Sunday, May 10, 2009

Walkin' Butterfly, vol. 1

The story: Michiko is 19, tall, awkward and lost in life. She despises her gangly body, and jumps from job to job, unhappy and dissatisfied all the while. When she is mistaken for a model one day, she finds there is more to life than what she's known. She's also given purpose in avenging her embarrassment at the fashion show she "crashed" and miserably failed at. Of course, she also finds that, just maybe, her body isn't something worth hating.

Reaction: I felt a lot of empathy for Michiko, but her pessimistic and, at times, just plain rotten attitude at life makes her really unlikable. But, that's what also draws you in as a reader. We've all experienced "stinkin' thinkin'" at one point or another, but Michiko really takes it to another level. However, by wearing her emotions on her sleeve, she comes across as very real and honest. Despite everything that happens, Michiko's saddest, truest moments are those in which she's guarding herself from love -- of herself and of her friend, Nishikino.

Deep thoughts: While this book focuses mostly on Michiko's internal struggle, it's interesting to see the juxtaposition of Koh Mihara, a brilliant, but arrogant, fashion designer. On one hand, Koh dismisses her easily, telling Michiko she's not cut out for modeling because she's just an "ordinary amazon" and can't see her true self. On the other, he finds her "interesting" and seems momentarily intrigued by her passion. It's this dichotomy that makes this story about more than just Michiko and her quarter-life crisis ; how will one, already successful, and the other, a showcase of pure, amplified emotion, affect each another as this story goes on? Their parallel also makes for an interesting motivation -- much like Skip-Beat!, Michiko also wants to become a model simply to prove a point to Mihara.

Artwork: Chihiro Tamaki's sketchy artwork kind of fits Michiko's aggressive and erratic personality. While scenes are given just enough detail to make them recognizable, this story being about modeling and fashion, Tamaki's real focus is on figure drawing and clothing. Much attention is paid especially to clothing designs of characters, giving them another layer of personality: Michiko's boylike outfits and jumpsuits do nothing for her lean figure and match her internal image of herself, while Nishikino's cable-knit sweaters and track suits make him the perfect "boy next door." Her sketchy nudes of Michiko between chapters are simple and screentoned, while the more elaborate watercolors at the beginning of the volume beg to be brought to life with color pages.

The verdict: Highly recommended . While I'm re-reading this series and know more interesting things happen, I really did initially like this volume enough to keep reading. Many people can relate to some degree of what Michiko's going through -- from the unhappiness with our bodies to mere frustration at life to confusion and fear towards love -- the reader can empathize with her. Then again, this series is only four volumes as well, making it a smaller investment (especially since the publisher has a fan appreciation sale through the end of May). Walkin' Butterfly is available in the U.S. from Aurora.

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