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Location: Anaheim, California, United States

Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Manga Review: You Higuri Puts the Gay in Paris

NOTE: This review originally appeared in LA Alternative, July 14-20, 2006.

MANGA by Lyn Jensen

Higuri Puts the "Gay" in Gay Paris

July brings a double dose of You Higuri’s gay-themed yaoi manga, with DMP/June introducing her Gorgeous Carat Galaxy and TokyoPop/BLU continuing the earlier Gorgeous Carat series. One of yaoi’s most popular artists, Higuri started drawing Gorgeous Carat in 1999. After that series’ four-volume run, she changed publishers and produced a one-volume sequel, Gorgeous Carat Galaxy. (The title refers to jewel theft and uses “Galaxy” as a synonym for “Universe.”)

Higuri once said the Gorgeous Carat stories were inspired by old-time melodrama. “I had plans to make this manga more of a freaky torture-type manga, but it turned out a little different. But at least the contents are wholesome. I guess I really like drawing my bishies [bishonen, pretty boys] getting picked on,” Higuri writes in her notes for Gorgeous Carat, vol. 1. With freaky whips-and-chains torture, and bishies getting picked on, but “wholesome” contents, the result may work better as parody with homoerotic overtones than yaoi. Eye-popping yaoi it’s not, with Gorgeous Carat being rated 16-up and Galaxy getting only a 13-up rating.

If this manga series were a movie, Ebert and Roper would rip it apart for illogical plotting and character development, then give it two thumbs-up anyway. The beginning shows promise. Florian (the leading “bishie”), an impoverished noble in Victorian Paris, becomes human collateral to a loan shark, a distant relative known to Parisian society as Count Courland but to Paris police as the phantom jewel thief Noir.

In most yaoi, Florian would immediately become the count’s sex slave, but Higuri scarcely develops the male leads’ relationship. Instead she spends too much time on flat minor characters. Take the Middle-Eastern serving-girl (please). She’s too obviously a stock character from shoujo manga. Victorian Europe would never have allowed such informality between the sexes, classes, or races.

Speaking of informality, the dialog has Victorians speaking like Gen-X. Higuri’s American fans have expectations, and both publishers are going to take hits for sloppy translations. Even if the original Japanese dialog was cringe-inducing, did the translation have to be?

Yet the series somehow works its charm just the same. Like viewing an uncut gem, fans are rewarded with flashes of brilliance, particularly in the rare scenes between the male leads. May manga fans see more of Higuri and her bishonen.

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