By Various Artists. Released in Japan as “Éclair – Anata ni Hibiku Yuri Anthology” by Kadokawa Shoten. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Eleanor Summers.
The big news about this anthology, I think, is the fact that we’re seeing it at all. These anthologies pop up quite a bit in Japan, usually in the shoujo end of the market, with a collection of themed stories by various artists with a few known names to anchor the collection. That’s just what we have here, with the theme being the love between two girls. And yes, it is mostly girls – there are a few adults in this collection, but unsurprisingly most of the stories go to the4 traditional yuri well of ‘all girls school’. That said, while there are a few stories here that are essentially “Story A”, as Erica Friedman has defined it, there are more surprises than I expected, and quite a few touching and amusing moments. It doesn’t get that feeling of reading the same story 16 times that you sometimes see in these sort of books. And, of course, there is Girls’ Love to the nth degree – I only spotted a man once or twice in the entire book, and they didn’t speak.
It’s hard to review a title like this because the stories are so short you risk giving everything away just discussing them. On the ‘famous author’ end, the cover and first story are by Nio Nakatani, the author of Bloom Into You (unfortunately, I found it a rather weak story to begin with). Sakuya Amano, creator of Gosick and Konohana Kitan, has a story about a sheltered rich girl and her sharp-tongued maid, of which my favorite part was the sharp tongue more than the romance. And Canno of Kiss & White Lily fame has a story about a high school girl with a crush on an older, unemployed woman which is probably better off with the open ending that it was given – the author noted that she wanted to make the older woman more “bad”, but was unable to do it, and you can see the struggle to tame the story in the actual work.
Elsewhere, we get stories that allow us to see that not all relationships end happily ever after, with Shiori Nishio’s story showing us a love realized too late. There’s some twisted love, as a coffeehouse employee is falling for their new hire, but only because she’s a completely useless klutz and therefore adorable. I enjoyed the tales we got that stepped away from the school, like the woman who asks her friend to help her cook something for whichever new boyfriend she’s fallen for, only to find that this pie may be a little different; or the “post-apocalyptic” story that was a bit silly but amusing enough. Possibly the weirdest story in the book comes near the end, where a girl declares that she’s going to be having another girl’s baby. It’s the sort of thing you could only pull off in a short story – the number of pages (10) was just about right.
As you can imagine, the contents are highly variable, as you’d expect with an anthology like this. That said, the anthology is still well-worth picking up overall, especially if you like the authors or the genre. There are a few authors in here I would not mind seeing more of.