by Moyoco Anno; adapted by Leah Ginsberg
published by Tokyopop; $9.99 US
I’m very glad I waited until now to read this. I’ve been curious about it for years (since it came out five years ago), because it was one of the earliest josei manga translated in the US. (Josei is manga aimed at women instead of girls.) If I’d read it back, then, though, I don’t think I’d have gotten the humor or been able to approach it with the lightheartedness required. Now, with more manga under my belt and more choices available for older female characters, it’s clearer that Shigeta is just one messed-up chick, not some kind of representation of all women, and a pretty funny one to read about.
Shigeta wants a boyfriend. She’s got no patience for meeting and getting to know someone. She confuses sex with love. She lives more in fantasy than in reality, believing a one-night stand is in love with her just because she wants it so badly. She doesn’t realize her own hypocrisy (as when she thinks to herself “I want a guy… but not an ugly guy, because I have to have standards”).
In short, she’s hilarious. (And more than a little reminiscent of some of the boys I’ve seen talking online who will die if they can’t get a gorgeous girlfriend, regardless of their own looks.) But every woman can identify with her feelings of desperation (although maybe not to this extent). When she sees a new, good-looking customer, among the many thoughts that race through her head is “Did I shave my legs above the knee?”, something most females think at some point during the mating interest process.
I liked the detail in her portrayal, how she’s got more depth than just a cardboard figure of fun. She’s drawn goofy-looking, but in a warm way. Her every emotion plays out instantly across her face in exaggerated expression.
Nice guy Takahashi works with her and clearly cares about her, even though she’s clueless. Here’s one hint: asking a guy “do you have a girlfriend?” is going to be misinterpreted as interest in him, even though all Shigeta wanted was to be reassured she wasn’t the only single person on the planet. And then she doesn’t understand why he’s happy when she says she’s not involved either.
She keeps asking herself why she can’t find a boyfriend, but the answer is clear to the reader: stop sleeping with guys you’ve just met. Pay attention to personality and compatibility instead of looks. She’s awfully amusing in her self-delusion, though. Especially when she thinks she’s found a boyfriend and quits going to work as a result. She needs to learn a lot more about men, herself, and human nature before she’s ready for a real relationship. I’m looking forward to seeing more of where her path takes her.
One last note: Remember the days when Tokoypop’s complete publication history could fit on one “also from” page?