The Spring 2018 Manga Guide
What's It About?From unrequited schoolgirl crushes to fantastical bunny girl/wolf girl bonding adventures, Éclair features stories of the love and affection between young women in a variety of settings and time periods. Nineteen mangaka each provide their own take on the idea of yuri or girls' love, some experienced in the genre and others penning a yuri tale for the first time. Stories range from only six pages to twenty-six and tell tales of two young women meeting, two long-time friends developing their friendship into something more, and two lovers already flourishing in a relationship. The common tie is that love between two women comes in a variety of forms, some sexual in nature and some not, but all are about the strong connection between their hearts.
Éclair: A Girls' Love Anthology That Resonates in Your Heart (6/5/2018) is an original collection of short yuri manga stories from nineteen mangaka, including Gosick's Sakuya Amano, Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl's Canno, and Bloom Into You's Nio Nakatani. It will be available in paperback for $13.00 and digitally for $6.99 from Yen Press and on comiXology.
Is It Worth Reading?Rebecca Silverman
Yuri fans, rejoice – Yen Press' Éclair anthology is a collection of sixteen short stories from a variety of creators with stories sweet, bitter, sexy, and everything in between. Not all of them are hits, of course, but there's more good than unsuccessful here, and like any short story collection, this presents a chance to read the works of authors otherwise unavailable in English translation. There are some favorites, naturally – as you may recognize from the cover, the first story is by NioNakatani, creator of Bloom Into You. Her story is one of the strongest, following a loner pianist and the outgoing girl who likes her. The pianist doesn't believe that her classmate could possibly truly be interested in her, and in her turn, the other girl is concerned that if the object of her affection keeps playing the piano so diligently, she'll never have a chance to get to know her. When an accident occurs, the story becomes about making the best of what appears to be a bad situation, and how love of one thing does not preclude other forms of affection.
Another good story on the sweeter end of things comes from Mekimeki, the mangaka behind the Fantasista Doll manga. “Master 1/365” is about two friends who are trying to become more than that, with the more forward of the two feeling frustrated about how slowly the other is moving. As a birthday gift, she offers to do anything at all that she's asked to, and then can't believe it when all she's asked for is a juice from the vending machine. While there is a slightly nonconsensual edge to this piece, it doesn't cross any major lines and remains largely charming, and Mekimeki's soft art style really works for it. Uta Iseki's “Hairdresser,” on the other hand, keeps the romance to a minimum as the two protagonists slowly grow closer; the strength of this story is the understated romance narrative which could easily be read as a friendship story as well.
That most of the couples in the anthology have a strong element of friendship to their relationships is perhaps part of the appeal. Even in a story like the much more bittersweet “Tears in the Clean Room” by Shiori Nishio makes it apparent that the protagonists know each other very well as friends before falling in love. Sakuya Amano (Gosick)'s piece has a bit of a “destiny” flair to it as well, but that doesn't take away from the more solid theme of love growing from people getting to know one another. It's a nice take on the romance genre, which so often relies on lust turning to love than beginning with an emotional bond. While this won't appeal to those who like their yuri steamier (although there are a few stories that skirt that edge), this is still a good collection.
Éclair is a pleasant anthology, where even the “sadder” tales end in such a bittersweet manner as to leave the reader feeling hopeful for the characters' happiness. Though there's little to tie the stories together other than the fact that each feature two young women in a variety of stages of love, there isn't a particular story that stands out as being of lesser quality than the rest. A reader's favorite story will largely depend on their taste, though Hachi Itō's fantastical “Belle the Rabbit and the Wolf” is probably the most unique and Taki Kitao's “The Two of Us and Apples” is among the cutest, providing a clear picture of the two women and their budding relationship in just a short number of pages.
However, there are some borderline unhealthy dynamics in some of the stories. There are several stories in which a teenage (or younger) young woman pursues an older woman, and the older woman doesn't entirely reject the affection. Chihiro Harumi's “Into” and Canno's “The Unemployed Woman and the High School” girl in particular, but also potentially the more chaste relationship in Sakuya Amano's “Alice in the Miniature Garden,” fit this bill. Then there are some where young women wish for their crushes to fail or even get injured so they can have a place by their side, caring for and even controlling them—Nio Nakatani's opening “Happiness in the Shape of a Scar” and Shuninta Amano's “Human Emotion.” Izumi Kawanami's “My Cute Bitch” also features a somewhat unhealthy dynamic, though it might be the only story in the bunch that alludes to the fact that homoromantic/biromantic asexuality exists as well. (The fact that the one character is allosexual and not very patient about her partner's hesitance, though, doesn't bode well for their relationship.)
It is nice to see a variety of relationships—some happy “for right now,” some more concerned with exploring the physical aspects of their relationships, some resigning to letting a dear friend find happiness elsewhere. There are also a variety of ages, from elementary school to young adult, though in the vein of “girls' love,” none include characters beyond their late twenties. Not every relationship has to be a model to follow, so at least the variety presents a sometimes grittier and therefore more realistic collection.
The art varies by story, and there's enough variety between each that they do stand on their own. A number of shojo and josei art styles tend to use the same type of character designs, but that isn't the case here, with perhaps Sakuya Amano's, Hachi Itō's, Kazuno Yuikawa's, and Shiori Nishio's standing out with unique character designs and detailed backgrounds that come to life on the page.
Éclair: A Girls' Love Anthology That Resonates in Your Heart will make a lovely addition to any yuri enthusiast's bookshelf. There's no particular story that's likely to stick with the reader long after, but each makes an impact in its own way and there really isn't any major overlap in tone, setting, or circumstances within these pages. As fetishization is minimal and most (if not all) of the mangaka participating are women themselves, this collection makes an excellent introduction to manga for any reader who celebrates LGBT content, showing what the world of manga can do with fantasy, romance, and real-world experiences.
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