Seriously, who didn't make this playlist at some point? Except that when I was in college, we called them "mix tapes," and they were carved with flint onto magnetic ore we found in the rocks we banged together for warmth. Because I'm OLD.
And of course you don't want to miss this week's Chronicles of William Bazillion! Andrew really digs drawing broad-shouldered adventurer guys who kind of look like they could be extras in a Tintin comic.
And a new Smithson page means a new Overlooked Manga Festival! Man, at this rate I'm gonna run out of manga.
This will be a short and sweet OMF, for a short, sweet manga.
Rica 'tte Kanji!? is a slim one-volume autobio manga about creator Rica Takashima's relationship with her girlfriend Miho. At this point, feel free to scroll down the list of previous Overlooked Manga Festivities and note the scarcity of lesbian autobiography in the mix. Takashima drew and self-published this little comic partly as a response to the dearth of realistic, upbeat manga about girls in love. It was arguably the first yuri (lesbian) manga published in English, courtesy of ALC Publishing and Yuricon.
Did I mention that Rica 'tte Kanji!? is a happy lesbian manga? Because it is super happy.
The plot is about as loose and simple as it can get. Fresh-faced, naive, somewhat bubbleheaded Rica moves to Tokyo for junior college, where she's studying early childhood education. (Holy crap, is she ever a girly-girl.) Her first priority is to check out the lesbian district; she knows she's gay, but she's never, you know, done anything. This is a fairly common state of affairs in Japan, where most gays are at least technically in the closet, only the biggest cities have much of a gay community, and one of the biggest challenges of being gay is figuring out who else is gay so you can hook up with them. (Sad but true: just because teenage girls fantasize about hot Japanese guys making out in public all the time doesn't mean it actually happens.)
Anyway, Rica meets Miho, a slightly tougher and more experienced art student, and adorable sparks fly.
The manga gently chronicles their relationship, which moves slowly and hesitantly. It's very obviously autobio, full of all the red herrings, fizzled buildups, disappearing characters, and general clumsiness of real life. Miho gets Rica to her apartment for a tryst, only to fall asleep before she can make her move. Rica makes a tearful confession of love to Miho, then forgets about it the next morning. Stuff like that. But what develops behind it is a charming, lifelike love story.
As you've no doubt noticed, everything in this manga is as cute as a blender full of kittens. Even the lesbian orgies are adorable.
There's very little sex, though; this is the kind of romance where getting past the hand-holding stage is a huge production. Rica is totally inexperienced, and she worries a lot about sex. Adorably, of course.
My one problem with Rica 'tte Kanji!? is that the ALC edition is pretty crudely produced. They're a really small publisher, and I understand that, but it's one of the weaker translation jobs I've seen. The reproduction quality is often poor (although this may reflect the quality of the original Japanese edition, which was a self-published doujinshi), the translation and lettering are spotty, and some sections are even left untranslated, like Takashima's sketches from a pride parade in New York City.
Damn, that's the cutest pride parade ever.
But Rica 'tte Kanji!? is still cuddly and adorable, and it's still the best lesbian autobio manga you're likely to read. Well worth tracking down.
Previous Overlooked Manga Festivities:
Please Save My Earth
From Eroica with Love
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
Your and My Secret
Knights of the Zodiac
The Drifting Classroom
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 1
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 2
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 3
OMF Special Event: Great Moments in Manga Baking
Shout Out Loud
Warren Buffett: An Illustrated Biography of the World's Most Successful Investor
Sexy Voice and Robo
OMF Special Event: 2006 Overlooked Manga Update
The Four Immigrants Manga
Gerard and Jacques
Ode To Kirihito
Bringing Home the Sushi
OMF Special Event: The Greatest Manga Magazine in American History
Anywhere But Here
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
The Walking Man
Sugar Sugar Rune
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators