Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Shibuya-ku Maruyama-chou: Houkago ("Shibuya District, Maruyama Neighborhood: After School"), by Okazaki Mari, is one of my personal favorite short manga stories.
It's a simple story, but it's executed very well. Itoi is a girl in high school who wants to think that her life is satisfying as it is. A few of her "friends" take advantage of her trust to engage in some not-terribly-subtle bullying, like throwing Itoi's notebook and mouthpiece in the garbage. Itoi makes friends with loner Ariyoshi, who doesn't give a crap that the other students avoid her.
Ariyoshi and Itoi start visiting Shibuya to buy cloth for the costumes needed at a class event. When Itoi admits that her life isn't as "peaceful" as she wants it to be, she and Ariyoshi stay in Shibuya after the last train leaves and sort out their lives while running away from home, more or less.
Okazaki's depiction of high school life isn't idyllic, like K-ON!, but it isn't wrenchingly melodramatic, like Life, either. She strikes a fine balance between showing what the less pleasant elements of high school can be like and avoiding sensationalizing it by having the characters quickly confront and learn from their problems. (There are also some humorous bits. Darn that vibrating mattress.) She nails the feeling of being in high school and not really knowing where your place is, while trying to figure out where to go- at times, as with Itoi and Ariyoshi, wanting to escape from it all, but ultimately making it out through the other side of the tunnel. This all sounds really abstract. lol
Plus, I loved Shibuya when I visited it a few years ago. (When I brought my dad to see it, I was like "Isn't this great!!!!" and he was like "Get me out of this crowd of teenagers!!!") As a hub of subcultures and niche trends, it is a perfect setting for this manga. Okazaki's side-notes recount how she went around the Maruyama neighborhood of Shibuya, taking photos for reference, which I appreciated more than the usual insipid observances that most mangaka seem to include in the page-margins of their work. ("My slippers are fuzzy!" "It's nice and sunny today." "Sometimes I feel like my rabbit is staring at me." Etc.)
And of course, there is yuri. It's a little brief, but very canon.
It's a two-part story, so it doesn't even take that long to read. (As with Moonlight Flowers and Cotton, this review only covers the yuri-relevant portion of this book. There are some other stories in it.)
Okazaki has done a few volumes of stories set in Shibuya. Even now, she has a Shibuya-themed story running in Cookie. (Although I don't know what it's about. I just saw it listed in a description of the August 2010 issue of Cookie.) I saw another Okazaki manga titled Shibuya-ku Maruyama-chou (with a different cover), that I had originally assumed was a re-printing of this volume. It isn't. -_-; Just a heads up.
BGM: "Uzu Maki" - Kotoko