I've covered a bit of BL, so why not go for a change of pace by covering a yuri one-shot? After all, I'm always up for reading more Milk Morinaga manga.
SECRET OF THE PRINCESS (Ohime-sama no Himitsu), by Milk Morinaga. First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2017.
Ever since she was a little girl, Miu's mother has drilled into her the importance of being cute and femme so that she can land the prince of her dreams someday. When Miu blackmails the school volleyball star Fujiwara into a relationship, she thinks of it as simply a way to practice romance until she meets an actual boy. As the two get closer, Miu's feelings start to change and the guilt of their secret relationship starts to get to her.
Taken at face value, Secret of the Princess doesn't do anything all that different from Milk Morinaga's other manga. You have a cute, feminine short girl, a tall sporty androgynous girl, and they slowly and surely fall in love. What is different is how she confronts some of the Class S cliches through the story.
At the beginning, it feels like Miu and Fujiwara's romance is going to follow the traditional yuri formula right down to the letter, complete with the 'practice romance' excuse. As time passes, though, she starts to use their relationship as a way to poke at their classmates' hypocrisy when it comes to same-sex relationships. She doesn't get particularly deep or scathing about it, but it does bring a bit of verisimilitude to the usual all-girls' school scenario.
She also makes it pretty clear just how much Miu's severely heteronormative upbringing has messed with her head. She deals with a lot of guilt over the course of the book, and so much of it is because she feels compelled to live up to the impossible ideals of femininity that her mother has been teaching her since she was a grade schooler. It makes her overly anxious about what others think of her and it's this guilt that threatens to tear her and Fujiwara apart just as they start to actually figure out their feelings for one another.
As for the romance itself, it measures up to the high standards set by Morinaga's previous works. Miu and Fujiwara manage to be a bit more adorkable than usual thanks to Miu's awkwardness and Fujiwara's spaciness. There's a true sense of camaraderie between them, something which turns out to be more important to Fujiwara than anyone realized. It also makes the slow and subtle shift to romance all the more believable, even if it's realized in a more dramatic fashion than is the norm for Morinaga. Still, this blend of sweet romance and dramatic substance make Secret of the Princess a delight to read.
Everything I've said before about Morinaga's art applies here. It's cute and down to earth, full of blushes and quiet little gestures. The composition is a little busier than usual, but not to the point where it becomes unpleasant or chaotic. It's perfectly pretty, if predictable work.
Secret of the Princess lives up to Milk Morinaga's high standards, delivering delicate lesbian romance with a side of social commentary in an easy-to-consume package.
This book is published by Seven Seas. It is currently in print.