Some unsorted thoughts on Helter Skelter, based on Noah’s post and its comments:

  1. Noah notes the the absense of fashion for a comic about the fashion world. The art lacks the patchwork quilt of pattern common in girls’ and women’s comics; the clothes are pretty bland, too. I suppose it’s a statement. Okazaki was a fashion illustrator, so she chose not to show that off. And some of the most fashion-conscious artists at the time were men drawing women for men, like Kousuke Fujishima. Ririko’s like, screw all you guys, I’m naked.
  2. Another current: the body as fashion canvas, as this article on plastic surgery in Asia points out. Even the non-surgical version can be seen just walking around Shibuya (or Amerika-mura, as I prefer), with the ganguro girls’ tanning. (Scroll down in Wikipedia to read about “Blacky,” a ganguro girl who became iconic and then quit the lifestyle from public pressure.)
  3. Japanese fashion made sense to me once someone told me it’s all just uniforms. Everything has its place: white gloves for driving trains, track pants for teaching kids, and punk stylings for the weekend. I always felt like a shabby barbarian until I picked a store and bought some uniforms. They keep the surface placid, everything in its place. Ririko’s place is looking better-than-human, another uniform enabled with surgery. I’m not from LA so I don’t have a nose for who’s had work done. I suspect the unwritten contracts require it in Tokyo.
  4. In my essay on Dousei Jidai in a recent TCJ, I pointed to Ian Buruma’s Behind the Mask for a nuanced discussion of women’s bodies in Japanese art. When everything has its place, transgression and expression have to take place behind closed doors. That’s why In the Realm of the Senses is a political movie, other than one about sleeping with scissors.
  5. Until it started to feel like actual research, I pottered around in my bookshelves for some “reception history,” as it’s known. I skimmed through a manga encyclopedia from Helter Skelter back to 1980 or so. Having found dozens of books I never want to read and a couple I absolutely have to (Natsuko’s Sake and Shouta’s Sushi in particular, maybe I’m just hungry), I saw dozens of stories of old-fashioned romance. None other like Okazaki’s whatsoever. And an article noting that Okazaki’s 1989 work Pink was one of the first comics for women to get a crossover audience, garnering a lot of praise from all kinds of readers and critics. So there’s that.

Anyway, I’m off to work in Louisville tonight, which in a couple of weeks will be flooded with millinery.

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