I’ve been on a yuri manga kick lately. I’ve always liked yuri, not because two girls together is cute, though that certainly helps, but because I like seeing LGBT stories in my mediums of choice. I decided to revisit the genre recently, as I became more interested after once again paying attention to the sociopolitical world. This lead me to pick back up Octave, which I had put on hold months before. I think this was a very good decision, as Octave was very good in general, despite having some flaws.
Octave is a drama first and foremost. It has moments of humor, and it can be very cute, but it is primarily centered on the lives of the two main characters, Setsuko and Yukino. One of the primary issues in the series is Yukino’s reluctance to be open about her relationship with Setusko. This was very well done. It can be hard for non-straight people to open up about their sexuality, especially in nations like Japan where LGBT rights are lagging behind. This was shown best by Yukino’s friend, Kamo, who constantly thought of her as weird and perverted for being in a relationship with Setsuko. Rather than ignore the issue of coming out as some manga do, or treat the girls as if they’re straight outside of loving each other, they’re treated as actually gay or bisexual people.
Another thing that Octave does quite well is making the characters feel like real people. When Yukino cheats on Setsuko it’s shitty, and I felts terrible seeing it, as I imagined most people did. I felt anger towards Yukino for the action. Now, making someone feel anger towards a character does not inherently make that character well written, but in this act it does. The way that Yukino was written makes her incredibly impulsive and emotional, and it’s easy to see how in a moment of weakness she could make a bad decision. We can see how she would do this while still despising the action, leaving it less cartoonishly bad and more like the behavior of a real person.
That emotional aspect of Yukino is however one of the manga’s glaring flaws. Having her be emotional isn’t an issue. In her situation, without a satisfying job or path in life, only recently learning she was attracted to women, and fearing society’s judgement of her, along with a whole host of other issues, it makes sense for her to be emotional. It gets to be too much though, when during the middle of the series she feels as if she cries every chapter. Again, this is not an inherent issue, but the way it’s done leaves her feeling more whiny than sad. Fortunately this is only for part of the series, as she becomes much more stable despite remaining emotional once she begins managing idols herself.
Setsuko is an overall better character. She’s still an emotional person, but outside of Yukino she doesn’t show this to many people. She’s known for a while that she’s attracted to women, but her love for Yukino appears to be a new experience for her. She serves as a useful balance for Yukino, while still remaining a real character with feelings that matter.
I could say more about the manga, but I don’t really need to. I think it accomplishes portraying an at least somewhat realistic lesbian relationship very well, while also being a good story. It’s a yuri manga which will remain as one of my favorites for a little while, despite my small problems with it.