Kyoko Okazaki is one of the greatest mangaka to see publication in 2013. Her work is the foundation that many of my favorite josei mangaka have built from, and her influence is evident in the work of contemporary mangaka like Moyoco Anno. Vertical Inc. released her Helter Skelter earlier this year, and comes back to the well with the 2010 reissue of a comic that broke her into the manga scene in 1989.
Yumi is a young office girl whose job can’t keep her happy. For one, it is boring. Second, and most important, it doesn’t pay her enough to keep her pet crocodile, Croc, in food. To make extra cash, she moonlights as a prostitute. She gets entangled with a college student and novelist wannabe Haru when she finds out he is having sex with her stepmom for money. After submitting him to the test of being naked and locked in a room alone with a hungry crocodile, the two become entangled in a visceral, heavy relationship that is one part tragedy, one part farce.
The characters in pink are all capitalism junkies. Haru wants to write a great novel, not for the art of it, but for money. Yumi is turning tricks to make cash; the details of her sex life are more about transactions than passions. Her passions are always “things” even when they can’t be. Haru, Yumi’s stepmom, Yumi’s stepsister, and Yumi herself are all in the thrall of the Bubble. The lavish recklessness of the period bounces off the panels. And the art! Okazaki has that enviable skill of being able to reduce her cartooning to bareness at times, but it always feels extravagant. From the curves to the tantrums, this comic is always captivating.
pink was published at the height of the 80’s Bubble economy, and deals with a lot of themes that will seems familiar to the people who went through the ruins of the 2007-2008 Housing Bubble. The fact that this comic is 25 years old yet still feels like a contemporary tale speaks volumes about how well the comic is constructed. It also shows that the themes explored in pink are still relevant to readers today. To my reading, there’s a lot of symbolism in the pet crocodile. He represents Yumi’s autonomy, or perhaps the ideals of capitalism. Only when the croc disappears does she move into a more serious relationship with Haru, and the way she reacts when she finds out what happened to the croc is emblematic of the way she deals with all of her problems. It’s cynical, it’s awful, and it’s hilarious.
Vertical has done a wonderful job with this paperback. The quality of the printing, the eye-popping color insert, and the lovely matte finish of the cover make this book a joy to hold and look at. This is the company that is printing some of the most lux manga on the market, and that shows with pink.
pink is clearly one of the best manga published this year, and likely one of the best comics of 2013. It has already made a few year-end lists, and for good reason. The passions of pink, its tragedies and its victories, are so compelling, so ostentatious, and ultimately, so warped, that you can’t help but be drawn in.