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American Comiket Recommends
Void, shoujoai, 22 pp.
Ashura (Grace Ho)
$2, rated PG.
Warnings: f/f romance
Void is a touching story of a quiet love that develops between Amelia, a heartbroken woman caught in a loveless marriage; and Karen, outgoing and brightly beautiful. With gorgeously sensitive art rendered in lush blacks and fleeting imagery, American Comiket proudly recommends this shoujo-ai story. A true tale of love that transcends and the difficulties of admitting it to oneself...
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Review by Baxter-- Void is a story that could have taken place in any place at any time, and like Grace points out in her notes at the end of the story, it could have taken place between any couple. It is the story of a young woman trapped in a loveless marraige with a husband who obviously only married her because of societal pressures. She believes the only way out is death. But she is proved wrong by another woman who has travelled the same path before her. Their relationship is believable and natural. What was friendship is one day tested by a question. "Do you love me?" The ending is left ambiguous and the reader is to draw her own conclusions. Story wise this was a powerful piece that tugged at my romantic self. (Something that doesn't happen often, as I am more drawn to humour than to romance. ^_~) The art features lots of Grace's nearly famous, absolutely gorgeous eyes! The layout is interesting and is not confusing. Good use of blacks and negative space! Tones are used throughout and are not overwhelming. I also noticed that for the suicide attempt Amelia does indeed know the correct way to slice her wrist for a quick death. Void was a good read and quite pleasing to the eye! Thank you Grace!
Review By Myew-- As usual, the artwork is exceptional. ^^ So is the plotline. Ashura-san, once again, manipulates the emotions within the heart. I believe the theme contained within this story would be along the lines of "Are you willing to defy everything for true love?" Amelia is a cornered lady with a husband that is totally indifferent to her happiness and their relationship. People think the opposite of love is hate. It isn't, those two emotions are defined by a thin line... the true antonym is indifference. Desperately unhappy and unable to bring herself to escape from her life, Amelia is tempted to exit from her prison the one way she knew how. Suicide. But on the verge of her final fall, she is seized back from the brink by someone who cares. Karen is a total stranger, but from her concern Amelia finally finds love. Their friendship develops rapidly, but the question came up. "What am I to you?" Karen wanted to know. "Stay with me? Aren't I good enough for you?" Not wanting to say no, but, like a starving child, afraid of accepting what they hunger for least it dissolves away, she couldn't say yes. And Amelia condemned herself for it. Trying to find solace in death again, Amelia slit her wrists; but Karen grabs Amelia back with her open forgiveness and untainted love. And this time, Amelia finally admits to herself that she can defy everything--rejected loyalty, taboo, and self-condemnation-- for true love. The story is very touching! ^-^ It reaches for for the meaning and worth everyone wants to find, yet is afraid of accepting once found.
Review by Sonya St. Germain--I must say, i loved VOID... Yet again Ashura deals with a subject matter in a masterful way, lesbianism in the year 1929. Right in the first page she grabs our attention with a shocking image, and resume the story through the eyes of Amelia. Amelia is a distraught wife, who hates her life and hates herself. Trapped in a loveless marriage, she thinks herself powerless to change the situation. She knows her husband cheats on her and doesn't love her and like many women in this situation she blames herself for it. Afraid to be alone, she stays with the man. All that changes when she meets Karen... Karen who stops her from taking the only way out she can see: end her life by jumping off Eiffel Tower. Karen offers Amelia salvation with her presence, her understanding and her love. Karen has also sought the refuge of suicide, but has stayed her hand in a moment of lucidity, which gave her the strength to continue. But Amelia's life takes a dive when Karen asks her if she loves her. Amelia reacts in the only way she knows, by fleeing. How can she have feelings for another woman?... Society and her own upbringing not letting her conceive she can love a woman... Amelia chooses the only way out she knows... She thinks she is a coward and cannot face this, so instead of facing uncertainties, she decides to face death. Amelia has always been imposed her feelings and never faced her true emotions and this freedom scares her. But just when you think things couldn't be bleaker. Karen arrives. Amelia did die in a way, but was also reborn. I must say I shed a few tears at this story and smiled when I reached the end. I hope you do feel the same when you read it. I know I don't talk much about the heart but in my own opinion I think Ashura's style gives the story a lot of credibility. It's so well meshed together the medium and the text complete each other. This is more in the white tones than her previous work and it works well with it. Those white spaces define time and the emptiness in Amelia's heart. Her inability to see beyond her fears. A very nice story, I loved it.
Review by J. U.-- No question that Ashura has honed and polished her art. Techniques that are only suggested in "Promises" are matured and sophisticated in this tale of lesbian love and fulfillment. Amelia is a rejected spouse in the flapper era, afraid to admit that Karen is her personal salvation. But the story is a mystery too. Just what DID happen to Amelia after she failed to meet Karen at the Eiffel Tower? You read "Void" and provide your own answer. The story line is like watching a Catherine Deuneve film. A hand slowly releasing its suicidal grasp on a bridge railing. Two hands reaching for each other across a cafe table, but not quite touching yet. A few words on an otherwise blank page, portraying the emptiness of a life without love. If there is a minimalist style in manga drawing, then Ashura has raised it to high art. She may well be the Philip Glass of shoujo manga.
Review by Aimee-- The ideas in the story, while not the usual, are very thought provoking. They really make the reader wonder about how some people hold society's standards over their own happiness. It's a very interesting love story about growth, change, and the freeing of a young woman's spirit. The art is gorgeous, and Ashura's skills as an artist and storyteller show a lot of growth since her first work.
Review by Joules-- VOID is, quite simply, exquisite, a beautiful little gem of a manga about two women and about love. I don't want to say too much about it, as I'd hate to spoil the story for those who haven't yet read it. The story is low-key and delicately written, but powerful, and raised a shiver up my spine when I read it for the first time. Half the beauty of it is its ambivalence - I found it almost tearfully uplifting, but I can see that others might just find it depressing.. But don't let that put you off. It's a lovely, lovely work. More, please.
Review by Marie-- In Void, a self contained doujinshi by Ashura (Grace Ho), the focus is on the main characters, Amelia and Karen, and as such they are the best drawn. Both women are well-proportioned and look really alive, and the close ups of them are very detailed and emotional - a typical "Ashura-look". The pacing of the story is also good: The artist isn't afraid of breaking the frames, having a page with few or even no pictures, or changing the view in the scenes as if they were shot with a video camera. The backgrounds have a tendency of looking flat. They are not the best thing about Void. Maybe that is also the reason why Ashura uses screen tones a lot instead of drawn backgrounds (and it doesn't confuse the reader - you always know where the characters are). The change between white, black and screen tones in the background seems very deliberate and sets the mood of the pages. Void is printed in an interesting format. It is almost as broad as it is long. This adds something to the originality. Were I to catagorize Void I'd definitely put it down as a work of shoujo-manga with "shoujo-ai" elements. However, you don't need to like seeing two girls together, because the art is not at all explicit: That is simply not the purpose or point of this story. If a flat-looking Eiffel Tower doesn't scare you off (and it shouldn't, really), Void is worth reading, because it is a deep story of love and friendship - and even though it deals with sad topics its end shows hope and trust in the future.
Review by Pluto-- I simply couldn't stay quiet about this title. I feel it's the most phenomenally touching and beautiful thing that has come out of the Passionate Kiss/Umbrella Studios dj circle. In a very short number of pages, Ashura moves us to sympathize with, and ache with, Amelia. The art is eloquently simple, with Ashura's typical melancholic style, and the story is enough to move one to tears. By the end of the doujinshi I was holding my breath at the wringing feeling the story gave me inside. I can't recommend this title enough times!