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By Kiyoko Iwami. Released in Japan as “Toumei na Usui Mizuiro ni” by Ichijinsha, serialized in the magazine Comic Yuri Hime. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Katrina Leonoudakis. Adapted by Asha Bardon.

This yuri manga, right off that bat, had something different from the usual that made me raise an eyebrow: there’s a guy in it. In a major role, no less. A lot of the more recent yuri titles tend to avoid having men in them altogether, taking place at all-girls’ schools and the like. There’s a good reason for this: yuri fans tend to regard any guy in a title where they have ship preferences as the absolute worst. Just ask old-school Tomoyo fans about Syaoran in Cardcaptor Sakura. Having a cast be all girls does not remove the drama, necessarily, but it does allow the drama to happen without the worry of “what happens if this is just a tease and the het couple winds up together?” That said, that’s unlikely to happen here, as the magazine this comes from, Comic Yuri Hime, has yuri as the definition. So we do get a guy, and even worse, he’s a childhood friend.

Ritsu, Ichika, and Shun are all childhood friends. Unfortunately for Ritsu, Ichika and Shun have begun to date. This is particularly unfortunate as Ritsu is also in love… with Ichika. Yes, it’s a standard love triangle, only in a yuri fashion. Ritsu is torn up by this, but at least Ichika remains close to her, even allowing the other girl to clean her ears (a very intimate act in Japan). Ichika’s trust moves Ritsu to kiss her while she’s sleeping… which Shun walks in on. From that point, there’s lots of melodrama, discussion of who likes who and why, and teen angst. In the end, though, Ichika feels safest when she’s with Ritsu, and likes her back. I really liked that the manga makes Ritsu morally dubious while keeping her the heroine, and also doesn’t make Shun a villain, keeping him the childhood friend who realizes that his girl is going to go off with another girl. I could have done without the ear cleaning porn noises, admittedly, both at the beginning and as a plot point.

As with a lot of these sorts of single volume titles, there’s not enough material for a full volume, so we get Apron, a story of a girl at a cafe who’s in love with another female employee. She’s caught sniffing said employee’s clothing by her coworker, who has a similar height and build to the other girl, and therefore is semi-blackmailed into wearing her apron so that she can pretend. Unfortunately, the girl she has a crush on is fooling around with the (male) manager. Fortunately, the coworker she’s been using also has a secret they’ve been keeping. This chapter is not really allowed to get as deep as it possibly needs to, and feels a bit too pat as a result. That said, the author is very good at drawing crying faces of angst, and we get some good ones here.

This promises a quick-hit volume with some yuri, and that’s what it delivers. I think fans of the genre will enjoy it.

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