by Chihiro Tamaki; adapted by Satsuki Yamashita
published by Aurora Publishing; $10.95 US
As this book opens, Michiko’s mentor has been hospitalized. She fainted, and tests reveal liver damage from too much alcohol. She’s also about to give up on her agency, just as Michiko had given up on being a model. Seeing someone else quit gives Michiko new determination to pursue her dream, although she’s equally driven by escaping a nightmare, by getting a chance to redo a scene from her past in a better way.
I’m getting bored of reading about Michiko being depressed and giving up only to vow to try again. These mood swings are tiring, and they don’t seem to add up to actual forward progress. Her changes of heart are abrupt and not always believable. I think I’ve been giving this series more of a chance than I would some others just because I so much want to have a women’s manga series I can love. But it’s becoming clear that this won’t be it.
In this installment, a chance encounter with a stranger provides a job when Michiko can’t get one through her pictures or her skill (because she still doesn’t have any). He dresses her up like a traditional doll and demands unquestioning obedience. That strikes me as an odd message to suggest as a route to success, but perhaps it has more resonance for the Japanese. And yet, it works for her — suddenly, she knows how to model. If the idea is that she finally loosens up, it’s told too quickly and without enough foundation.
Sometimes, this book is an argument for the triumph of willpower over everything else. Determination can get you pretty far, but I don’t believe it can make up for a necessary base level of craft or talent. Plus, for a book about fashion, there aren’t nearly enough drawings that show off impressive clothes.
After Michiko starts getting work, the story becomes much more familiar in structure and tone, with an accident throwing her more closely together with the designer she’s chasing. Suddenly, she seems more like a typical manga heroine, cheery and optimistic. I miss her crazy edges, even if they gave me whiplash. I didn’t care for how they were inconsistently portrayed, but at least they made this book different. Now it seems just another story of “if I try hard enough, I will achieve my dream and overcome romantic obstacles to find love, tra la.”