Over at Comics212, Christopher Butcher revisits his 2005 review of Iou Kuroda’s Sexy Voice and Robo, which was enthusiastic:
“So, to make up for lost time (and a two-paragraph introduction…), run out and buy SEXY VOICE AND ROBO right now.“
Sexy Voice and Robo was one of the first graphic novels that I can remember seeing on the bookshelves, right when I was first getting into manga. It stood out to me because of its abnormally large format (something which I was not used to at the time) and I was reluctant to buy it because of its larger price point. When you are 10 years old, 20 dollars can be a difficult amount to come by. 12 years later, when I am financially responsible and now have a job, I am lucky to have finally picked it up. The wait was certainly worth it.
Sexy Voice and Robo is certainly a much more ‘adult’ graphic novel than most books I’ve read before, yet in many ways, it is a coming-of-age story. Sexy Voice, as talented as she is with her voice talents, reminded me of the main character of Juno. Mature far beyond her peers, Sexy Voice is still very much a child on the inside, putting on a front of maturity in an attempt to understand and relate to the adult world around her. She is still trying to understand what she wants to do with herself in life (as evidenced by her indecision to choose a career path) and is thrown into this extreme situation; one that ultimately deals with aspects of life that she is not ready for.
SV has learned from communicating with and observing people but there are certain aspects of life that she can never really understand at this time in her life. Her interactions with manipulative woman in ‘Voice Two’, the responsible hair stylist in ‘Voice Seven’ and the playful girl who is harboring a dark secret in ‘Voice 12’, serve as wonderful examples. These experiences serve as a time machine for SV, giving her the opportunity to peer into different lifetimes and places she could ultimately end up in. Seeing the fun she could continue to have but also the consequences of her actions takes a real affect on her. She even chooses to add a new career, a negotiator, to the list at the end of ‘Voice Seven’, after being so impressed by the hair stylist.
Speaking in terms of relationships, I can’t avoid talking about the budding (and possibly unrequited?) romance between Sexy Voice and Robo. It’s a very interesting dynamic to think about; I initially didn’t pick up on it at first. Sexy Voice, as I mentioned before, is more mature than most of those around her. To an extent, she can be perceived as more mature than Robo. I think that’s what initially attracts her to Robo though, the reason that she keeps calling him back, taking him out to dinner and on all these adventures. In him, she sees what she doesn’t see in most adults, which is a very childlike, naïve way of viewing the world. Robo has a sense of purity about him. He collects robots not for the money or to sell them, but for the pure passion of it. He cries like a baby at a complete stranger’s sob story. I think that Sexy Voice is afraid, that one day she will lose that same passion and become like the rest of the adults around her.
To contrast, Robo, while searching for his perfect woman (not compromising for breast size along the way), has fallen in love with her several times over, even though he will never admit it. From countless phone calls to even seeing her in disguise on the street, he willingly follows her wherever she goes. She gives him a sense of purpose that he has been looking for in his life. Even if it is just driving around together or tracking down a wayward thief, the two of them really influence each other in a number of ways.
All in all, this book can certainly be placed up high on my favorites list and will be venerated as one of the greats. The art is impeccable, being very clean and well thought out but at the same time, so raw and unique. The people and places give the story a very timeless feel. I know it was set in 2002 but it transcends time, feeling like it could happen today, tomorrow, or the next.