Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mangaka Musings - Yugi Yamada

I've wanted to spend time yammering on about some of my favorite mangaka for quite some time but I could never decide with whom to start so I never got around to it. But since word on the net is that Yugi Yamada just isn't as popular here in the States I just have to put in my two cents about sensei's work.

I'm the first to admit that I wasn't one bit interested in Yamada-sensei's work. Every time I saw one of her covers I thought that the cover art was ugly and being new to the whole yaoi scene I truly judged every book by the cover (I've learned now that you can't do that because some of my favorite titles are those very books I thought were ugly). I was somewhat upset because I was running out of Juné titles to read and when I started reviewing for J LHLS I was usually battling with other reviewers for the Juné and 801 Media titles. I had requested a couple 801 titles but for me to get them sooner I had to request a couple more books for my editor to spend the money on postage. The only titles that were available were vols. 1 and 2 of Don't Blame Me. Since I really wanted my 801 books I decided that what the heck I'm not paying for the books I can just read them, slam them and get on with the titles I really wanted. What I didn't expect when I opened up my package of books was getting hooked on Yamada-sensei's work.

When it comes to yaoi titles that I like to read I love humor, I love my characters to behave like men (seeing how that’s what they are), and I like rich, interesting characters with art that matches the story. I especially like unique art styles that compliment the storytelling. That's what I found with Yamada-sensei. I picked up the first volume of Don't Blame Me and within just a few pages I was sucked in immediately. The characters were interesting, unique, and I found myself laughing. I couldn't put the darn thing down. The next thing I knew I had powered through the first volume and was impatiently ripping off the shrink-wrap dying to continue. Now, you see manga doesn't take too long to read but I simply had to read these back to back and immediately because I had to find out how the story ended. Once I finished it I was converted. The story moved quickly with wit, humor, and depth that is honestly rare to find in yaoi. Even the art grew on me and now she is one of my favorites. After I read Don't Blame Me I honestly ran to my nearest bookstore that sold yaoi to purchase the rest of the titles that were released in English. I even went so far to check out many of her titles that had been scanlated and found several more of her titles that I've really enjoyed and would love to see them brought to our shores.

The title that really spurred me on to write this little (yet crappy) editorial is the release of Close the Last Door vol. 2. Juné licensed several of Yamada-sensei's titles but seem to have a difficult time selling her books. Close the Last Door was one of the titles that they licensed before the Biblos bankruptcy. You see Biblos was one of Japan's largest boys love publishers but due to poor management the company went bankrupt. Libre was then created and picked up the Biblos licenses and all the English publishers had to go back to renegotiate the terms for releasing the titles. Close the Last Door was a fun, crazy story about a guy who was in love with his kohai but when said kohai got married he was so upset he ended up drunk and slept with the kohai's wife's coworker. This story was released several years ago and was caught up in the Biblos mess. But it seems that Juné worked through all those issues and are back on track with publishing these titles. But it seems that because Yamada-sensei just doesn't seem to sell all that well we’re going to have to wait until the end of 2010 to get that book. I realize that they have to make money and I don't blame Juné. I blame all those people who haven't given Yugi Yamada-sensei their time. I'm sure that there are people out there who feel like I did (you know thought her art was ugly and so on) but once you crack open one of her stories I know you'll be hooked. We need to show this popular mangaka (in Japan) that we American readers love her work as well. Then maybe we'll get some more of her work (including one of my favorite titles Taka ga Koi Daro [which this was actually written by Saki Aida author of S]).

If you are interested in seeing my reviews of some of her titles feel free to click on the links:
Don’t Blame Me vol. 1
Don’t Blame Me vol. 2
Spring Fever
Glass Sky
Laugh Under the Sun

Yugi Yamada-sensei is a hidden gem in a mountain of mediocre yaoi and deserves to be read. I would love to hear your opinions on Yamada-sensei and her greatness (or lack thereof if that's how you feel) in the comments section!


Katherine said...

I love Yamada-sensei's work! I was put off at first by the character designs -- they're not "pretty", the way BL art tends to be, and they don't have the cleanness of a typical shonen design -- but once you take a second look and get into the story, there are very few who can match her. She just plain writes better than most BL mangaka, full stop. Her characters are these wonderfully spiky, emotionally stupid guys who trip over love more than fall into it. But that just makes the payoff even more satisfying. Not to mention the delightful humour of her stories.

I especially liked Don't Blame Me!, but I'd also highly recommend Laugh Under the Sun, which really shows her off at her best.

Nora Kitchen said...

*gurgles happily* I love Yugi Yamada's manga. Though I actually became interested in reading her almost because of the art. Not that I found it appealing, because I didn't (heheh ^_^;) but I've become pretty disinterested in the lame sameness of most all yaoi, and I've developed this tendency to read those with weird art in the hopes that this means the writing style will be similarly unique. Though to her credit, the art inside is always more appealing than that on the cover. I don't know what it it just one of those things that look better in black and white? And it does definitely grow on you.

And yet I have such trouble describing why it is I like her (I know this from my pathetic attempts to pimp her work). Most of her plots really aren't that different that many yaoi. It's just like the person above said. She just plain writes *better* than most yaoi mangaka. More depth in characters, more realistic (without being...overly relaxed in pace or depressing), great dialogue, funny. And, like, *actually* funny. Not 'Hohoho! Look, the seme dressed the uke as a girl and he is ANGRY! And now he is even more ANGRY because he found out the seme raped him when he was drunk last night! OMGLMFAO!' Also if I remember right her stories often tend to have...not sub-plots, as it's always wrapped (very nicely) with the main romantic plot, but...themes of personal growth and understanding. And all while still being satisfyingly romantic (as sometimes one runs into a yaoi that is good, but that focuses on being good, mature, and realistic so much that it isn't really terribly romantic anymore. Which is fine on occasion, but...)

I even liked Glass Sky, even though I thought I'd had quite enough of anthologies (no time for character development! ...guess it turns out most mangaka just aren't using their time effectively. ^^) And my friend likes her too, and her tastes are actually usually a 180 from mine (likes most all BL just fine. And tends to only read things with the most appealing art). It's so sad she doesn't sell better here. Is her work more popular in Japan?

Aaah. ...Darn. I've gotten myself worked up. I'm...I'm getting drawn to the bookshelf. I've...I've only read Don't Blame Me once so far. Surely...surely it wouldn't take long just to take another peek through... (As for me, when I read it the first time I only had the first volume. After I finished, I immediately ordered it online since it was not at the book store...and then lasted about an hour till I just went and read scanlations (and then was sort of irritated at self for impatience, as translation was rather funky sounding ^_^;)

Sarah said...

Thank you, Kris, for speaking up for one of my all-time favourite mangaka! I was cheering aloud as I read your article – and the first two comments.

(Actually, I have to confess that Yamada-sensei is a late discovery for me because the covers of her manga really put me off.) I owe it to the Junemanga site on YouTube for pushing me past the cover and into the manga itself; I was so won over by the extract from ‘Close the Last Door’ that I had to rush off and order it straight away. Since then I’ve doggedly tracked down all the other English editions and now I’m waiting forlornly for ‘Dry Heat’ and the second volume of ‘Close the Last Door.’

As you so rightly say, Yamada-sensei is one of the few BL mangaka translated into English who doesn’t insult the reader’s intelligence. Funny, heart-breaking, sometimes brutally honest, her manga delivers believable characters in realistic situations and rarely falls back on the usual BL clichés. I’m not usually a fan of one-shots but the quiet, subtle little story of two men unable to communicate how they feel about each other ‘What Will Happen to Us?’ at the end of ‘Picnic’ made me cry. And, hardened reviewer that I am, I don’t cry very often when reading manga.

‘Don’t Blame Me’ is, in my opinion, on a par with ‘Genshiken’ in its wickedly accurate portrayal of student life. I particularly admire the clever way that Yamada-sensei weaves the narration between present and past, teasing the reader with tantalising hints about the characters as she draws you deeper into their predicaments. And again, it’s a story laced with genuine laugh-out-loud moments as well as some profound observations on the pitfalls of human relationships and learning about life through experience.

And I take back all the hateful things I thought about her art. I really love it now! It’s so expressive. From the pointy dragon teeth expressing rage in the chibi panels to the frankly gorgeous portraits of her main protagonists…and her undeniably hot sex scenes.

So I join you, Kris, in putting out a heartfelt plea to DMP (and any other manga publisher reading this) to please license more Yugi Yamada manga. I add my vote for ‘Takaga Koi Daro’ because the partnership between Saki Aida and Yugi Yamada is too good to resist. But I’d also put in a word for ‘Yume wo Miru Hima mo Nai’ and ‘Bokura wa Tada Hashiru Dake’ because sensei is such an excellent author in her own right. Heck, I’d just like to see lots more Yugi Yamada in English.

Kris said...

Thanks for leaving your comments! I really appreciate the love that you are showing to Yamada-sensei. It's also nice to see that I'm not alone in initially being put off by her cover art. Thanks for adding your opinions and I hope that this will not only show publishers how awesome she really is but also serve as a wake up call to those who haven't checked out her work. The more we spread the love the more books she'll sell which means more books for fans like us who appreciate her art and intellegent storytelling. Thanks again and keep your comments coming!

The Moon in Autumn said...

I'm not much of a visual art person; I live for the story and characters. That's really the only reason why I wasn't put off by the cover art, which was very unique among the offerings of the time.

I'm glad I was able to read all of the Yamada releases as they came out. There is a sort of maturity to her writing (even as she is making me crack up) that gives it more depth than most things called yaoi, and I was glad to be able to read several things to get a feeling for her style.

Others have already brought it up, but her characters are realistically clumsy, stupid, endearing, and goofy, and there is something much more authentically male about them than the usual BL stuff or the reigning yaoi art style. I don't feel condescended to, and I don't feel like I'm being asked to suspend all disbelief and common sense and rational thought to enjoy the stories themselves.

As someone who enjoys reading good stories in lots of genres, I'm glad to have one more mature recommendation I can make that doesn't cause me to feel guilty. Technically, I suppose they're yaoi, but the quality of the stories means I don't have to feel embarrassed when recommending them to serious comics readers who like a good laugh and a good story.

I'm glad Ms. Yamada has some dedicated fans. :)