Beauty and her Beast

pinkOver the last year plus, Vertical has embarked on a very unique publishing endeavor. With an aim to continue to challenge and grow the market, Vertical took it upon themselves to branch out to a segment of the Japanese market that has long been underserved within the English reading manga community – josei manga (Japanese women’s comics).

Our latest is a gem from the early days of josei. Originally penned in the late 80’s, PINK is Kyoko Okazaki’s first breakthrough and is often credited by critics globally as one of the most important women’s comics of its time. A product of the conclusion of the Japanese economic bubble PINK delves into a life of a young office lady with ambitions of living an ideal life – a comfortable life with some luxuries, some romance, wealth, health, independence and a pet crocodile.

To accomplish this lead character Yumi splits her time between working in an office and working under the sheets. But having everything you wish does not make a happy life. And when family and financial matters impact her oh so comfortable life improvisation is required. The results may seem to come up roses on the surface, but inside may not be so pretty.

Thoughtful, shocking and full of melancholy, PINK is as colorful as it was twenty-five years ago. And given the state of manga in English is needed here more than ever!

Eyes of the Tiger

Helter SkelterIt is well known throughout comic circles that Japan’s manga industry thrives due to its range of content and reader diversity. Manga over there is consumed by the general public, and even with magazine numbers declining, graphic novel sales are seeing spikes across the board. However even within the manga world there is still new territories to be discovered.

These days works from international artists and yuri (lesbian relationships) comics tend to be considered the next frontier. But just thirty years ago, ladies comics were the final frontier. Where women were known to read shojo comics, along with shonen and seinen comics, josei (ladies comics) were a new fad driven almost exclusively by harlequin style romances and fashion themed magazine spreads. A generation later, artists like Kyoko Okazaki were beginning to revolutionize the category by branching out from the old memes, while still resonating with a new generation of young women readers.

Helter Skelter is the culmination of that change. In it, Japan’s top fashion model Liliko may be at the top of her field but like many in her position she is wavering internally. But Liliko has good reason for her struggles… She is physically falling apart. While younger, perkier models begin to make their moves on the scene, Liliko like a tiger is not willing to let go of her territory. She takes on more and more work and dates some of Japan’s business elite. All of this is accomplished while continuing to work on her beauty. And with all that stress, the young woman is now breaking down inside and out.

There is no amount of plastic surgery that can fix her. Medication or therapy will not bring her back, either. Nevertheless, if this star is going to fall or fade into obscurity, she is going to take down as much of the business with her. And that downfall proves quite a fascinating ride for the reader.

Dark, powerful and never willing to hold back its punches, Helter Skelter is a challenging work that is well-worth the critical acclaim it has received over the years, having won the Osamu Tezuka Award and the Japan Media Arts Award for Manga Excellence.