Monday, July 10, 2017

Review: Tokoyo Tarareba Girls Vol. 1 by Akiko Higashimura

Published: 14 February 2017

Publisher: Kodansha

Category: Manga (Josei)/Slice of Life/Romance

"I spent all my time wondering 'what if,' then one day I woke up and I was 33." She's not that bad-looking, but before she knew it, Rinko was thirty-something and single. She wants to be married by the time the Tokyo Olympics roll around in six years, but...that might be easier said than done! The new series by Akiko Higashimura erupts with sharp opinions on girls and tons of laughs!!

Rating: 4 Stars

I'll admit, the first thing that caught my eye about this manga was the tag line:

"I spent all my time wondering 'what if,' then one day I woke up and I was 33."

I'm approaching my 32nd birthday this November and that line really resonated with me. Sometimes you don't realize how much time is passing while you're getting by in your day to day life, talking about all these plans for someday or maybe. Rinko, the main character of Tokyo Tarareba Girls, has just that shock one day after a manicure from her best friend, realizing it's been ten years since the first one and what's changed while so much has remained the same.

The art style has a nice touch for a modern story. I didn't realize when I bought the first volume that this is the same manga-ka that wrote/drew Princess Jellyfish, another series that's on my TBR. I'm not very familiar with it, but I noticed that Higashimura-san included at least one nod to her other series (a web series that Rinko wrote the script for it called Jellyfish Princess, for example). I love it when authors include Easter eggs like that for their fans. Further to the art style, there are moments of overreaction from the characters, such as when Rinko was given a ring as a birthday gift on a first date, and I liked that while the emotion was evident, it was too over the top, as some manga can be.

On to the story: I LOVE Rinko's friends that are there for her no matter one. One is Kaori, the friend that is a nail stylist, and the other is Koyuki, the daughter of parents who own the pub the girls consider the best in Japan. Whenever one of them is in need, they have a girls night at the pub and hash out their problems, dissecting the problem and talking it over alongside a good beer.

Another fun character is Rinko's co-worker Mami, a younger woman who dresses in outrageous styles and funky jewelry. I think the first time we saw her, her outfit consisted of a monster print top and an eyeball ring. While she's bit more freewheeling than Rinko, they really do mesh well together in the small office they share (it's just the two of them in Rinko's office/writing studio). There's some conflict, of course, but nothing that ruins their working relationship.

Key is an aggravating character because he acts as a counterpoint and a real-life version of what, I think, Rinko is feeling deep down. He constantly criticizes the girls when they're drinking at the pub and Rinko when they meet through work. I'm not sure what he will be in the future. Will he turn into a romantic interest? Will he lead Rinko, Koyuki, or Kaori toward a new path? The cliffhanger of an ending certainly complicates things and makes me wonder who is sincere and who is being played. What's going on with this guy? I'm going to have to read more to find out!

The comedic moments were well spread out. There were some moments when suffering a disappointment, her mind's eye had lightning striking her office building and demolishing everything; also, Rinko's food talked to her (she'd been drinking) and afterwards these food-shaped characters become her conscious. Those foods, apparently, are the favorite snacks of the author AND make up the name tarareba: codfish ("tara") milt and liver ("reba") which means "what-if" when put together. It makes sense because in the Japanese translation, at the end of their sentences they say their individual characters, positing the question to Rinko: what if?

These were funny moments among a steady contemporary story that was a quick read that left me wanting to read more about Rinko, her what-ifs, and what the future will be like before the next Tokyo Olympics.

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