After reading and loving Helter Skelter—particularly its loose, playful artwork—I couldn’t wait to check out more from josei manga (women’s comics) legend Kyoko Okazaki. Thankfully, Vertical saw fit to dig into the vault and release pink, which was originally published in 1989 and is considered by many to be Okazaki’s representative work. It certainly earns its reputation, and further cements the fact that we need more of her stuff in English as soon as possible.
There’s something especially cutting about Okazaki’s comics. It was present in Helter Skelter, and it’s all over pink, as well. However, while she tends to dive into subject matter that most wouldn’t approach, she does so casually. In pink we follow Yumi, who does some work on the side as a call girl so she can afford to feed her pet crocodile, aptly named Croc. It’s not something that’s emphasized as shocking, it’s just what she does. She also has a day job. She meets an aspiring novelist named Haru and decides to keep him around for a while, because she feels like it. Yumi has a very matter-of-fact attitude and thus pink comes off as an honest story.
While Haru hangs out and tries to drum up some inspiration for his questionable level of writing talent, Yumi’s younger sister roots him on. She’s also clearly affected by the behavior of her sister and mother, who turns out to be Haru’s sugar mama on the sly, but she still retains a bit of youthful innocence. She’s what one might imagine Yumi was like at a younger age, while Yumi’s mother is essentially the end of the cycle before it starts anew.
We’re caught somewhere in the middle of all this. Yumi wants to feed Croc and Croc just wants to sit around and eat an obscene(ly expensive) amount of meat. Day after day, this is the life of someone who chooses to exist beyond their means because, hey, isn’t life kind of dull otherwise? Like Yumi says to Croc early on, “you’re my thrill and suspense.” pink is a hairline at its fullest and most vibrant, just a few days before it starts its woeful recession. There’s a humdrum sort of complacency brewing within even the most extravagant of lives once luxuries become commonplace. When life isn’t quite exciting enough unless you live with a creature that could swallow you whole the moment you lapse on its feeding schedule.
pink is, as its description reminds us, a time capsule from a different era. That doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant or horribly dated. Rather, Okazaki’s comics are among those that can successfully echo a specific period without wallowing in it, and hopefully we’ll get to read more of them soon.
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Story & Art: Kyoko Okazaki
© 2010 Kyoko Okazaki