by Shiho Torii
published by One Peace Books; $12.95 US
When I heard about this book, in which a manga artist accepts her editor’s challenge to lose 15 pounds in five months, I thought it sounded perfect for me. I love manga, and I’ve been meaning to get in better shape. Unfortunately, while the concept is promising, the book itself is terrible.
First, there’s the cartooning itself. I’m ok with simple art, but the illustrations here are so minimal as to make me ask why it was drawn at all. Most of the time, reading only the text carries all the information, making the images superfluous. The lack of imagination is most obvious in the naming of the supporting character: the author’s younger sister is referred to as “Lil Sis”.
According to the book, the editor emailed the author out of the blue based on her blog and proposed this idea. Which means that the two didn’t have a pre-existing relationship, and how they end up interacting is rather contentious and off-putting.
Then there’s the art style. None of the characters have eyes, just batches of four lines (as shown on the cover). Everyone has a big, round, moon-faced head with a minimal body hanging from it. (Combined with the eyes, they all look liked stoned Powerpuff Girls, but with much less style.) I would expect a book about losing weight to pay a lot more attention to illustrating bodies accurately, but you certainly can’t tell if any character is or isn’t overweight by their visual appearance. That’s another reason the art is irrelevant.
I really wouldn’t have put the chapter about how the author doesn’t go to the bathroom enough (because she only wants to use her own toilet) so early in the book. It’s repulsive; later on, a reader might have more patience with the character and find it less so. But since discussion of constipation keeps appearing, maybe it’s a warning to the reader to bail out early if they aren’t interested.
The book is billed as “lighthearted”, which is a fine approach to the serious question of a healthy weight, but this is so flaky as to be dangerous. There’s no information about the only sensible way to lose weight (eat less, move more). Instead, the idea that you can somehow buy your way to weighing less permeates the pages.
The author tries going to the gym first, but she labels herself lazy and says it’s not fun. She and Lil Sis overdo it, feel miserable the next day, and nothing more is said about the mistakes they made or why they didn’t go back. Other exercise options, like walking or aquarobics, are blown off or rejected because she doesn’t like the people who do them. Or she does them, but she doesn’t mention whether they were successful for her, which makes them seem unrelated to her loss.
After that, it’s all goofy stuff like a “reset diet” (which sounds like the equivalent of an Atkins low-carb approach, but since there are no cultural translation notes, I wasn’t sure), a coffee “cleanse”, skipping meals alternating with overindulging, drinking various tea combinations, pre-packaged macrobiotic food, eating based on blood type, expensive spas, hypnosis, or body manipulation.
There’s some emphasis on sweating that I think is related to general health, but there are so few explanations and connections provided that it’s hard to tell. More background information on why these various treatments were supposed to work and how they really acted on body chemistry wouldn’t make them less gimmicky, but it would at least feel more informative. For something that claims to be educational, it’s almost criminal that these fads and expensive scams are billed as successful. In the spa section, the idea that high heat should be followed by drinking no water for two hours is actively dangerous, since it could cause dehydration.
The book is due out in September. An advance copy for this review was provided by the publisher. I hope that the final version has the really obvious typos (“I here the answer”, “work on sliming your legs”) corrected.