Story and Art by Hiroyuki
Translated by Ed Ayes
Lettering by Joseph Barr
Compiled, Formatted, and Quality Assurance by Zhuchka
While comics about queer characters working through queer relationships and queer problems have gained more visibility in mainstream comics in recent years, the bulk of LGBTQ content has usually been in self-published, independent comics. This is still true of manga, because even though yuri and BL are widely recognized genres, the representation depicted and messaging of the stories themselves can sometimes be questionable, hence yuri historian Erica Friedman’s definition of yuri as “lesbian content without lesbian identity.” Reason being, genuine LGBTQ representation is still difficult to achieve in mainstream media because of various social and political factors that keep stories from being explicit, like how we keep getting teased but probably will never actually get a Disney film featuring openly queer characters because then they wouldn’t be able to sell it in China.
Self-published comics like doujinshi, free from outside interference and factors, are a great outlet for creators to explore and tell queer stories they couldn’t otherwise. Similarly, Of Girls, Love, and Money reflects the efforts of an artist to develop and explore a queer relationship, and tell a unique and entertaining story while doing so.
While Of Girls, Love, and Money never has its characters self-identify or address themselves as queer, it’s never a question that this is a story about two girls in a relationship and in love. Hiroyuki manages to avoid most of the trappings in the yuri genre that can muddy the messaging. There’s no trepidation, no “but we’re both girls!”, and no “gay until graduation” ideas here. The relationship is what it is, the characters are who they are, and the story wastes no time letting us know. The characters don’t have to go out of the way to say they’re gay, it’s clear from their confidence in what they say and do that they are.
The first chapter quickly establishes Sachiko is bisexual with her dream of being surrounded by beautiful men and women. By saying that she wants to be with Miho most out of all the other girls, she confesses her feelings to her, and Miho’s acceptance demonstrates she has feelings for her as well. That’s all we need to understand their relationship, and subsequent chapters revolve around Miho getting flustered by Sachiko’s affections and reaffirming her feelings, while also mining jokes from the absurd money-lending element of the premise.
It’s definitely light-hearted for yuri fare – there’s no agonizing over their relationship, questioning their sexual identity, or facing discrimination – but that’s what makes it so refreshing. This is a rare yuri comedy that establishes the relationship immediately, the comedy developing from how the relationship progresses and the eccentric personalities of the characters involved. It’s fluffy and funny, awkward and adorable, confident in its content, and just not the kind of yuri manga I see getting published overseas very often.
Hiroyuki mentions in his afterward that this was an experimental work of sorts, playing around with new framing and compositional techniques. The results are subtle but noticeable; there’s a variety of different digital screentone effects used in the comic, best demonstrated when Miho accepts Sachiko’s confession, where the top panel uses a lot of glitter-like and sparkly shapes and the bottom panel features more doily-like patterns.
Another unique feature of the comic is that the setting never leaves Miho’s room, and the story always takes place in the limited space between Miho’s desk, bed, and window. Hiroyuki plays with how the characters can be positioned in such a narrow space, making clever use of different perspectives between panels to keep things visually interesting.
One of the cleverest compositions occurs when Sachiko questions why Miho is saving money, where the dividing column of the window provides both a metaphorical emotional wall and a temporal break separating Miho and Sachiko within the panel. It’s fun to see an artist play with how to communicate different ideas under self-imposed limitations, and Hiroyuki’s experiments with setting, space, composition, and effects make the visual storytelling of the comic as unique and interesting as its narrative content.
Hiroyuki may not have originally planned to write a yuri manga, but that the story evolved that way seems in line with his fascination with unique relationships and exploring the feelings of all the participants involved. Specifically, both Of Girls and Two-Timing Fair and Square demonstrate Hiroyuki’s interests in writing atypical romances featuring queer characters, using self-published comics as his means to tell stories he hasn’t been able to in his mainstream works like Aho-Girl. Doujinshi are a great way for artists to explore ideas they might not be sure about or able to use in comics written for major publications, as well as gauge interest in different kinds of stories.
Hiroyuki seems to have liked the results of this experiment, and is interested in making more. However, it’s difficult for serialized creators to continue unique independent comics like this without fan support. If you’re looking for more charming yuri stories that emphasize comedy over melodrama, and enjoy Hiroyuki’s storytelling and sensibilities, I recommend supporting this release from Irodori Aqua and throwing some love and money Of Girls’ way.