Sunday, November 7, 2010

Manga Review: Plica-chan

There isn't anything else like quite Amamiya Sae's Plica-chan. It began in the now-defunct lesbian magazine Anise (which printed other manga also) but later moved onto the Love Piece Club website (some strips, as well as the main LPC site, are nsfw). It isn't available in tankoubon format. Plica is a comic aimed squarely at queer women that aims for a realistic depiction of lesbian life in Japan.

Plica is a closeted lesbian who drinks herself into a stupor when the woman she's in love with invites her to her wedding. In a stroke of incredible luck, the person who takes Plica home and helps her clean up is a beautiful woman named Mari, who could tell why Plica was depressed because she has been in a similar situation. (Sans the getting smashed and throwing up on a stranger bit.) Plica and Mari soon start dating and have a happy love-love relationship. No massive angst here.

There are two prominent side characters: butchy Saki, a teacher (unlike Plica and Mari, who are both office workers) who isn't as closeted, and Machiko, a woman who is newer to the "bian" scene (and looks like Moe from the Three Stooges). Saki's on-again-off-again girlfriend Rui and Machiko's friend Roku also appear occasionally.

Plica follows the usual strip format of telling a joke or making a point within a sequence of square panels. (Although unlike most Japanese comic strips, the Plica strips usually contain more than four panels.) Some of the strips cover random day-to-day stuff, like Plica's habit of brushing her teeth in the bath or her urge to dance when she's alone in an elevator- or, quite amusingly, how she ignores people who hand out free tissues (which is an advertising practice in Japan) unless it's a hot woman offering them or she has a cold.

Some strips deal with relationships (facilitated by Plica's over-active imagination- my favorite part of Plica, btw) and some deal with issues like coming out and homophobia. In one strip, Plica speculates on how her mom might react to her coming out while they're watching a TV special about lesbians ("The Lesbian World: Undercover Report")- none of the options that she can imagine look good.

There are some cute strips that flashback to Plica's childhood ("How long have you been a lesbian?") and some that poke fun at assumptions made about lesbians by the straight and lesbian characters alike (see: Plica's great reaction to hearing that lesbian sex is endless), including the obligatory deconstruction of girls' school yuri tropes.

The characters are generally likeable, although Machiko's "Woe is me, I'm miserably single" schtick wears thin. Some of Plica's generalizations about human interaction early on in the story fall flat, but they're outmatched by the story's gems. All around, it's enjoyable and highly recommended for anybody interested in what it's like to be a lesbian in Japan- or in reading a manga that's different from the norm.

Story: B+
Art: B-
Overall: B+

The fantastic Sparkling Rain anthology has some Plica strips printed in it.


Snark said...

Plica-chan is awesome. Though yeah, Machiko gets rather tiresome after a while.

One thing that disappointed me however, was that the comic never really delved much into the economic situation of lesbian couples in Japan, which I thought would have been a key issue. As most of us know, Japan is a highly traditionalist society, which is reflected in working life as well. Compared to other first world countries, Japan lags significantly when it comes to gender equality in the professional sector, especially in regards to top level positions, where a majority of Japanese companies don't have a single high level female executive. This of course means that women generally earn significantly less than men, a fact that would be compounded for Plica and Mari given that not only are they both women, they're both office ladies, a job with infamously poor pay and almost no opportunity for advancement. So yeah, I guess I was personally a little disappointed that Plica never really tackled the income equality that lesbian couples in Japan would generally suffer through.

Katherine said...

That's an interesting critique. I can't really think of any yuri title (realistic or not) that explicitly addresses the income disparity faced by women/lesbian couples. The best that I can think of is Tadeno Eriko's "30th Christmas" one-shot in Yuri Monogatari 6, which is about a not-well-to-do long-term elderly couple. In chapter 1 of Minamoto Hisanari's new series "Fufu" (or "Wife and Wife"), Suu tells her wife Kina that she thought Kina wanted the (financial? legal?) stability she would have if she were with a man. (Usually the only advantage of being with a man pointed out in yuri is greater societal approval and the ability to fit the norm.) Even in yuri stories starring post-high school couples, usually at least one person in the couple has a successful, often atypical job (e.g. Natsuneko's Butterfly 69) or they're still young enough that they can get some support from their parents. (Not sure how much the latter applies to Plica and Mari.)

Sheldor said...

I love Plica-chan, much more than Honey & Honey (which I perhaps unfairly compare it to) and I think that has alot to do with Plica-chan herself. She's just the type of character I'd love to be friends with, I bet she's a laugh!

I didn't know Plica-chan came from Anise. I'm shocked, I didn't know they released anything good! o_0

You're spot on about Machiko's complaining wearing thing. That's really the only part of the manga I didn't like.

Great review!

Katherine said...

@Sheldor- Thanks!

I like Plica (the character) also. I generally like the straightforward, dry-but-still-funny-and-kind-of-dorky types. (That's so specific... >__>;)

I have enjoyed other stuff from Anise- my favorites being Amano Tenshi's "Song in Blue" and (surprise!) Morishima Akiko's contributions.