Monday, May 23, 2011
Don't let the "blech"-inducing cover fool you. Poor Poor Lips is a great story- one that makes me smile with each chapter.
Okashi Nako is a poor 21 year-old living alone and looking for a job, since the store she used to work for went under. She sees a newspaper ad for a well-paying sales position at a jewelry store, and decides to check it out.
When the wealthy daughter of the store's owners, Otsuka Ren, cheerfully tells the applicants that she's a lesbian, all of them leave except Nako. Nako and Ren quickly hit it off (although Ren tells Nako, not for the last time, that she isn't her type; it eventually becomes clear that Ren's trying to convince herself more than Nako) and Ren hires Nako.
Like most 4-koma, Poor Poor Lips is a slice-of-life comedy, but unlike most 4-koma, it's actually funny and doesn't focus on the daily minutiae of high school students. (Even if it still has a cutesy-poo art style.) Instead of ambiguous wink-wink nudge-nudge yuri subtext, PPL has an out lesbian protagonist. (Nako doesn't identify as anything, but the series seems to be pointing towards her and Ren getting together at some point.)
A lot of the the humor focuses on the contrast between Ren and Nako's backgrounds and Ren's sexual orientation, but not in a mean-spirited way. (When Ren takes Nako to a nice restaurant, Nako commits a faux pas, but Ren does the same thing to prevent Nako from being embarrassed; when Nako takes Ren to the public bath she uses in a later chapter, she corrects Ren when she makes an ass of herself there.) After Ren falls for Nako, she gets the urge to buy her a lot nice gifts, but is (partly) checked by remembering how her previous girlfriend turned out to be a gold digger. Nako feels awkward about receiving too much from Ren because she doesn't want to feel indebted, and shows Ren how you can show someone you care about them without throwing money at them. (Bah- I'm making this manga sound preachy. > < It's not.)
The side characters include Ren's housekeeper Watase, who gives a tsukkomi "outsider's" perspective to Ren and Nako's antics, Ren's ex, and Nako's old classmate Furui Keiki, the son of the owner of the Furui Cake shop. ("Furui" literally means "old", so....) Furui thinks Nako is being tricked by the Predatory Lesbian Who Wants To Seduce Her (Dun Dun Dun). And even though Nako tells him he's wrong (and the story rightfully paints his comments as asinine), he's actually right, in a way. lol Ren gets jealous (at one point, she swears that his cake shop will never open again...which she achieves by buying out all of its cakes each day and being stuck with a mountain of sweets she has to eat), but Nako isn't interested in him at all. So...yup.
It sounds like the story really steps it up later on, but it's already a treat. Little in it is truly new, but it has enough that is unique (especially for a 4-koma) and enough of a heart to come together really well.