miércoles, 15 de octubre de 2014

In Clothes Called Fat

I really love Moyoco Anno's work, even when she is able to draw stories so opposed as the sweet and shiny adventures of the young witches of Sugar Sugar Rune and the brutal +18 rated memoirs of a prostitute in Sakuran. I've never encountered any such mangaka with the ability to hit you so hard with her vignettes. She goes really deep into human faults: envy, arrogance, greed, lust... reviewing all capital sins in barely 250 pages.

Noko Hanazawa is fat. She is not awfully fat nor anybody could consider her anything near obesity but, when compared to her skinny coworkers, she does look plump. She has a weak personality and has get accustomed to the discriminatory treatment she receives at work but everything will be OK as long as her boyfriend Saito keeps caring for her. Nevertheless, when she suspects Saito is cheating on her with one of her annoying coworkers, she gets so stressed she can only feel at ease when eating compulsively...

Eating disorders are one major health issue in developed societies. Extensive attention has been paid to anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, which is slightly depicted in this manga. But one major disorder that seems to get lower attention in the media is binge eating disorder. I get the feeling that these disorders get biased attention from the community out of discrimination. Extremely thin teenagers who end up needing parenteral nutrition surely look more pitiful than obese people. I recently digressed about mental disorders and how society tends to stigmatize people with schizophrenia. The same applies to binge eating disorders, which hold a category in the DSM5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In this regard, Moyoco Anno is a sort of pioneer addressing thorny and avoided themes such as japanese prostitution (as she did in Sakuran) opposing to the more glamorous and commonly dealt issue of geishas.

Moreover, the author drops some disturbing concepts in this manga beyond eating disorders and beauty standards. She tackles workplace bullying, either by bitchy coworkers or incompetent bosses who need to intimidate weaker people in order to feel good with themselves. I do not know if I'm too naive but I'd rather think there is no such people as Tachibana in real life. In fact, all characters are hopelessly twisted and/or docile leading to really creepy and cruel scenes (a little spoiler here to illustrate this insane sadism: at the end, after Saito breaks up with Noko, Mayumi recognizes she was only interested in Saito because he was dating Hanazawa and he allowed her to indirectly torture Noko; how fucking sick is that!).

Anyhow, I believe the major concern depicted in In Clothes Called Fat is lack of self-esteem. It doesn't matter whether people think you are ugly or fat or stupid, if you are not capable of accept yourself, it is impossible to do so for outsiders. And that is exactly what happens in the story: Noko can't stand the disdain, so she eats compulsively; Noko can't stand herself being so fat so she turns out bulimic; Noko has finally lost a lot of weight but, still, she continues vomiting because she is not happy.

Moyoco is kind of cunning here. It will be very easy to portray Noko as a victim of modern society/bad people/you-can-choose. But she splits the blame among all characters instead; and that makes Noko guilty too. The boss is at fault because he was unfair, Tachibana is at fault because she is a bitch, Chika and Yoko are at fault because of their hypocrisy and indifference, Saito is at fault for psychologically abuse Noko and for demanding her to be fat in order to feel superior, Tabata is at fault for being so hateful, but Noko is mostly to blame for being so weak and mindless and for having so low appreciation of herself.

The art of Moyoco Anno could be qualified as unaesthetic and it may shock some readers when browsing the volume for the first time if you are not familiarized with her. But I think that her style is gorgeously adequate: it fits with the horror behind this manga. I often encounter super cute drawings in shôjo titles but their respective mangakas are usually incapable of depicting either ugly, fat, old or, in short, not stereotyped characters and, when they try, they achieve nothing but unrealistic drawings who do not match with the young and pretty protagonists.

In conclusion, I really encourage you to read this comic. Furthermore, since the fiasco of both Sugar Sugar Rune and Hataraki Man prints by Glénat/EDT, I believe there is no single spanish publisher interested in licensing any of Moyoco's work anymore so... read in english. It is worth a shot.

3 comentarios:

  1. Another review in english! Nice work! =)

    Very interesting title. I was expecting Sakuran in spanish but the dead of EDT makes me think I should search it by scans. And this manga too. How sad we won't read more titles of Mayoco Anno here ='(

    Without reading this manga, I can say that in real life people can be real bastards. I recommend you this blog with testimonies of people who had suffered bulling. Most of them were girls and, more or less, fat. Some stoires are really hard.


    Also recomend you in twitter @stopgordofobia

    BTW, others fantastics blogs are:


    http://eldemonioblancodelateteraverde.wordpress.com/ (the last article is about fat men)

    Is a great step to see a manga that is about this social problem.

  2. Good review. The manga sounds very claustrophobic, but that's how things are in many circles in our society. Maybe I'll give it a shot in the future.

    1. The manga is claustrophobic INDEED. I guess I got to transmit the essence of the story: it is kind of pessimistic. But a really worth read overall.