Following Valentine’s Day, I thought I might write this ridiculously long post about a manga that came with the tagline, “LOVE + CAPITALISM.”
Pink is an influential josei manga by Kyoko Okazaki that was published and released in North America by Vertical in 2013. Originally serialized in a mainstream women’s magazine at the height of Japan’s bubble economy – when you could infamously drop $50 on a cup of coffee – Pink is a slyly subversive narrative that both critiques and celebrates the excesses of that period. Rather than launching a direct attack on the superficiality of capitalist decadence, Pink reserves judgment. Instead, the manga exposes and explores the contradictions and tensions inherent within consumer society in a way that still feels relevant over two decades later, especially when following the real estate collapse of 2008.
Pink’s story centers around the travails of Yumi, a young office lady who also works as a part time call girl to supplement her income. Pink’s main narrative arc follows Yumi’s changing relationships with her family, her lover and her pet crocodile as the characters cross paths, each attempting to influence each other’s lives. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the manga is the believability of Yumi’s character. She’s wilful, crude and independent but also girlish and at times, sentimental. Refreshingly, she makes no apologies for prostituting herself but is also not “tough,” cynical or world-weary. Unlike the irritatingly two dimensional female characters that populate much of mainstream women’s stories in North American pop culture (uhhh, paging Sex and the City), Yumi reads more like someone you might know in your own life than chick flick caricatures like Carrie et al ever could.
Drawn with frenetic, almost harsh linework, Pink’s style compliments the often irreverent tone of the manga and acts as trojan horse, allowing Pink to delve into heavier subject matter such as misogyny and suicide without trivializing such topics nor distancing the reader from it. The comedic pacing is tight and charmingly, is occasionally puncuated by Okazaki’s own wry commentary, slipped into the panel gutters to issue all manner of notes whether it’s an apology for a sloppy rendering of someone’s anatomy or to contradict a character’s words.
The translation (unfortunately, the translator’s name is not provided) is also very skilled. It’s one of the rare translations of Japanese manga or literature I’ve come across that successfully employs colloquialisms and slang. It reads completely naturally in English. In fact, I think that the translation is one of the main factors contributing to the freshness of Pink’s story. The English is entirely contemporary and had this manga been translated in the 1980s, the datedness of the manga would probably come across much stronger. Yumi’s voice in particular feels like it has been refreshed for a contemporary audience.
I enjoyed this manga a lot more than I thought I would. I don’t often read comedy because any hint of predictability kills it for me. Pink took me by surprize: a comedic work that deftly reveals complexities and subtleties in the interplay between gender, sex, love, labour and capitalism without ever directly focusing on them. Definitely worth checking out. I picked up my copy from The Beguiling.
Analysis  Because this post was getting so unwieldly, I’ve removed the analysis and reposted it here.