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Thursday, 6 January 2011

Iono-Sama Fanatics

Writer and Artist: Miyabi Fujieda
Publisher: Independent

What's it about?
This is a Yuri title.  Yuri means girls love and is the name given to manga about female couples.  Yuri can be explicitly about sex, or can be more about the relationship side of things.  Some of it can be a coming out narrative, some of it can just be two women getting it on.  The male equivalent is called Yaoi.

Iono is the princess of an unspecified small nation.  She travels to Japan to find black haired women willing to become her sobames – companions (she’s very specific about the black hair).  ‘Sama’ is an honorific given to someone of a higher status than you and ‘fanatics’ refers to the sobames Iono has engaged in her service, all of whom, naturally, call their boss Iono-Sama.

The book opens with Iono on the streets of Japan hitting on random women requesting that they be her sobame.  Her method of picking up women is to stand in the middle of the street and yell ‘who wants to apply to be my sobame?’.  She's not wonderfully successful at this.  Eventually she finds a woman named Eto Hachibe.  Iono falls for Eto and when she invites her into her household she won't take no for an answer.  The rest of the book follows Eto's new life in the royal household as she tries to find a job for herself whilst managing Iono's insatiable desire for more sobames.

It's a comedy, it's a romance and it's all about women!

 What's good about it?
As with most manga there's a lot of footnotes accompanying the text that explain Japan specific cultural references.  This has two advantages - firstly it helps you understand the jokes, secondly, it provides a greater feeling of immersion in the culture of the book.  Japanese comics are set up and told quite differently to Western comics, there's a different emphasis on character's feelings and relationships to each other.  It's a pleasant way of story telling.
Iono is also a plus point in this book - she is royalty and doesn’t really understand how the real world works.  She expects to get what she wants and her sobame are there to ensure this happens.  She is charming, sweet, perhaps quite naive and has a generous heart.  Iono is hopelessly attracted to all women and by the sheer force of her personality her sobame all end up falling for her, or for each other.

It's an endearing, hopelessly funny book, with a sexual twist.  With very little yuri available in English I feel lucky that this is one of the few that has been translated.  It’s one of the sweetest, funniest, most charming manga I’ve read in a long long time and I highly recommend it.

What's bad about it?
The measure of enjoyment you get out of this will depend on your personal tastes and kinks.  To get Eto to become a sobame Iona more or less kidnaps her - at the very least she ignores Eto's protestations.  Some people may find this a turn off.  As a yuri title it is fantasy and it is meant to titillate.  Rest assured though, even with the sexual content and the kidnapping it still somehow manages to remain fairly innocent.
Note: As this is presented in the original Japanese format you read the panels rights to left.  More information on how to read manga can be found here (scroll to the bottom of the post).

What's the art like?
In this book you will discover a mixture of styles giving a range of expressions, moods and feelings.  There are cartoony panels, dramatic panels and action scenes.  It’s a nice range and it works well to highlight the action in each panel.

Other information
As you may have worked out by now this would probably best be regarded as for adults.  No sex takes place on panel, but you know it is happening off panel.
ISBN: 1596970154
Price: £7

You can buy Iono-Sama Fanatics from United Publications or from Amazon.

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