Jul 24, 2011

Let's talk about yuri: Gokujou Drops

A pretty stock dramatic device in basically any form of fiction is the use of recurring motifs at regular intervals, as a means of punctuating the story. If you ever read F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Babylon Revisited" in school, you'd recognize that as drinking. If you're a modern Doctor Who fan, it's running aimlessly about while dramatic music plays. In a Sal Buscema comic, it's someone getting punched so hard they fly towards the reader.

Remember, always read from right to left. This post'll be kind of NSFW.

In Gokujou Drops, it's girl-on-girl groping. Do I have your attention now?

Ostensibly, the premise goes like this: stock perky heroine Komari Maezono is transfering to a boarding school, and her father has agreed to let her live on her own... if she has a roommate. Unfortunately, due to a clerical mix-up, the only available room left is in the super-elite Haraiso Yakata dorm, which requires approval for any new residents. Rich and beautiful Yukio Himemiya agrees to take her in, but only if Komari will act as her servant.  Slowly, the two fall for each other.

Meanwhile, for the reader, there's plenty to be embarassed about.

In actuality, it's just a romantic comedy punctuated entirely by groping, with the heroine's passivity exaggerated to the point of outright submission to the love interest.

Basically the whole comic in a nutshell.
It's not quite formulaic—and at three full length volumes in length, it does have enough of a narrative thread to push the thing forward in a predictable but dramatic way—but most of the chapters unfold in a pretty familiar way. First, Komari spends the start of the chapter worrying about her Yukio. Then, she manages into some sexually tense situation, usually with her roommates at her dorm. The most dramatic moment is underscored by her being molested in some form, but at the end, she's rescued by her master Yukio, usually with some sort of endearing beratement. I hasten to add, it's not really formulaic. Some chapters don't follow this at all, it's not always about her roommates, and some chapters don't even stand alone.

But this is actually pretty clever; managing to keep sexual tension going is something that any long running romance has trouble with. Most do this by derailing the romance with subplots that somehow keep the two apart, or something similarly distracting. Gokujou Drops avoids having to do that by instead making each chapter its own super-compressed three act drama.

And most importantly, it turns the sexual tension into something to expect at regular intervals. By the climax of each chapter, you know that Komari will get molested, even if you're not sure by who; either way, it'll just get projected onto Yukio, managing to keep the tension going.

Man, don't you just hate it when you do that without thinking?

It's okay, she just does it herself instead.
The story itself is laughable, even by the standards of the romantic comedy genre, and the entirety of the Haraiso Yakata dorm's sexual desire for Komari kind of pushes the bounds of plausibility just a little. And the (very obviously male) artist understands the female body just enough to render the constant lesbian foreplay adorably, but not enough to avoid some pretty obvious misconceptions (see below). In case there was any ambiguity: this is utter trash.

And yet somehow it's far more clever than it has any right to be. Despite the thin focus on the ongoing plot, it's not as if it's just mindless pornography; it actually "only" depicts the act itself twice, and even then, only shows so much. The characters might be absurdly unrealistic pastiches, but they work. Yukio's problems are earnestly compelling, Komari's perpetual bouncing between sexual perils is as funny and erotic as it's trying to be, and the rest of the cast do a great job at pushing the tension forward.

Komari is a perky heroine.

Even more interestingly, Komari's passivity in the face of her constant seduction seems like it could just make her a generic porn character; but in practice, she manages to be so earnestly adorable about the whole affair that it comes across as intentionally absurd. I've actually never seen a better parody of the fetishization of female sexual innocence before! Gokujou Drops depicts Komari as remaining sexually pure even while her bra is constantly popping off, she lusts after Yukio and doesn't understand why, and even as she feels compelled to masturbate while thinking of her... and really, why the fuck shouldn't that be depicted as anything but totally natural?

Oh, okay.

Above all else, Gokujou Drops is both funny and compelling as a romantic comedy, bizarrely more clever than it ought to be, and uses girl-on-girl groping as a form of dramatic punctuation. If you don't like cute characters in sexual peril and adorable boobs, well, then you're a terrible person. But if you do—it is emphatically worth your while.

Gokujou Drops (極上 ドロップス) is created by Hajime Mizuni, and has been unofficially translated into English by Wings of Yuri. It can be read online here.


  1. Now that's exactly what I meant... perfect way to censor those images!

    --Andrew S.

  2. Ah, this had been on my "yuri comics to read eventually" pile, and this inspired me to go ahead and do it.

    Girlfriends its not, but it was fun and sexy. Komari's rapable sex-kitten act, while probably not the most amazing role model ever (not that this comic was intended for an audience who'd see her as a role model), she was consistently adorable.

    Also I liked the part where the other girls told her and Yukio to go to their room and not come out till they'd "worked things out". More romance manga need side characters who know when the main couple just need to fuck each others brains out for a few hours.

  3. I really couldn't agree more. Sure, the whole thing operates on goofy porn logic, but it still manages to be so secure in its sexual angst that it's not afraid even have the characters scream "JUST FUCK ALREADY."

    But Komari is the best role model!