Yearning for Yuri: Otsu Hiyori

I’m not going to lie; I basically forgot about this until the last minute this week, and so, lacking an actual plan, I decided to merely review the works of one of my favorite yuri mangaka. Otsu Hiyori is a female yuri mangaka who’s been working in the genre for quite some time. Her art has a heavy shoujo-aesthetic, and her stories mostly follow suit. That’s not to say they’re super heavily Class S or anything; they aren’t, but her stories tend to follow general shoujo tropes and take place in high school.

That said, she offers a good bit of variance within that sphere. A number of her characters have dated other girls before or expressed attraction to multiple girls, demonstrating a more clear sign of non-straight orientation. She’s also gone beyond high school, the only occasionally. All in all, this makes her works a good idea to check out if you’re interested in shoujo yuri that avoids most of the awful Class-S tropes. Now let’s take a look at her various works.

Aqua Blue Cinema(水色シネマ) focuses on an actress and a girl she meets while on a set. The actress(Yui) has broken up with her ex-girlfriend and isn’t super happy about it. The girl she meets(Tae), accidentally makes Yui lose a necklace of hers, and she uses that as an excuse to rope Tae into acting as her assistant. The rest of the manga focuses on their burgeoning relationship, eventually with the drama of the ex re-entering Yui’s life. The ending is happily-ever-after with the two of them living together and dating.

It’s a great little manga for a couple of reasons. The first is the fact that it totally ignores school. Both main characters are high-school students during the main story, but no focus is spent on school at all. Part of this is because they live in different areas and wouldn’t be going to the same school until they move in together during college. The other good thing here is that Yui has an ex-girlfriend. This indicates that she’s attracted to girls in general, not just Tae, something that isn’t often seen in yuri manga. It’s also pretty damn cute and Yui is a character with a surprising amount of depth.

Clover(クローバー) focuses on four sisters and their relationships in high school. It goes in reverse chronological order, beginning with the youngest sister’s story and working backward to the oldest sister. By doing this, there’s allowed to be a bit of foreshadowing for some of the later stories, and there are moments where everything clicks.

Not all of the sisters are equally gay. The first has an ordinary romantic two-girl friendship; it can easily be read as love, and I think that’s the correct reading, but we don’t see it go anywhere, and as the youngest, there’s no way for us to see any future confirmation of how her relationship worked out. Still, it’s a pretty cute story. The second is far more interesting, and it gets the most time in the manga. Unlike the previous relationship, this one is explicitly romantic, and it continues well into adulthood and marriage proposals. This is the real meat of the manga, and it’s pretty great.

The third sister does have clearly romantic feelings, but they don’t get fulfilled. Instead, she encourages the girl she likes to go after the girl she likes, successfully. This one’s more bittersweet than anything. The final story focuses on the childhood friend of the oldest sister, who’s in love with her despite the fact that she seems to be straight. This one is also bittersweet, though to a greater extent. The oldest sister appears to be the only straight one in the family, but the fact that she is actually adds a bit to the story in spite of making it significantly sadder.

Orange & Yellow(オレンジイエロー) is an anthology manga, though its through-line is less prevalent than in Clover. Still, it’s a lot of fun. The first three chapters are a fairly simple story of a tomboy whose absent-minded childhood friend is in love with her, and the story of how they came to love one another. It’s cute, but the other stories are far more interesting. Many of them end up without reciprocation, which I really didn’t expect.

Othello(オセロ) is a pretty short manga that focuses on two college students who like one another. The main character is confessed to by her close friend, but that close friend rarely shows a ton of emotion, leaving the main character confused about her true feelings. This manga’s obviously something I’m going to like just for not being set in high school, but the actual dynamic is really interesting. Unexpressive characters exist in other anime and manga of course, but often it’s just an excuse for misunderstandings. It was really nice to see a character who’s just like that, without magically getting more expressive for the romantic resolution.

The last work I’ll be covering is Your Cuteness(かわいいあなた). This is just a fantastic anthology. The titular story is great, featuring a story of a girl who’s anxious because she doesn’t feel cute. Her friend/girlfriend helps console her, saying that she’s cute to her. The next three stories are more unrequited love stories, though I think they’re some of the best among Hiyori’s works. Maple Love, the following work, is another college love story, and this one is just absolutely adorable. The final story is equally adorable, returning to the cute schoolgirl mold.

I wouldn’t call any of Otsu Hiyori’s work out of the ordinary, but that’s fine. Only so much yuri truly diverges from the genre’s tropes. Her works are simply great examples of what can be done within the genre’s general parameters. She has a few other stories, including one that’s running in the current magazine Galette. If you like shoujo yuri, her works are worth checking out.

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