The Takarazuka Revue, Japan’s all-female theater troupe, has been historically difficult to access for foreigners. While they have performed around the world since the troupe’s first performance in 1914, the most recent US performance was in 1992 according to the Takarazuka Wiki. Tickets are available to purchase online for their in-person performances in Japan, but there’s nothing like the fancy subtitle glasses some shows use if you don’t know Japanese.
That’s why the livestream announcement for Cosmos Troupe’s Casino Royale -My Name’s Bond- was met with such excitement, as it marked the first time a full Takarazuka Revue performance would be streamed for an international audience. And with English, Korean, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Indonesian, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Thai subtitles, at that!
When you’re a butch lesbian that’s attracted to other butch lesbians, it can be hard enough to find a girlfriend, but for Meiri Hiranishi, an awkward otaku college student with no dating experience, things seem near impossible!
Meiri Hiranishi’s debut manga, The Girl That Can’t Get a Girlfriend, is an autobiographical story based on comics she posted over the years to her Twitter, Webtoon, and Tapas. Meiri is a Japanese woman living in the US who longs to find a hot, short-haired girlfriend à la shojo anime heroines such as Sailor Uranus, but her awkward attempts at finding love all end in failure. That is, until she travels to Japan for the summer and meets Ash, an American teaching English in Japan.
The pair share a whirlwind month-long romance until Meiri has to return to the US to finish college, but their long distance relationship ends abruptly when Ash breaks things off. Unable to move on, Meiri struggles to try to win Ash back and find happiness for four long years.
Perhaps a more appropriate title for this manga would be “The Girl That Can’t Keep a Girlfriend,” since the majority of the story focuses on Meiri’s relationship with Ash from their initial meeting, tentative flirting, and declarations of love over the span of one month to their breakup and Meiri’s broken heart.
The initial couple of chapters focus on introducing Meiri and her tastes in women, establishing herself as a shy, insecure otaku, which fit with her depiction as a round, goofy caricature (whereas all of her love interests look straight out of shojo manga). Her embarrassing attempts to get a girlfriend, such as when she tries to go femme in order to win a butch woman over, make it clear that she grapples with her own self-worth and feels the need to change herself to appeal to others.
While there’s a lot of sweetness and fun interactions throughout the story, particularly when Meiri meets and starts dating Ash, the core issues she deals with as a lesbian woman struggling to find love and self-worth will tug at your heartstrings, whether you can directly relate to her problems or not.
Still, it’s all dealt with a witty sense of humor and self-awareness that keeps things from feeling too heavy. It’s also worth noting that Meiri wrote the entire English script herself, and her language feels right at home to someone active on the internet in 2023.
The Girl That Can’t Get a Girlfriendis a look at the life and relationships of a single woman, and the stakes may feel comparatively low to some, but in a world where we need more of all kinds of queer stories, from the happy to the sad, extraordinary to mundane, it is well worth the read. I particularly appreciated the evolution of Meiri’s perception of herself over the course of the manga and seeing her finally get to the light at the end of the tunnel. I look forward to reading more of Meiri Hiranishi’s work in the future!
The magic academy-themed yuri visual novel Perfect Gold: The Alchemy of Happiness is the third game by the Philippines-based indie studio YangYang Mobile, and the Nintendo Switch and iOS/Android ports have just been released just in time for Pride Month. As a short and sweet romance with gorgeous visuals, I couldn’t resist checking it out!
I’ve been following YangYang Mobile’s titles since their first release, The Letter, a horror visual novel. Their second title, Love Esquire, is a romantic comedy dating sim with RPG elements with a clear bishojo influence. It’s really fascinating to see their trajectory (they currently have a new horror title, Saint Maker, coming out later this year), but I was admittedly a little apprehensive about how a company without any yuri titles in their lineup might handle the subject matter.
A lot of properties have gotten the Warriors treatment, from The Legend of Zelda to One Piece, but Touken Ranbu might be one of the best-suited series for the Warriors format from the premise alone. Originally a free-to-play browser game released in 2015, Touken Ranbu features a huge cast of anthropomorphic historical swords in the form of handsome men designed by various artists. Since then, it’s become immensely popular, particularly in Japan, and has multiple adaptations in the form of anime, manga, stage plays, and even a live-action film. There is now also a mobile version, as well as an English localization of the game that was released in 2021.
The premise of Touken Ranbu is that the Touken Danshi (“swordsmen”) are elite fighters sworn to protect history from the History Retrograde Army, who are threatening to change the course of history by going back and time and interfering with significant battles and historical events to further their own goals. Players of the browser/mobile game take on the role of the Saniwa (“master”) to manage and deploy the various Touken Danshi on missions to protect the timeline – and, of course, create new Touken Danshi as they’re added to the game through the gacha mechanic.
While the source material has limited gameplay that is mostly automated, it’s easy to see how a bunch of sword boys fighting forces that are trying to change history makes for a natural fit for the “1-on-1000” action format of Koei Tecmo’s Warriors games. Of course, Warriors developers Omega Force are behind Touken Ranbu Warriors, but Ruby Party, Koei Tecmo’s team best known for their otome game titles, also assisted with this release. That effectively makes it the first Ruby Party game to come out in English for PC and Nintendo Switch!
It’s not often I pick up a game based solely on a tweet, or find myself so enthralled by a game that I need to review it just to see more people talking about it, but here we are! Garage: Bad Dream Adventure came out on iOS and Android for the first time in English on December 16, 2021, and despite being an obscure Japanese video game with a unique, unsettling vibe, I’d never heard about it before my Twitter friend @furnuss posted about the release. (Update: As of July 2022, it is also available on PC!)
Immediately intrigued, I read up on the original game from 1999 and its journey to finally being released in English and knew I had to check it out. Since there seems to be very little talk about this exciting release, I had to share the news and my thoughts after fully completing the game!
Olympia Soiréeis the latest in Aksys Games’ lineup of localized otome games from Japanese publisher Otomate, and it comes with an extremely high pedigree. Featuring art from acclaimed otome game artist Satoi (Diabolik Lovers, Ozmafia!!, Nil Admirari), a team including Nil Admiari‘s director Tanabe Wataru and scenario writer Yuma Katagiri, and an all-star cast of voice actors and a compelling fantasy narrative, it’s no wonder this release came with a lot of fanfare!
In Olympia Soirée, you play as Olympia, a young woman who is the last remaining survivor of her clan, and as a result, is the sole bearer of her clan’s duty to perform a ritual dance to keep the sun shining on the world. On her 18th birthday, she is finally able to enter society as a woman of marriageable age. However, the world is governed by a strict class structure, where people of different color clans are segregated and treated differently based on the color they are born into, with “colorless” people and criminals who break the class rules relegated to the underground world of Yomi.
My Dear Frankenstein is the latest English localization from Moonchime Studios, arriving just in time for spooky season. Developed by Japanese indie team Number7, this point-and-click adventure visual novel features a gothic tale inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and is available for PC and Mac as a digital download for $4.99 USD. If you’re looking for an atmospheric adventure game that deals with some dark themes without scares, this quaint game is the perfect Halloween romp.