by Reiko Momochi; adaptation by Marion Brown
published by Tokyopop; $9.99 US
This volume has four stories. “Pain” is the story of a teen prostitute. Megumi starts as a clip joint hostess, picking up businessmen and fleecing them out of overpriced drinks. The money lets her buy herself expensive designer purses and clothes for her dates with her college boyfriend. She’s only worried about appearances, and she doesn’t see why she should wait to have something she wants.
She quickly moves on to turning tricks, until her boyfriend finds out. After various dramatic showdowns, we’re left with the message that if her boyfriend had been a better lover, she would have known what good, loving sex was, so she wouldn’t have been in this situation. That’s certainly not something I’ve seen in any other comic, even if this one is labeled for 16 and up, but the presentation is somewhat muddled. Megumi manages to escape any terrible consequences, but the conclusion is rather ambivalent over whether it’s a truly happy ending.
In “Distortion”, Miho stands up to sadistic teachers overly concerned with rules and discipline. They’re petty tyrants, trying to control the girls’ lives to the extent of what color underwear they can wear, and their corporal punishment becomes physical abuse that eventually leads to her suicide. She’s then blamed for being weak and irresponsible.
A culture of silence and discipline, of fitting in and not questioning authority, is here compared to dangerous brainwashing that damages its victims instead of benefitting them. When I read this story, I’m thinking “duh, of course a teacher examining the color of his students’ underclothes is creepy”, but I’m guessing that this was a bit more shocking in Japan.
“Tomorrow” is about girl-on-girl bullying from the perspective of an observer who’s too frightened to do anything, and “Forbidden Kiss” is a lesbian love story. There’s a note from the author saying she drew these stories to address problems in today’s schools and to spark thought in the reader. She hopes that in the future, this book is considered an anachronism because the problems it shows have disappeared. That’s an admirable goal, but I’m still a little embarrassed to say I read this title, because my reasons for doing so are not so high-minded.
The series tells stories of teen girls dealing with hot-button subjects like drugs, sexual abuse, and suicide. It’s billed as an honest exploration of “the harsh realities of today’s youth”, but for me, it’s more like an old Cecil B. DeMille epic — 80 minutes of glorified sinning, and 10 minutes of redemption to make it the audience feel virtuous instead of embarrassed for watching.
I previously reviewed Book 1.