My MidAmerica II/WorldCON panel on yaoi and yuri was kind of a bust. Since I was the moderator, I have only myself to blame. Part of the problem was that I didn’t come prepared with a list of titles and authors.
And neither did my other two panelists.
On top of that, I looked out in the audience and saw Tatsumi Takayuki and Kotani Mari, whom I recognized from a previous panel I was on with Tatsumi called “Living the Cyberpunk Future.” I looked at them, and then I looked at my fellow panelists–all of us Westerners–and thought ‘oh boy.’
I mean, to be fair, I’m not sure the extent to which WorldCON knew what they had in Kotani and how perfect she would have been on this panel. I did my best, but, quite honestly, I made a point to apologize to both of them that neither of them was included. I also felt a lot like I was flailing because I was so hyper aware of my non-expert status. I tried to make noises about how we all were, at least, expert at how the West consumes this stuff.
But, I felt really stupid.
And, yet a friend in the audience suggested we do a repeat of this panel at Gaylaxicon, a GLBTQ science fiction convention I’ll be attending in November.
With that thought in mind, I said to myself, I’d better start making lists now and catching up on my yuri reading, in particular.
Thus, while hunting through Mangasaurus again, I found this title: Roundabout, which promised to be yuri slice of life.
I have to admit, these first few page totally hooked me. I actually laughed out loud at the whole “I love you so much!”/(Ah, crap, it’s time to dump her) exchange, even though I expected the romance to work out anyway.
Then, I was further intrigued when it revealed that Kawahara, our hero, wasn’t necessarily just not that into Oono, but was actually plotting revenge for a high school break-up.
Apparently, Kawahara and Oono were a couple at an all-girls school, years ago. Kawahara was super-into Oono, even though they were very different, and they snuck away any chance they got to steal kisses on the roof of the high school. All very cute and lovey-lovey. Then, one day Oono disappears from school. Her family moved away. It would be heartbreaking enough, especially since Oono gave Kawahara no warning, but also it seems Oono has left behind a TRAIL of broken hearts.
Rumor had it that Oono was stringing along FOUR other girls!
A double-stab to the heart by a dirty double-crosser!
So, now it’s Kawahara’s turn for revenge. By chance, she met up with Oono at work. Oono doesn’t even recognize her (that bitch!), but Kawahara is not deterred! She woes the heck out of Oono, and now that she has Oono wrapped around her finger she’s going to disappear in the middle of the night!
That’ll show her, right?
Well, of course not. This is shoujo ai, a category I had not heard of until the panel, but which apparently distinguishes (in the West only, according to the Interwebs) romantic lesbian romances from more porny lesbian romances.
Since this is a one-shot and a quick read, I don’t want to entirely spoil the ending, but I will say that Oono comes up with a way to prove her love to Kawahara. Though what I love about the end? Oono is so smooth you actually do end up wondering, as does our hero, whether or not she still really WAS a player back in the day. I liked that a lot, because it really did give it more of a real life sensibility for me.
As the shoujo ai label promises, this is pan-to-the-left sex. There is the hint of a night of make-up sex, but we only get on-screen kissing. I don’t know if that goes in the plus or minus column for you, but I thought I’d be sure to put that out there. No steamy girl-on-girl action, alas.
Still, in comparison to the accidental shoujo I read earlier tonight I have to say I liked the romance better. I’ve always been partial to
gay stories stories that reach beyond the low-hanging fruit of first blush. Falling in love is easy. Staying in love is harder. This story wasn’t exactly about that, but because the women had a history together there was more about what love means long-term, which, as a woman looking ahead to a 33 year anniversary with my wife, I appreciate.