Thanks to Vertical Inc. the number of Moyoco Anno manga available in English has been rising at a nice pace, from Sakuran to the gag-filled chronicle of life with Evangelion director and husband Hideaki Anno, Insufficient Direction, and now In Clothes Called Fat. This earlier work of Anno’s comes from 1997, when it was originally serialized in weekly women’s magazine Shukan Josei, and it shows. In Clothes Called Fat is a raw tale of relationships, weight loss, and a person’s true character, and it’s a bumpy ride from beginning to end.
The story follows Noko Hanazawa, an office worker who is, at least in comparison to most everyone around her, on the plump end of the spectrum. Her coworkers may not be too fond of her, but Noko’s boyfriend Saito wouldn’t have her any other way. If that makes him sound like some wonderful, accepting gem of a man, the truth behind it all will leave you suitably deflated.
Saito loves having Noko around—Fat Noko, to be specific—because she’s not a threat. She’ll remain loyal so long as she’s not a desirable object to others, and he doesn’t have to worry about other guys creeping on his lady. While Noko sits around and waits until he next graces her with his glowing presence, Saito takes every opportunity to sex up Noko’s wicked coworker Mayumi, who needs Noko to stay fat so she can continue tormenting her.
Everyone wants Noko to stay fat but her. Even some random old rich dude who throws tens of thousands of yen her way for one night with her shapely body. Noko wants to lose weight to please Saito. Maybe he’ll come around more often. Beyond that, maybe she’ll finally get the respect she deserves at work. As is often the case, Noko sees this one major change as the ticket to fix all of her other life problems, but she’s unprepared for the can of worms and irreversible self-harm her transformation opens.
In Clothes Called Fat is an unapologetic work that doesn’t waste time steering desperately toward a neat resolution. For all the flaws its characters have, they at least ring true in their own twisted way. Anno paints a skillful portrait of people who have deep issues and, as much of a reality blow as it can be, they may not even necessarily want, or feel the need, to better themselves. Anno’s sparse and deliberate linework makes her characters all the more believable. They manage to be both rough and delicate, and regardless of whether they’re deemed ugly or beautiful on the outside, their actions shine through loud and clear for all to see.
Out this week, In Clothes Called Fat is a great place to start for those who are new to Moyoco Anno’s manga, and hopefully anyone familiar with her is already grabbing a copy. It’s not going to be an easy read for everyone, but it leaves a remarkable impression nonetheless.
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Story & Art: Moyoco Anno
© 2002 Moyoco Anno/Cork