Syrup: A Yuri Anthology Volume 1 is published by Seven Seas Entertainment and features numerous mangaka. In total, there are 14 short stories by Yukiko, Kodama Naoko, Yoshimura Kana, Goumoto, Mocci_au_Lait, Kawanami Izumi, Shioya Teruko, Amano Shuninta, Ohi Pikachi, Yoshidamaru Yu, Kurogane Kenn, Matsuzaki Natsumi, Ito Hachi, and Morinaga Milk. This is an adult Yuri anthology that focuses on the multiple facets of love between women.
What makes this anthology stand out is its focus on adulthood within relationships. This is not your stereotypical, “falling in love” type of romance collection. Many of these women are working and navigating their mid to late 20s to early 30s. One of my favorite stories is titled, “First Grown-Up Love“ by Hachi. A 23-year-old baker is presented with a woman who confesses that she has feelings for her. The immediate response is “But I’m a virgin” and while it is presented to add comedic value, this other woman does not judge, pressure, or ridicule Miori for confessing this. Instead, Miori attempts to balance her work life as a cake decorator and personal life. She takes it day by day and slowly allows herself the time to understand these romantic feelings she has towards Hamura. It is short, sweet, and reflective of personal boundaries when navigating first love.
Within “Mama x Mom” by Yu, it tackles girl love between two women who have previously been with men. Our protagonist Konno Fumi is a 28-year-old game scriptwriter who is housing her friend Maki-Shima Sayaka. Maki-Shima is divorced with an infant and Konno helps take care of her daughter. This short story isn’t necessarily a tale of how they fall in love. Rather, it focuses on how Konno realizes that she has developed romantic feelings for Maki-Shima. Within the time she has spent living with Maki-Shima and her child, she realizes the deeper bond she shares with her. She would love to live like a family together as they are until the rest of their days and ponders that dream. However, the story is not about suffering but rather hope in knowing that maybe one day, Maki-Shima will fall in love with her too. It is nuanced and powerful to showcase not just romance in an idealistic way but also in it’s more bittersweet nature.
Presented within other stories, Syrup: A Yuri Anthology Volume 1 tackles romance stories with a meet-cute (a romance troupe many are fond of where two characters meet and they both feel the mutual attraction that leads into a relationship) in “One AM at the Laundromat” by Yukiko; There is a story about lesbian acceptance in “The Cram School Teachers“ by Mocchi_au_Lait.
Lastly, in “The Abandoned Cat and the Lamp”, there is love at first sight at a bookstore cat cafe! Regardless of troupes, Syrup tackles a wide array of different stories that are a delight to read. Each story has its own unique art style per mangaka and all of them are beautiful. Letterer Kaitlyn Wiley made following along to these 14 different stories easy. The dialogue was always in rounded speech bubbles, inner thoughts were distinguished by square text boxes, sound effects were small and non-intrusive (on the artwork, panels, or main dialogue) and it was inconsistent throughout the entire collection despite there being multiple stories.
The issues present within Syrup: A Yuri Anthology Volume 1 pertains to two different stories with trigger warnings for incest and rape. Within “Coward Queen” by Yoshimura Kana, the main character Kagetsu Ren is an adult actress. Thankfully, there is no sex worker shaming present within the story. However, the porn that Ren-San is filming with her soon-to-be love interest is Older Sister vs Younger Sister incest yuri. While this may be an incredibly popular romance/sexual fantasy within adult media, I still felt, personally, uncomfortable having to read that scene. It is, also, briefly mentioned that Ren-San did film “rape porn”. Tonally, this story doesn’t offer any real romantic tones and resolves with Ren filming this adult film as a joke to her directors, leaving her mad. This story could have been utilized as a pro-sex worker with a healthy relationship and that would have been much better. Additionally, in “Rose Quartz” by Kurogane Kenn there was one rape joke used to describe the protagonist’s first sexual encounter. The story, itself, is quite sweet and cute revolving around two female artists getting married. Unfortunately, that description could have easily not been a joke.
Overall, Syrup: A Yuri Anthology Volume 1 is a (mostly) thoughtful and expressive deep dive into girl love. The inclusiveness of women who has either never been with another woman, women who were lesbians, or women who were bisexual was refreshing to see. From first love to meet-cutes, to best friends-to-lovers troupes all utilized in short, cute snips, this anthology is worth the read for any reader interested in older yuri. It is available now from Seven Seas Entertainment.