12 Days is…
a. stealth yuri
b. stealth American comic
If you guessed c., ding ding ding, you’ve got it! Because unless you actually read the damn thing, you wouldn’t know that it was, technically, yuri, and if you didn’t go digging in the details about publication date and who was the editor, you’d just think this was a manhwa, something I think was intentional on TokyoPop’d part. In fact, I also think that the stealthiness of its yuri is intentional as well. If you’re wondering what I mean, from the back:
When Jackie’s ex-lover Noah dies, she decides the best and quickest way to get over the love of her life is to hold a personal ritual with Noah’s ashes. Jackie consumes the ashes in the form of smoothies for 12 days–hoping the pain will subside with her profound reaction to Noah’s death.
In this intense exploration of love’s power over tragedy and loss, June Kim crafts a moving tale that delves into the intricacies of family, friendship. and love.
Raise your hand if you’d have guessed that the ex-lover was a woman. Any takers? No? That’s what I thought. But, even if we ignore the ambiguous name (since, apparently, Noah is being used as a female name nowadays), whoever wrote this blurb took pains to not let the cat out of the bag. Perhaps even more intriguingly, the blurb used on Amazon inserts ‘manga-ka’ in before ‘June Kim’. Hmm! Sort of seems to my TP felt it’d sell better if folks thought it was Asian in origination…
Anyway, that aside, its actually not correct to label this ‘yuri’, and I apologize for that. 12 Days is a lesbian comic. Its about a woman whose ex-girlfriend left her for a man, its about homophobia, and its about loss. It is a comic meant for adults. While Jackie and Noah’s past relationship is what drives the story, the story itself is about how people relate to each other after someone has died, and it is about homophobia. Its a mature approach that reminds me of the fact that around this time TP was licensing works such as Angel’s Nest, making a bit of a bid for a more mature audience than I’d come to expect from them.
Of course, by burying a lot of its true nature in the back-of-the-book blurb, I think 12 Days ended up not being picked up by a lot of folks who would’ve been interested in it had TP been a bit more upfront. But perhaps I am being too harsh.
12 Days is another one of those not quite happy, not quite sad stories that I’ve reviewed here previously, ones wherein sad things have or do happen, but which don’t on the final balance ring as tragic. Jackie’s ex-girlfriend has died, after seemingly performing the ultimate betrayal of getting married to a man. It sucks, and the grief is complicated by the fact that Noah had just betrayed her. Its a lot to work through, but… she works through it. Because she has to. And at the end, there isn’t a feeling of putting a bow on things and everything being fixed, but that Jackie’s worked it out so that she can keep moving.
My favorite part of the comic, honestly, was the relationship between Jackie and Noah’s brother Nick. Nick ends up being Jackie’s partner in crime, of sorts, absconding with Noah’s ashes from the urn in his parent’s home. He visits Jackie daily, but, refreshingly, there’s never any suggestion that perhaps they’ll get together. Jackie directly states that she is gay, and Nick never displays any illusions about the nature of their relationship.
I don’t want to say too much, as I don’t want to spoil the story, but I was really impressed with how strongly it drove home the point that institutional homophobia really ruins lives. Now, my saying ‘strongly’ doesn’t mean it was sledge-hammered, either; 12 Days handles it with finesse, and no one could call it anvilicious in even the loosest sense.
I liked 12 Days a lot, which I’m sure is clear from my review. Its a bonafide lesbian story, and its a bonafide lesbian story that is told well.
Although 12 Days is out of print, it isn’t hard to find; new copies go for sub-$10, while used copies are plentiful in the $3-$5 range. Even if you’re not hankering after a lesbian story, though, if you’ve been looking for something a bit more mature than the standard fare, I can’t recommend it enough.