Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Two cram school teachers explain that their relationship is natural to their distracted students, a manager and the actress she works with explore their couplehood, an adult film actress gets her comeuppance, and a florist starts a relationship with a hostess in this anthology of yuri stories about working women from a variety of creators.
Sometimes it can feel like a flood or a drought in the world of manga, and we're currently going through a good time for fans of F/F relationships. Syrup joins Yen Press' Éclair series of anthologies as Seven Seas' contribution to this particular facet of the genre, although on the surface it's more comparable to Whenever Our Eyes Meet in that all of the stories feature working women. This does give the anthology a slightly different appeal; unlike the Éclair books, there aren't any romances between a schoolgirl and an adult woman and the only children in the book are either strictly someone's students or infants. This also means that there are no May/December relationships, which may be a disappointment for some readers.
Despite this, there really aren't very many stories that have sex scenes; there are plenty where we come in before and after the act, but sex remains largely private to the characters. In most cases, this is neither a negative nor a positive, simply a thing that the creator has made a decision about. It does, however, place a greater reliance on dialogue and body language, which not every story is up to. The case where the relative chasteness of the piece is actually a detriment is “Coward Queen” by Kana Yoshimura, creator of Murciélago. The story is about an adult film actress who, it is strongly implied, sexually abused her younger neighbor when she was in school. That neighbor is now grown up (enough to be legal; she's still young) and has finagled her way into the film that the actress is currently starring in in order to exact her revenge. That “revenge” may not be entirely her motive feels almost beside the point; while the idea may be generally uncomfortable for some readers, taking that concern out, the story simply isn't sexually explicit enough to work as a fetish piece either. It's a story that screams for an R-18 rating to at least make it appealing to fans of its subgenre, but as it stands as maybe R-15 or R-13, it just feels uncomfortable and underdeveloped.
That, however, is an issue largely unique to that particular piece, although there are certainly others that could have benefited from something similar. The greater problem with most of the works in Syrup is that they feel too short. Certainly a story, manga or otherwise, can tell a complete narrative in very few pages – Fly's contribution to Éclair Blanche is a good example – but for the most part the works here do not. Instead they introduce the characters, show us the start of their relationships, and then just sort of…stop. The opening piece in the anthology, “One AM at the Laundromat” by Yukiko (creator of Futaribeya, published by Tokyopop), is a prime example of this. The story's premise is engaging: an office worker and a club hostess cross paths at the laundromat at one in the morning when the former is finishing her day and the latter is starting hers. They bond over manga, the office worker is scandalized by the hostess' crotchless panties, and…that's it. It's clear that there's so much more to these women's story missing (hopefully Yukiko will come back to them at some point) that the piece, instead of being charming, becomes frustrating upon reflection. Naoko Kodama's (I Married My Best Friend To Shut My Parents Up) “Daily Smile” has a similar problem, as does Amano Shuninta's “The Florist and the Wednesday Night Lady,” which interestingly enough also features a club worker.
Fortunately the good stories are very nice examples of the genre. Mocchi_au_Lait's “The Cram School Teachers” takes a very different approach in that the couple is never seen together on the page; instead they're both teaching the same group of girls different subjects when their distracted students ask questions about their relationship. While one teacher is flustered, the other is honest and tells the girls that there's nothing wrong with two women being in love, and there's a very nice openness to the conversation that's often lacking in this kind of manga. Ohi Pikachi's “The Abandoned Cat and the Lamp” is one of the very sweetest of the stories, telling the story of a woman who longs to be taken in like the abandoned kittens she sometimes sees outside a bookstore only to find love with the very woman who saved the cats – and who, as it turns out, has been lighting the lantern every night that gives the other comfort. “Rose Quartz,” by Kenn Kurogane, is another highlight, as two women who have been together since high school celebrate their anniversary and reflect on their relationship. This is also the most sexually explicit of the stories (although far from being anything more than a little ecchi), and like “The Cram School Teachers” is notable for its public openness about the women's relationship.
As an anthology, Syrup succeeds in bringing together a variety of stories and art styles, and it certainly has a high level of name recognition with Milk Morinaga, Naoko Kodama, Yukiko, and Kana Yoshimura, among others. Taken as a whole, it is a bit more miss than hit with a high percentage of stories feeling truncated and at least one premise that badly suffers because of that. But this is only its first volume, and once it establishes itself, future books could show improvement. It isn't the Éclair series, but it is an interesting collection with some very strong pieces about women in love.
Overall : C+
Story : C+
Art : B+
+ Nice variety of art styles, the strong stories are very strong.
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