Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Butterflies, Flowers, vol. 1
The story: Time's are tough around Choko Kuze's house -- her family, once prosperous, lost its fortune and her parents run a little ol' soba shop. To help out, she interviews for several jobs. Unfortunately, the only job she can get is in an office where her boss is a total slave driver (not to mention kind of creepy). So, imagine her surprise when she finds out he used to be employed by her family as her old caretaker, Cha-chan! In work mode, Masayuki Domoto is all business, but outside of the office he insists on calling her "milady." Just how will this unlikely pair fare in work and in life?
Reaction: Oka-ay... So, I'm just going to get it out there -- I think the first pages of this manga are totally inappropriate and creepy. Masayuki asks Choko in her job interview if she's a virgin (and, no, this is not the worst part). Once she confirms that she is, he gets the weirdest grin on his face. Honestly, I got a little skeeved there at the perverseness and quiet misogyny. But, I decided to tarry on -- if this is the only new josei series I'm going to get for awhile, I'm going to finish reading it before fully judging it on its merits (or lack thereof). Thankfully, this story got much better (and funnier) after these inauspicious opening pages.
Deep thoughts: In many OL (office lady) manga like this series, there's always at least a hint of prejudice against women. However, these are josei titles like Tramps Like Us or Suppli, both created by female mangaka, making the prejudice more of an observation or statement regarding the inequality of women in Japan. Culturally, Japan is considered very masculine, to the detriment of the role of women; I've mentioned it here before.
Artwork: There's something very familiar in the shojo-like artwork here. I couldn't figure out what series it reminded me of, but it struck me as a style that I've seen before. Otherwise, there are some funnier moments here, like when Domoto hits an office intruder. As expected of its title, there are, indeed, flowers throughout this manga, along with the requisite shojo sparkles and appropriate screentone. Butterflies, not so much.
The verdict: If only... This manga has a lot going for it in the social class role reversal, goofy characters and physical comedy, but the beginning of the story belies that. Butterflies, Flowers is available in the U.S. from Viz.