Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Different couples tackle the ups and downs of living together, be that as new lovers, as Shinigami and potential victim, or simply dealing with a jealous dog in this full-color collection of flash fiction shorts.
Flash fiction and slice of life are two styles of literature that do not always sit comfortably together. The reason is in the very definitions of each type of story: flash fiction aims to tell a complete tale in as few words as possible (with the shortest in the genre being only one sentence long) while slice of life stories are about the little, quiet details of everyday life. Put together, the result is often either a piece that doesn't feel finished or that makes you wonder why you ought to care.
That's the underlying problem in Yuri Life, creator Kurukuruhime's first collection. (She did have a piece in the anthology Whenever Our Eyes Meet, also published in English by Yen Press.) Each of the chapters in this scant book are about a different couple doing something completely ordinary, and none are quite interesting enough to feel all that distinct from the others. While it doesn't strictly fit the definition of flash fiction, with stories all being 10 – 20 pages in length (although for manga that's fairly short), the apparent lack of action and character development makes each chapter feel like it goes by in a flash, while simultaneously dragging on forever.
On the plus side, it isn't often that we get stories about lesbian couples just living their lives, and in that respect, Yuri Life is a success. There's something so comfortably normal about these women's lives – they go to work, they do laundry, they walk the dog – that we don't often see in LGBTQ+ literature, which far too often is trying to make a point. If there's any point here, it's that lesbians are just like anyone else; they just happen to be in a same-sex relationship. That's really heartening to see, and with the exception of one story, the book is charmingly free of political leanings or deep lessons we're supposed to learn. It's just nice.
Fortunately for readers, “nice” does get a little bit of a work out in a couple of the pieces. The most striking one in that respect is story four, “Life with a Grim Reaper.” The only chapter to have a fantasy element, the plot follows office worker Yuzu, who is well on her way to working herself to death. One day she comes home to find Saki, a “grim reaper” (presumably a translation of “Shinigami”) waiting for her. Saki tells Yuzu that she's going to die soon, and Saki is here to make sure that she goes without regrets. Fortunately for Yuzu, Saki's got a crush on her, and before too long the reaper has Yuzu taking better care of herself and basically cooks her way out of Yuzu's life. It's an odd piece, but more overt fun than most of the others for both the way it tackles its subject matter (overwork due to loneliness) and the fact that it's fantasy-based. The format, which like all of the other chapters is 4-panel style, doesn't help this particular story, but it still is a stand-out in the volume.
Interestingly enough, one of the other pieces worth mentioning is the only other one to end with “And they lived happily ever after…?” where all of the others end on a definite note about that. “Life with a Yandere,” the sixth story, is the least wholesome of the batch, with Runa coming off as very, very creepy and possibly a bit alarming as well. While her partner Hina may be aware of Runa's tendencies (which includes a collection of Hina's hair in jars, we're never really sure, and by the end of the piece there's sort of an urge to tell Hina to get the hell out of there. That it's still meant to be romantic is a bit uncomfortable, but it does speak to Kurukuruhime's dedication to showing all kinds of couples. That's sort of the reasoning behind “Life with Sensei,” a story featuring a high school student involved in a romantic relationship with her teacher. At one point we learn that the two have moved in together while the student still appears to be underage, so there's a lot more suspension of disbelief required for the chapter, unless you're a fan of the student/teacher romance as a genre.
Although the book is short at 127 pages, it has been printed in full-color, which to a degree makes up for it retailing for the usual Yen Press price of $13. Kurukuruhime's art isn't amazing, but the addition of color does give it a little boost, and she handles color with a fairly deft hand. I don't love the decision to print the notes in colored ink, as it can make them a bit harder to read, but apart from that the presentation of the book is very nice.
Yuri Life is most likely to only appeal to die-hard fans of yuri manga. It isn't terrible, but it is kind of dull, and the stories aren't long enough to really get us invested in the characters or their lives. It's a good effort and there are indications that Kurukuruhime will grow into a strong creator, but this volume isn't quite there yet.
Overall : C-
Story : C-
Art : C
+ Full-color pages, stories about normal adult women living their lives
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