Reviewed by: Eeeper
Released by: Vertical
Publishing Country: USA
Author: Kyoko Okazaki
Age Rating: 18+
Page Count: 256
Yumiko moonlights as a call girl because her day job doesn't pay enough to feed her pet Croc. Haru an aspiring writer who has nothing to say, sleeps with a woman his mother's age not just for the money but to work on his "powers of observation". So when Yumi's step-mom turns out to be Haru's sugar-mommy, it is time for shenanigans. A little bit of drinking, a little bit of blackmail and a visit with Croc is enough to change lives and maybe add some color to a comfortable but bland life.
I don’t pretend to know the cultural zeitgeist that went on in Japan during its "Bubble" years, when the Japanese economy took the people there to untold heights. However as I understand it, in the doing the people there were unprepared with what to do once they reached the top and were also unprepared for the fall from grace that happened after. Kyoko Okazaki’s PINK is a look at a time when Japanese people were at a crossroads and came out of the choice of which direction to take and left wanting. Seemingly about a call girl called Yumi who also works as an office lady, it is really more about the story of she and the people in her lives who represent the past, present and future of the nation.
Yumi is a capricious creature, fickle and emotional at the same time, who lives in an apartment paid for by her father. She supports herself in every other way working as an office lady by day and a call girl by night. Along the way, she’s made an enemy of her step-mother, a friend out of her half sister Keiko and found a lover in the form of her mother’s toy boy. Quite how Yumi’s managed for people not to kill her all these years is nothing short of amazing. She makes frequent requests of people that are outlandish, rude and often contradictory. She keeps tropical plants in her apartment and owns a real crocodile.Yet her office life is a world away from the tawdry existence she enjoys as a call girl. She is demure, likable and quiet. This is an amazing duality in a character where there seems to be no need on the author's part to have the two worlds collide. Instead, Okazaki has the conflict and drama happen behind closed doors.
The other characters are people in their own right but they all know each other through their association with Yumi. Haru is a failed novelist who’s never written a novel. He’s in a relationship with Yumi’s stepmother who is simply using him for sex and nothing more. So when he meets Yumi, she, upon meeting him, literally drives him to distraction and almost gets him eaten in the process. But there’s something about Yumi that Haru can’t stop thinking about. Even when she ruining his life, he either can’t help himself or he’s brow beaten into being with her. Keiko is her confidant and her co-conspirator. She loves her big sister and doesn’t see the fact that they have different mothers. So she is frequently in Yumi’s life and hangs out whenever she can. Of course, there has to be a villain in a story like this and that’s the stepmother. The tragedy of her character is that she gained her husband by him cheating on his wife and now she’s cheating on him with a younger man. For the most part, the two women, Yumi and stepmother, try to avoid each other. The amount of loathing involved could sink a battleship, it’s that heavy. Anyway, when Yumi becomes involved with Haru, all hell breaks loose and the stepmother sets in place a chain of events that will alter Haru and Yumi’s relationship and bring about the end of some of the more stable and static parts of Yumi’s life.
Where Pink! succeeds (or fails if you think differently) is in its frank depiction of Yumi’s life, including all the parts that normally we shouldn’t see. We hear her monologues as she shops, talks with people, cleans around her apartment and yes, even when she has intercourse with her clients. In fact, I might be so bold as to say that Yumi’s at her most honest when she’s on an assignation ( In truth, the jobs aren't really assignments from Yumi's madam because Yumi treats her clients as interactive interests rather than just money. )with her clients as her monologue is honest, insightful and unpretentious. When she’s in the company of others, she entertains ideas that would never work and even she dismisses them after a moment or two. In a way, Yumi shows what is right and wrong with Japan at the time. On one hand, she has sex for money and therefore could be seen as abandoning what would have been considered proper behaviour for a young woman her age and on the other, she is forging her own identity and frequently has notions of being in a better place than where life has placed her. Sadly, as the manga draws to close, we find that there is a huge price to be paid for such happiness as what she has been allowed to have up to that point. Thus, we complete Okazaki’s master stroke. Yumi IS Japan or at least how Japan was at the end of the Bubble. Yumi didn’t care where the party was going in her life, didn’t notice that her actions could have an effect of her and her loved ones and doesn't know who's going to pay for the party. By the end of the story, I felt sorry for Yumi. With such an outlook on life, I wanted her story to be better. But even the ending is hopeful, full of questions about her future.
Okazaki's art is simple and more comedic in nature than serious. The scenes that I loved the most for their art were the dinner dates Yumi, Haru and Keiko have with each other both as a group and in separated groups. The artwork makes it feel like you are in the room as they eat and talk. Structurally, I loved as Yumi goes from easy going call girl to domestic goddess and finally born again adventurer. It's an easy transformation to watch and makes her dialogue and actions much more sublime. It helps that the artwork has lovely bold lines that makes the subjects jump off the page rather than get bogged down in unnecessary complication. (Please note, I checked and Yumi's father and stepmother are not referred to anywhere by name that I could find)
I enjoyed this manga and would recommend it for people who were looking for an adult, mature look at how the choices a person makes can be multiplied to be the choices a nation makes.
Vertical have also published Okazaki's Helter Skelter in the US.