Akiko Higashimura is one of the most creative talents working in manga today. With a strong grasp on female characters, a keen eye for fashion and a bold writing style – she has produced several hit series including the Eisner nominated Princess Jellyfish. This month sees the English language release of one of her most popular recent works – Tokyo Tarareba Girls.
Rinko has done everything right. She hustled her way through her 20s to make it as a screenwriter, renting her own office in a trendy Tokyo neighbourhood. Everything should have gone according to plan… So at 33, she can’t help but lament the fact that her career’s plateaued, she’s still painfully single, and she spends most of her nights drinking with her two best friends in their favourite pub. One night, drunk and delusional, Rinko swears to get married by the time the Tokyo Olympics roll around in 2020. But finding a man – and love – may be a cutthroat, dirty job for a romantic at heart.
Much like Vertical’s recent release of Moteki: Love Strikes, this series takes a look at a person based in Japan unlucky in love in their thirties. This time though, we get it from a female perspective and from what can be gathered from the observations Higashimura describes in her author notes at the end – a highly accurate one. Her inspiration for the series came when a large group of her thirty to forty-year-old friends suddenly declared around the time Tokyo was confirmed as the location for the 2020 Olympics that they all had to get married. The idea of sitting in apartment watching the Olympics alone was just too frightening for them. It is from these events that lead to the creation of Rinko and she proves to be the perfect character for Higashimura’s style of writing.
A confident and successful figure in the entertainment industry, Rinko is nevertheless plagued with neurotic tendencies as she grows more paranoid about the state of her love life. For Higashimura, this is great material for both drama and humour which she manages to strike the correct balance. There is a level of frankness in the characters which you do not see too often in manga as Rinko finds herself questioning several of her previous life choices – with the opening of this first volume mainly focusing on a director who she previously turned down and her subsequent questioning of that decision. Rinko’s two friends Kaori and Koyuki are cut from the same cloth, and the drinking scenes where life is commiserated and strategies are formed are a ton of fun to read.
Anyone familiar with Higashimura’s previous work will be aware that she is a top notch artist. Given that she is highly fashion conscious, all the characters have trendy clothing and looks you’d expect of modern Japan. Her characters also have dependably great designs that are well suited to the more comedic aspects of the series.
This is another strong entry in Higashimura’s body of work which will delight her fans and is also a great look at a topic not often examined in manga.
Tokyo Tarareba Girls 1 is out now from Kodansha Comics
9781632366856 – P/B – £10.99