with Shindou Naomi's voice ^_^;;), but the last two chapters move into more original character types- which I found refreshing, as sweet of a couple as Sayo and Ritsu are. 

Sweet Little Devil isn't high art, but it's a fun collection. And it's a really cool feeling to see a doujinshi artist I'm familiar with go pro as a yuri mangaka.

Story: B+
Art: B+
Overall: B+

Update on 07/24: Nanzaki Iku's a woman. Whoops. ^^;;;; I shall keep that in mind henceforth.