Artist/Writer: Kyoko Okazaki
Published in: 2003 (Japan), 2013 (America)
American Publisher: Vertical
Genres: Modern drama, women’s issues
Premise: The most popular fashion model in Japan grows increasingly unstable.
Show x Show: It’s Nana meets The Devil Wears Prada
What are the themes? It deals with the pressures of working within the fashion industry, combined with stress about fading beauty and popularity, and the effects of idolizing others. We see how this affects the protagonist and those around her.
How’s the art? The artist uses lineart heavily with minimal-to-nonexistent backgrounds. The lack of shadows creates a flat, modern world where objects are differentiated only by their position and scale, rather than their detail or complexity. Which is appropriate.
Does the art vary from chapter to chapter? Not that I could see. Okazaki’s a pro.
How complex are the characters? Most characters are at least two-dimensional, with warring values that include popularity, loyalty, job skill, idolization, and lust. For the first half of the book, the protagonist remains simple: subject to mood swings, but otherwise blithely walking through her days. As she begins to fear the loss of her beauty and popularity, she throws people against each other to satisfy her whims, and she struggles with multiple competing values. The rest of the characters are torn between their reliance on her popularity and her increasingly crazy behavior.
How’s the plot? This is a straight modern drama (arguably, melodrama). We watch the characters live their modern lives of fashion shoots, arguments, and sex. The story develops entirely out of the characters’ desires and commands. It gets extreme, though not insane, and every plot twist follows logically from a character’s motives.
Can I show it to my Mom? Hmmm. There’s lots of sex, nudity, and people behaving badly. That said, it’s a vicious criticism of the fashion industry and the quest for beauty.
Can I show it to my kid brother? Definitely not. Way too much sexual content, and it’s about girls obsessing over themselves.
That said, I can see showing this to a younger sister.
Can I show it to a non-manga fan? Yes, with the above warnings about the sexual content. This feels more like an indie comic than a traditional manga, making it an easier sell.
Does it have any memorable moments? Quite a few. I literally shuddered at the reveal of just what the protagonist had to do to get her body. There are also several scenes of side characters doing horrible things to satisfy the protagonist; so horrible I had to re-read the page several times to verify it.
This is an unsettling book, and usefully so. I’m glad I read it.