marshtide: (Rei - go on you know you want to)
[personal profile] marshtide
We are now leaving Ikeda Riyoko land.

Shiroi Heya no Futari (which I have seen titled in English as Our White Room, IIRC) is an early yuri manga by Yamagishi Ryoko (it was originally published in 1971). Like the later Kaze to Ki no Uta it's set in a boarding school in France and follows a doomed romance between two students.


I mention this because Kaze to Ki no Uta is early yaoi, but the distinction between the two doesn't feel all that clear in the 70s, which I think is pretty interesting. It doesn't seem to matter all that much whether a story is told with nominally male or female characters; it's the same kind of boundaries that it's trying to cross. And the similarities between some of the early yaoi and yuri that I've either read or read about (OK, I will come clean, I haven't worked up the nerve for Kaze to Ki no Uta yet - I haven't really recovered from the number Oniisama E did on my brain, and it was a good while ago I read that one) does something with the idea of pulling gender apart; pulling boundaries apart.

In any case, Shiroi Heya no Futari is a pretty short story and exactly as tragic as pretty much every other story any of us have talked about this week.

shiroi33 shiroi21b

Resine is an orphaned girl who goes to boarding school and gets put in a room with the rather cruel and distant Simone (who apparently gets through roommates pretty fast). Simone is constantly vanishing from school and apparently has a lot of boyfriends; she's also very unhappy, although she pretends that she just doesn't care. The series basically covers their relationship from beginning to end, with the key plot point being that time-honoured device of one of them being picked to play Romeo in the school play and the other one playing Juliet. (I assume this was already cliché in the 70s. It's probably always been cliché.)

I'm not even going to go into the problematic aspects of doomed lesbian love this time; I think we all know the score on that one by now.

The story is a lot about homophobia - both the other students and Resine herself display quite a bit. Resine is terrified either of being seen as gay or actually being gay or possibly both (though possibly mostly the former, because she seems to be a lot about appearances), and accordingly acts very inconsistently with Simone, sometimes clinging to her and sometimes telling her that they have nothing but friendship. This is, at least, a more interesting storyline than The Corrupt One and The Innocent One; and I definitely felt that the whole thing came apart out of fear rather than out of some kind of inherent perversion. Resine is afraid because she occupies a pretty normal social position otherwise and being lesbian would place her as a social outsider; Simone doesn't feel like she has anything much to lose because she believes she stands outside already, so she ends up having a much more honest approach to their relationship.

I actually enjoyed this one and I feel like I'm still doing some pulling apart on it. It is, however, brief, tragic and kind of incredibly ridiculous. But sometimes one just doesn't care.

(There's also a yuri manga from '72 called Maya's Funeral Procession which I think I'm going to have to read next; quite apart from anything else the character designs are so similar to Shiroi Heya no Futari's that I just have to see what's going on there.)
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