A woman sits in her kitchen, minding her own business, when there’s a knock at the door. In the doorway stands a hulking pink monster with a blank expression and big red lips who announces, “Hello. It’s your period.” After some small talk, Miss P gets to work punching the woman in the gut, pummeling her at Jojo speeds, and extracting blood with an enormous hypodermic needle. Just another month in the life of female-bodied people.
Little Miss P (Japanese title: Seiri-chan, “Period-chan”) is packed with hilariously inappropriate humor, as the bizarre-looking mascot of the title visits one woman after another and beats her up. It’s impressive how many variations Koyama finds on what could easily have been a one-note joke. In one installment, Miss P visits a Sailor Moon-like magical girl just before a kaiju attack, making it embarrassing for her to transform: “If I jump around in a white miniskirt now, things are gonna get ugly.” In another, a teenage boy and girl switch bodies to find out who has it worse: the girl with Miss P or the boy with his tag team of Mr. Libido (who looks like a walking penis) and Mr. Virginity. Still another reveals that even the great Ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Oi, daughter of Hokusai, had to hang out with Miss P in the menstrual hut every month.
Although Miss P isn’t exactly a welcome visitor, the manga presents her as an ally to women despite her brutal behavior. She helps a writer through a regretted one-night stand, allows a woman to bond with her boyfriend’s teenage daughter, and helps a plain, insecure barista and her beautiful American coworker (who gets punched by a Miss P in stars-and-stripes boxing shorts) empathize with one another. The Katsushika Oi chapter ends with Edo-era Miss Ps revolting against the patriarchy and burning the menstrual hut down. The longest story in the volume is a fictionalized biography of the woman who broke cultural taboos to bring sanitary napkins to Japan. The manga’s cheerfully feminist sensibility shows in small details, too, like a shot of the characters strolling under the Louise Bourgeois sculpture Maman.
All of this is drawn in a loose, sketchy indie-manga style which, while rough, is a perfect fit for the anything-goes humor and unexpected moments of sweetness. It may be a little sexist to express surprise that a manga about menstruation that manages to be this positive, feminist, funny, and relatable was created by a male artist. But Miss P’s Period Punch smashes through gender expectations. Recommended.
publisher: Yen Press
story and art: Ken Koyama