The Conditions of Paradise
Story & Art: Akiko Morishima
Translation: Elina Ishikawa-Curran
Adaptation: Asha Bardon
Lettering & Retouch: CK Russel
Cover Design: Nicky Lim
Editor: Shannon Fay
The North American manga market is no stranger to boys’ love series, with romances between beautiful men being marketed at young women since at least the early 2000s. Yuri, depicting relationships between girls or women, has been a little slower to take off, though publisher Seven Seas Entertainment has been cornering the market on sweet lesbian romances for quite some time now.
In March 2020, Seven Seas offered up Conditions of Paradise, a yuri anthology with a focus on adult women, instead of the mostly chaste schoolgirl stories that largely populate store shelves Stateside. The title story, which takes up three chapters of the book, revolves around the hyper-organized office worker Sarina and her free-spirited freelance writer friend Sumi. When Sumi returns from her most recent globetrotting adventure and crashes at Sarina’s place, Sarina realizes that her friend’s constant admissions of love for her may in fact be requited. Before Sumi can leave again, Sarina decides that this time, she wants to tag along.
The next offering, “A 20-Year-Old Woman and a 30-Year Old Girl,” focuses on a college art professor who is asked out by one of her students. She agrees to go on a date and realizes that dating another woman has some perks; a woman is more likely to notice the effort put into dressing for a date. Of course, that also means she’s more likely to notice the areas in which her partner doesn’t put in any extra effort, and this sends the 30-year-old professor, already quite lax in her personal presentation, into a spiral of panic about how she measures up to her youthful and lovely new girlfriend.
Continuing to play with the theme of maturity and age gap romances, “And We Strive for Love” features Shinobu, an office worker whose older girlfriend, Lalah, still looks like a teenager. The two have been together since high school, when Lalah rescued Shinobu from a situation which triggered traumatic memories.. “Peach Flavor,” which immediately follows, is a short and innocent high school tale of first love, breaking the theme of stories about adult women.
“Princess Sakura in the Flurry of Flowers” is perhaps the stand-out of the group of stories. It takes place in Japan’s past, and uses the tropes of fairy tale to tell of a cherry tree who has fallen in love with a human woman. Heaven grants the tree a human body so that she may woo her human love, but it is a female body. If her intended does not love her back, the tree-woman will turn to dust and blow away on the wind.
While it is refreshing to have a more mature group of women as subject matter in a yuri collection, Akiko Morishima’s clean and cute artwork fails to render her characters as looking any more mature than high schoolers in most circumstances. Additionally, the stories themselves lack any kind of edge, perpetuating the typical sweet and saccharine plots for which yuri is known, with the additon of some implied sex. This isn’t to say this collection isn’t entertaining or worthwhile; this is a genuinely enjoyable work from the creator of Yuri Bear Storm, so long-time yuri readers will likely have a good time with this new volume. But for those who were hoping that an adult-focused collection would offer a little more than the usual feel-good yuri fare, this is likely not going to satisfy that craving.
The collection’s final story comes the closest to pushing the yuri envelope as we know it in North America. Fairy tale retellings with a queer twist are hardly new, but “Princess Sakura in the Flurry of Flowers” adds a needful dose of gentle melancholy into the happy-endings mix. More historical lesbian romances in manga would certainly not go amiss!
For those who have been searching for queer works about adult women and who like that heartwarming, tingly feeling they get from a happy ending, Conditions of Paradise is available now through Seven Seas Entertainment, with sequels on the horizon.