Welcome, one and all, to…and OWLS post! That’s right, I’m finally back writing for the awesome Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-respect. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Unfortunately, life has a habit of taking over sometimes. But hey, the main thing is I’m back. What’s the theme this month? Let’s have a look.
In February, we will be exploring love and romance. The word selected is “adore” because it has two main connotations: to be loved and respected or to feel worshipped. We will analyze characters that give us a feeling of admiration and explain why we love those characters. We will also be exploring different forms of love (familial, friendship, and even self-love) and how those types of love influence our lives. Happy Valentine’s Day! Examples: Korean Dramas Ore Monogatari Kimi ni Todoke Love Songs
So, this is an interesting topic for me, because for as long as I can remember, I always wanted to feel love. That’s not to say that my life was devoid of it. Far form it, in fact. My parents were great, I have two awesome siblings, and my extended family was also very close until recent years. What I mean is, I always wanted to feel the different kinds of love that others did too. I wanted to find a partner, to raise kids, to have a bunch of animals running around the house, to be respected, all that sort of stuff. And honestly? I’ve been lucky, because I’ve been able to find all of that. I think that that long term desire plays a part in the things that I write too because, while love is not the focus of my stories, I do enjoy writing different kinds of relationships as part of the characters. Partners, friends, family; they’re all there, just like in real life.
The same applies to the different types of media that I enjoy. So, seeing as there are plenty of examples around, I figured I’d tie this into LGBTQ+ History month, which is currently in full swing here in the UK. As such, today I’m going to be writing about the yuri manga series After Hours, and how it presents four different types of love. But first, an introduction to the manga:
After Hours, written and illustrated by Yuhta Nishio, has been translated into English and released by Viz Media. It runs to three volumes, and all three are available now. It was actually a manga recommendation from the awesome WordPress aniblogger community, and I am so glad that I picked it up. A lot of yuri I’ve seen around is based around teenagers trying to find themselves, and it often features that age-old ‘but we’re both girls!’ moment. I do think that stories like that are important, but I’ve long been a fan seeing stories that feature older protagonists. With After Hours, we get that. Emi is 24 and, finding her job unfulfilling, feels like she’s at a crossroads in her life. When abandoned by a friend at a club, she encounters 30 year old Kei. From there, her life changes.
What I like about this story is that, with the characters being older, their problems are very different to those that you find in high school series. Jobs and inter-personal relationships play out quickly but in an authentically grown-up way, and that really helps the series stand out against the normal releases. As a result, it feels fresh to me. But how does this affect the way it presents the concept of adoration? Well, let’s take a look.
There’s no doubt that the series has an air of romance. The two women hit it off straight away, and Emi soon finds herself swept up in Kei and her lifestyle. This presents a small problem for her because she’s already in a relationship with a man, albeit one that seems to have been treading water for some time. The interesting thing with the way it all plays out here is that Emi does state that she’s never felt this way about a woman before and doesn’t really know what to do, but it doesn’t come across in the same way as the ‘but we’re both girls!’ scene that we normally get. She doesn’t doubt the way she feels at all, she’s just inexperienced. In the same way, when Kei accidentally finds out about Emi’s boyfriend, her confident veneer slips and she starts to feel worry and jealousy. She wanted a more mature relationship than her previous ones, and now, she sees the jealousy as part of that.
Of course, they deal with their issues – both within and outside the relationship – right up until Kei disappears. It’s in their reunion that they finally outright state their feelings for each other. While the ending isn’t without a touch of sadness, it really all fits with the adult-world setting. It’s sweet, and Emi and Kei are clearly really good for each other. That’s what makes the pay-off so special, I think. The two women get together very early on, so there’s no will-they-won’t-they. It’s the way their relationship grows that’s such a joy to read.
Friendship actually plays quite a big role in the books. For one, it’s Emi’s friend Mayumi that invites her to the club and then abandons her. You’d think that she’s not a great friend from that, but it’s the opposite that’s actually true. Mayumi doesn’t make too many appearances in the series, but when she does, she’s often seen giving Emi advice and nudging her to get her life in order. She speaks from experience, having had to ‘clean up her own mess’ multiple times. In the end, she figures out that Emi is with Kei, and the exchange that they have is really quite wonderful. Emi asks Mayumi if she’s okay with it, and she’s not only fine with their relationship, it’s simply a non-issue. Emi values Mayumi because she doesn’t have to hold back around her, and she makes her feel less anxious about things. That’s a wonderful thing to have.
Meanwhile, both Emi and Kei enjoy the company of the other members of their DJ group. Many of them have known each other for a long time, and have worked together on multiple occasions. Of all of them though, I get the impression that Dan is the closest to Kei. This is perhaps most prominently shown in one of the final scenes. Here, Dan points out that he’s known Kei for more than eight years and that he and Kei haven’t hung out for the whole time. Everything he says strikes a chord, and Emi is actually a little jealous of their relationship. In a way, he kinda holds the group together and reigns people in when it’s needed. Who doesn’t need a friend like that, right?
We don’t get to see the two women’s familial relationships in any great degree of detail until the third book. Emi actually has a very good relationship with her parents, especially her mother. She lets Emi move back in for a few days when it’s needed, and the two are able to talk casually as they catch up and discuss the future. For Kei though, things are different. Though her apartment is owned by a relative, she does state that she doesn’t really get on with her family. She viewed her parents’ place as suffocating and cramped, and she ran away from home. We don’t learn too much more about what happened after that, but it really seems like her parents just let her get on with it. Unfortunately, her father dies in a fire, and it’s this that spurs her to ‘be their daughter again, even if she’s too late’. Even with her taking on her father’s estate, we only get to see her interact with her Aunt, but in the end, this isn’t too bad an experience for her. Sure, she may dislike her Aunt’s personality, but said relative is completely accepting of Kei and Emi being together. That’s nice to see.
While Emi and Kei have a balanced relationship, I do feel like this applies more to Emi. She is, by her own admission, undecisive and fairly wimpy when it comes to making decisions. No matter how much she’s struggling, she feels insecure in taking the steps she needs, even when she’s identified them herself. In that regard she has a lot of admiration for Kei, seeing her as the cool opposite to herself. She looks up to her partner and this admiration means that she sees not only the way that she wants to be in her, but future possibilities for them together. This admiration and want to be her equal is what pushes Emi to make the growth that she does.
And that’s about it for me this month. I hope you all enjoyed that, and if you’re interested, you can check out my review of the first volume of After Hours here. In the meantime, let me have your comments below, and don’t forget to check out Mel’s Cardcaptor Sakura post from yesterday. Dylan’s video about Yuri!! On Ice tomorrow.