I said early on in these that I had a bit of a preference for shoujo-style yuri manga. Shoujo is, of course, the demographic from which yuri first emerged, and it’s had a notable effect on the genre in positive and negative ways. In modern times shoujo yuri tends to carry many of the genre’s more appealing elements without much of the problematic ones. The works I’ve covered have gravitated towards shoujo, largely because I’ve only written about two works with male authors, but I haven’t focused on something that’s really deeply shoujo since Kase-san. Today that changes, as I look at Candy by Yuhuko Suzuko, a female shoujo mangaka.
Candy sits firmly within the sphere of traditional shoujo-yuri. To some extents in conforms to the butch/femme dichotomy, though it does things to offset that. It’s set in an all-girls school where one of the characters is a popular sports player who’s idolized by many girls in the school. At the same time, it manages to break free from this cage in many ways, avoiding the issues these types of manga can have, as I’ll go into below.
Our couple, composed of Chiaki and Kanan, are quick to get together, allowing most of the manga to focus on their lives while they’re actually in a relationship. Because of this, we get a deeper understanding of their personalities and motivations than in many manga, particularly for Chiaki. Their relationship doesn’t progress perfectly, and they encounter challenges such as readiness for sex, being in different years, and learning how to balance their time, but all of these are slowly but surely worked out by them over the series’s two volumes. It’s easy to see how the relationship makes them better as people, which is always what I’m looking for when it comes to the romance genre.
In terms of challenging Class-S assumptions, this manga does a great job. First, it actively brings up the idea that they have to separate at graduation. It does this using a character who sees Chiaki and Kanan’s relationship in the traditional, heteronormative way: as a fun time that can be experienced during adolescence due to the lack of boys, but ultimately as a fleeting experience that’s sure to fade. This idea weighs on Kanan throughout the series, but in the end, it’s thoroughly defied. The two of them continue to date after Chiaki graduates, eventually moving in together and getting married.
Many manga of this type will have one character who’s truly in love with the school idol while all the other girls are mostly joking around. This one avoids that. While most the girls aren’t actually in love with Kanan, there is one other girl who is, which adds a unique dynamic. By everyone else, she’s just seen as yet another fan of Kanan, but it’s clear to her and the main characters that she’s legitimately in love. While she could theoretically be a real threat to their relationship, she never truly attempts to harm it, and she actually comes across as a pretty tragic character.
At times the manga might feel a bit tonally jarring due to the addition of drama at key moments. I think the drama is ultimately really well-executed, especially compared to a lot of other shoujo, but if you’re not a fan of drama it’s worth looking out for. The drama in this series ultimately only helps Chiaki and Kanan to grow, so I’m pretty happy with it.
Candy doesn’t stray far from its genre. That said, I’m certain that if this had been made ten years earlier than it was then it would’ve ended with them breaking up at graduation. This is a great example of genre progress while also just being a solid, well-written shoujo romance series with a yuri setting. It’s a fun and quick read, and I do encourage it.