Yearning for Yuri: Prism

This week we’re looking at Prism, a truly fantastic schoolgirl manga that ended far too soon. Prism stands out for a number of reasons, from its nice art to its concise storytelling, though most people know it for being canceled early after allegations of tracing. While that has marred its reputation and left it unfinished, it’s still very much worth reading.

Prism was written and drawn by Higashiyama Show. To those who know his name that could be worrying, after all, he is a loli porn artist. Fortunately, all of his good traits as a mangaka are carried over to this work, with nothing creepy really showing up. His simple, round, and cute character designs are nice to look at, adding a lot to the visual presentation. Furthermore, he does a grat job with panel composition and setting the scene. Every panel has a sense of life to it and the flow between panels is excellent. Occasionally the kisses are drawn a bit porny, but that’s the most that his other works influence this manga.

The art and presentation are important, but what really matters most for this is the writing, and that’s where Prism stands out the most. Prism is a very concise manga, covering more in its 10 or so chapters than many can cover in 30. Despite this, it never feels rushed, as the pace of romantic development always comes across as natural and earned. The development is fantastic, both for the characters and for the main relationship.

Despite being written by a male author, Prism engages with the characters’ sexuality. The main character, Megumi, met her love interest, Hikaru, as a kid and thought she was a boy, falling in love with her. While this “confused for a boy” plot is fairly generic in yuri, it was dealt with quite well in this case. It’s made clear that Megumi hasn’t actually been attracted to boys before, and she was also immediately attracted to Hikaru as soon as she met her again, despite the fact that Hikaru was now very feminine. Often in these scenarios, you’ll have a girl who’s attracted to another girl merely because she’s boyish, but here she’s attracted to her femininity as well, something definitely worth praising. In this respect, it avoids heteronormativity in a good way.

The manga doesn’t stop there in engaging with sexuality and identity. Over the course of the story, Megumi and Hikaru do encounter actual homophobia, something which is rare in yuri manga. This comes from a number of strangers who see them kissing at one point, and it escalates to verbal and physical violence. It’s not comfortable to read, though it does get resolved before things get too far. At the same time, the manga avoids the idea that their lives are pure struggle because they’re dating. It’s pretty obvious that they will face hardships while dating each other, but at the same time, queerness isn’t painted as an existence of suffering, which I’m happy about.

Furthermore, there are other queer characters. One of their classmates and friends seems to be questioning her sexuality. Even better is the presence of their teacher, who is bisexual. Bi characters aren’t common in yuri or in general and it’s great that she’s portrayed in a positive way here, acting as a mentor for our two main characters.

Honestly, the queerness in this manga is so well-done that it makes it hard for me to believe that Higashiyama Show wrote it. This is by far the best male-written yuri I’ve read, and I would have expected it to have a female author if I hadn’t known the mangaka beforehand.

In regards to the writing of the characters and relationship, it’s great. The fact that they’re teenagers is something that’s definitely relevant to the manga. Megumi and Hikaru are constantly horny and fooling around with one another, yet at the same time it doesn’t come across as creepy. Their relationship develops quickly but believably. They’re just a very good representation of two teenage girls in love, something we don’t get from some yuri manga. They avoid a lot of the melodrama that other yuri manga sometimes fall into, coming across more like the couple in Kase-san. Basically, they’re just perfect and adorable.

Prism’s only real flaw is, of course, the fact that it doesn’t have a real conclusion. It sucks, but the place it ends is good enough. By the time the manga ends they’ve already had sex, with the final chapter feeling sort of like an ending. There are some plot threads that clearly had more planned and there’s a lot the manga could’ve explored, but all in all, it didn’t end in the worst place.

Prism is already seen as a bit of a classic in yuri communities. It could’ve been one of the all-time bests with a little bit more time, but it’s still worth a read as it stands. It’s a surprisingly queer and well-paced manga with great characters who I’d love to read more of. You should check it out.

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