Ono, Ono, Ono

January 18, 2010

Hey, are you sick of me obsessing over Natsume Ono? If so, this week’s Flipped is probably not for you. And I make no promises about the situation improving in the future. And yes, I am illustrating my blog like a teenager pasting magazine covers to the inside of my locker. I make no apologies.

From the stack: All My Darling Daughters

January 18, 2010

Is All My Darling Daughters (due this week from Viz Media) the best comic Fumi Yoshinaga has ever created? Of course it isn’t. It’s not as ambitious as Ôoku: The Inner Chambers, as funny as Flower of Life, or as sexy as Ichigenme… The First Class Is Civil Law.

Should you buy All My Darling Daughters? Of course you should. It’s by Yoshinaga, so it’s still funnier, smarter and warmer than most comics you’re likely to encounter.

The book collects interconnected short stories that spoke out from an adult daughter and her mother. They live together until the mother remarries a much younger man she met in a host club. Your automatic assumption might be that the mother is in the midst of a mid-life crisis or that the husband is looking for a meal ticket, and the daughter would agree with you. I remind you that this is Yoshinaga, so it’s more complicated than that.

Everything is more complicated than it seems in Yoshinaga’s narrative universe. People are both nicer and meaner than they initially seem, and relationships are more quietly satisfying and functional than an observer might assume. Yoshinaga is deeply interested in the grace notes of interpersonal interaction, even in her slighter works. That’s the source of a lot of the pleasure for me – the apparently minor, digressive moments that get to the heart of her characters.

I enjoyed all of the pieces collected here, but my favorite was a two-part look at a beautiful, selfless young woman who decides to pursue an arranged marriage. It works very nicely as a comedy of nightmare dating, but it evolves into a much richer character study. It’s sweet, funny and, by the end, surprisingly sad, but sad in a way I can absolutely support.

While she’s not in every story, Mari, the mother, is a treasure. She’s a survivor, but she’s got self-esteem issues. She can be abrasive, but her honesty never fails to be refreshing and sometimes even useful. I smiled a little every time she showed up, knowing she’d provide some withering observation on the endearing flakes around her, a flash of unexpected tenderness, or both. Of all the men and women portrayed here, she best embodies the aspects of life that interest Yoshinaga – work, family, love, and the resentment and solace they can provide.

All My Darling Daughters ran in Hakusensha’s Melody magazine, an older-skewing shôjo magazine that’s home to Ôoku. I’m not all that familiar with the magazine’s output, but Yoshinaga’s participation is certainly enough to put it on my radar.

(This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)