MANGA REVIEW | "The Conditions of Paradise" - Volume One
Akiko Morishima is a master when it comes to writing about lesbian relationships. Even when she only does the art side of things like with Kunihiko Ikuhara’s Yurikuma Arashi, there’s a tender heart and careful soul placed into all of her works. The Conditions of Paradise, a collection of yuri short stories, continues that trend, giving way to in-depth relationships and sweet emotions.
Five shorts take up the first volume of The Conditions of Paradise, the first being the tale that shares the collection’s namesake. Sarina falls in love with her longtime friend Sumi, who travels the world and often crashes at her place. As they live under their roof together, their shared love for one another slowly bursts into fruition. However, with Sumi’s job, it makes evolving their relationship from a couple of flings per year a challenge.
What I appreciate about Sumi & Sarina’s story is that it’s filled with so much back story, but only a couple of panels here and there are needed to showcases just how deep their love is for one another. While it doesn’t dig deep into common relationship struggles, the narrative does enough to give a good conflict regarding Sumi’s job and Sarina’s past love relationships. In the end, it tells a completely good-natured story on how a long-lingering feeling finally gets a chance to blossom.
As for the other short stories, Morishima crafts a mixture of other girl/girl couples in different settings. “A 20 Year-Old Woman and a 30 Year-Old Girl” showcases a cute mentality where the older artist Kiryuu falls for the younger lady Aoyama. Kiryuu’s worries about not looking as cute as the youthful Aoyama is pretty adorable, as the younger one in the relationship finds herself shoving more confidence in the artist rather than the other way around. (How Kiryuu’s friends try to push her to go all the way is also pretty funny, demonstrating that women can just be as horn-doggy as their male counterparts.)
“And We Strive For Love” puts a focus on a couple who’ve been together since high school. One deals with certain struggles in her life, with the other person being there to bring her out of her foggy state. It’s not just a good tale, but also presents a better light onto lesbian relationships that last way past high school and the like. “Peach Flavor” demonstrates the beginnings of a high school romance, with one of the girls trying to hard to mature when she’s not legit ready for any sort of relationship. It’s more grounded than the other stories told, but it thankfully doesn’t go the “just a phase” route that some yuri tend to tread through.
Its last story, “Princess Sakura in the Flurry of Flowers”, goes the fantasy route with a cherry blossom who takes the form of a female bodyguard to protect the woman she loves. There’s a lot of symbolism within this tale, some of which might go over the heads of those unfamiliar with Japanese metaphors. However, it’s a gorgeous story that brings a realization to a princess who’s being forced to wed against her wishes and feelings.
The Conditions of Paradise is a well-rounded collection of lesbian romance tales. With the exception of “Princess Sakura,” it feels like all of these tales could share a similar universe with one another. Perhaps in future volumes, we may see some crossovers occurring with some of these couples. Nevertheless, The Conditions of Paradise is a strong showcase of girl/girl relationships, demonstrating Morishima’s talents both as an artist and a storyteller.
Promotional consideration provided by Lianne Sentar of Seven Seas Entertainment