Syrup: A Yuri Anthology Vol. 2 Review

The other yuri anthology named for a food returns with a second volume.

These days I buy most of my manga on Kobo, despite the fact that the platform often does not post manga and light novels for pre-sale until just about the last moment. This was the case with the latest volume of yuri anthology Syrup, which I was anticipating and yet nevertheless missed when it came out right before Christmas. So, instead it got to be a surprise treat for January…

…although “treat” would be a mischaracterization, as I wasn’t a big fan of this volume. As I was reading, I thought to myself that, gee, a whole lot of these stories involve cheating, guess that’s the in thing! And then I decided to take a look at the synopsis on the “back” cover and discovered that, well, that would be because the theme of the volume was “forbidden love”. And, for most of the authors, that means cheating. That that is what it meant for most of these yuri authors is itself a bit interesting, although the far more fascinating thing is that its in the context of a publishing/entertainment environment which still very commonly loves casting queer love in titillating fashion as ~forbidden~, and explicitly so through the language used in marketing. I walked over to one of my bookshelves and was able to pull multiple manga volumes off featuring same-sex love and found “forbidden” on their back covers. But here Syrup’s got us with an entire volume of yuri and what’s identified as following the theme of ‘forbidden’ by the authors is not the fact that they’re specifically about women dating/having sex with/kissing/lusting after other women.

Having said that, though, I am really not a fan of cheating lit, so much of what’s here did not do much for me, although it is also true that a lot of the non-cheating stories didn’t either (I feel entirely at ease at this point saying that I simply do not like Ohi Pikachi’s work, and not only because all her heroines look like the Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles version of Sakura Kinomoto aged five). Happily, and surprisingly given the cover art (by fly, who also happens to be the illustrator and character designer for Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki-kun, a light novel which is getting an anime adaptation this season), only one of the stories involves a teacher and a student (The Girl in the Library), and the note from the author at the end of the volume even brought me around on it:

Still wasn’t my favorite, but I feel significantly differently about a story involving a student and the school librarian in a case where the author was inspired by their own fruitless high school era crush.

I indicated that I didn’t like most of what was on offer, so how about which ones I did? Well, Kawanami Izumi’s Call of the Mayflies, which involves a girl confront her adulterous father’s girlfriend, was decent albeit not really yuri (and I’m torn between thinking a longer page count would’ve been nice to tease out one aspect, and thinking that the lack of clarity was a good choice storywise). Morinaga Milk does adultery with At What Point? albeit with a twist – a waitress vents to her colleague that she thinks her husband’s running around on her, starting them both on the trail to gather substantive evidence. I mostly liked it, although it’d be nice if Morinaga drew adults that actually looked older than her teenaged characters do. There’s a newcomer to yuri in the mix, Ikeda Takashi, whose story Slit starts out with a creepy (in a bad way) premise before ending on a genuinely good note. But my favorite of the collection if Yoshidamaru Yu’s Swallowtail Takes Flight… which is, I suspect, the story that will absolutely not work for a lot of people. It’s about anthropomorphized insects, one of whom is a caterpillar dreaming eagerly of the day she’ll take flight who becomes friends with a wasp. It’s a fantastic piece.

I’d noted in my review that many of the stories in the first volume weren’t quite yuri or were only really in pre-yuri territory; that’s true of some of those here, but this one moves much more confidently into full-fledged yuriness. Presumably some of this stems from fact that most of the stories are ones involving adultery – bit harder to get across if the leads don’t share some form of physical involvement! Having said that, women cheating on their male partners with women isn’t exactly breaking free of some of the hoarier cliches of the genre…

If the content left me less than pleased, that’s hardly the case with the quality of the English language release from Seven Seas. Translator Jennifer Ward, as she did the first go-round on this anthology series, handles bringing a broad variety of creators to English language audiences with skill.

Although I liked it significantly less than the first volume, I’m nevertheless looking forward the picking up the next installment, currently scheduled for April. I really am glad English language publishers have been willing to take a chance on licensing yuri anthologies, as it affords a chance to get to check out authors we haven’t gotten much of otherwise. With Yen’s release Éclair having recently concluded (well, most likely – I have a faint hope that maybe there’ll be more, but it’s been over a year since Éclair Orange came out in Japanese), I am also hoping anthologies have done well enough to warrant more licenses. Galette’s still out there, after all, as are many, many others.

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