Yuri is, as they say, the purest form of love, and as such when a particularly attractive-looking volume of short yuri-centric manga stories presented itself to me on my Amazon recommendations, I was quick to pick it up. Syrup volume 1 is the first in a series of such volumes — and going by this collection, it’s just the thing if you need a sweet palate-cleanser after heavier fare.
It’s worth noting up front that in contrast to some other yuri anthologies such as Double Your Pleasure, Syrup does not focus on the erotic side of things; while there are a few mild nude scenes and implied sexual encounters, for the most part the stories within Syrup volume 1 focus more on the context of relationships and feelings rather than eroticism. That is, of course, fine — just don’t come into this one expecting strongly erotic or sexually explicit narratives.
Syrup volume 1 features 14 stories in total, each composed by a different mangaka. There are a number of recognisable names in the mix, too — Fly (Kemono Friends, Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki) did the beautiful cover illustration, for example, and there are contributions from Our Teachers are Dating! author Pikachi Ohi, Netsuzuo Trap writer Kodama Naoko, Murcielago’s Yoshimura Kana and numerous other fan favourites besides.
Like most anthologies of this type, there’s been no real attempt to tie all the short stories together since each mangaka’s style is noticeably different from the others’ — though each story is presented with a consistent nameplate on its opening page to give the volume as a whole a nice feeling of consistency.
Syrup volume 1’s stories mostly focus on older working women rather than high school or college girls. Many of the tales explore how having someone that you can rely on, confide in and feel love from can make a huge difference in dealing with the daily trials and tribulations that working life presents you with, and some look at how as you get older it can feel difficult and awkward to seek out a new intimate relationship with someone.
The stories are consistently wholesome and warm, typically leaving things on a positive note and allowing the reader to imagine the central couple’s subsequent life of happiness together. Longer yuri stories — particularly in the visual novel space — can sometimes err on the side of angst to varying degrees, so it’s nice to have some simple, comfy stories about women who love other women and have no shame whatsoever about this.
Of particular note in this regard is a story by Mocchi_au_lait called The Cram School Teachers, where two female teachers who are in a relationship together are presented speaking to the same class at different times on the same day. One, Ueda-sensei, is extremely flustered when her students begin quizzing her about her relationship; the other, Shimokawa-sensei, is open and honest with the children, and explains how when it comes to true love and affection, gender should be no barrier whatsoever.
“She’s so wonderful that I refuse to not like her because we’re both women,” Shimokawa explains. “You’re the only one who can choose your special person.”
Indeed, this theme runs throughout Syrup volume 1 to varying degrees — and we have a nice mix of protagonists who are pursuing the object of their affections, and those who are being pursued. In some cases, the actual relationship status of the core couple is left deliberately ambiguous at the conclusion of the story, allowing us to ponder their potential future ourselves; in others, the relationship is established during the brief time we spend with the pair; and in others still, the relationship is pre-established prior to us joining them, and we simply get a snapshot of an important moment in their lives.
The variety of ways in which the mangaka responsible for Syrup volume 1 keep the entire volume interesting and dynamic. No two stories feel quite alike, so it thankfully never feels like you’re just reading the same story with different pretty girls taking the lead. It’s also worthy of praise that several of the mangaka take on less salubrious sides of society and culture by featuring characters involved in adult entertainment, hostess clubs and the like, and this is always done without judgement or making them out to be in any way sleazy or worthy of scorn.
There are also some interesting and surprising situations shown that, again, are concluded somewhat ambiguously, allowing us to determine for ourselves what might happen next. Probably the best example of this is Amano Shuninta’s tale The Florist and the Wednesday Night Lady, in which a florist makes the rather bold assumption that a woman who comes into her store every Wednesday night at the same time is into her. The truth is not quite what we might have expected given the story’s setup — but in keeping with the overall sense of warmth and comfort of Syrup, it’s by no means a downer of an ending.
All in all, while Syrup volume 1 may, like all other volumes of manga short stories, leave you craving a lot more from each set of characters we’re introduced to then snatched away from all too soon, the volume as a whole is sure to leave you with a pleasantly warm feeling inside. The stories are wholesome and comforting — though not without tension when required — and definitely enjoyable to lazily leaf through on a balmy summer afternoon such as the one on which I’m writing this.
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