Fumi Yoshinaga is a name that I’d heard before. Mostly, about Antique Bakery. So when the MMF decided to focus on her, I knew that she did Yaoi and I wanted to avoid those titles if I could. Not that I have anything against Yaoi, just that I’m not really ready to review Yaoi. Hell, I have a pile of LuvLuv titles from Aurora Publishing sitting in my storage lockup that I’ve read but not reviewed because I feel I’m not ready to review them. But two titles popped up in the discussion boards: Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! and All My Darling Daughters.
Visiting the dealers room at Otakon, I found myself looking for these titles as I would have to special order them back home. Picking them up, I decided to read them on the plane journey home. Was I glad to have read and now review them? Between the two of them, Not Love… is more easy going and out and out funny. But AMDD, to shorten the title, was a different rhythm and therefore had a different impact on me.
Yukiko, a thirty something woman, lives with her mother Mari. One day she comes home to find her mother has started dating and moved in a young man, Ken, who she met at a host club. Of course, Yukiko thinks that Ken is trying to con Mari out money or God knows what else. However a revelation Yukiko discovers about herself forces her to move out into the big world for the first time. From what I saw of Ken, he seems like a nice guy who can see through Yukiko’s anger and knows that there’s more going on than her just being angry at he and Mari. And so she moves out to stay with friends. Now any other kind of manga would have the story be about Mari and Ken’s relationship developing and Yukiko coming to terms with it. But Yoshinaga doesn’t dwell on it, instead focusing on Yukiko and the people she lives with and hangs out with and their lives. From Mr. Izumi, whose student wants to give, um, “gratification” but not be in a relationship with him to Wakabayashi who tries to find a husband despite not having it in her to be discriminatory.
The stories are varied and Yoshinaga does a good job making me care about people I have literally just met. There’s something about how the casts good and bad points are laid bare and there’s nowhere to go. In Izumi’s case, his relationship with his student starts off sleazy (I don’t know how to say that she started it without it seeming like she’s at fault) and he’s not comfortable with it at all but by the end of their relationship he feels that the girl is on a better path without him. I love the story of Saeki, one of Yukiko’s childhood friends. To put a long story short, when she, Yukiko and fellow friend Yuko were all in school, they all had dreams and hopes for the future. And, well, for some life turns out as they wanted and for others, not so much. Saeki’s story could be yours and mine and it made all the more poignant by the fact that she and Yukiko don’t interact with each other during the story except for one postcard. I found myself *blinking* a lot during her story. Finally the last story deals with Yukiko as we end our journey with her. There’s a fine sense of resolution with her and I am so impressed that Yoshinaga managed to end the story with a great sense of connection between Yukiko, Mari and Mari’s Yukiko’s Grandmother.
Artwise, Yoshinaga treads a fine line between very watercoloury pencil lines for her characters to more absurdist artwork that is more frequent in Not Love… The pace of the story means that I can appreciate her artwork more as I leaf back through the book. There’s a stillness to some of the pages that makes you feel every sigh, sob and laugh. The cover and cover inlays of the book are in colour and I would love to see more of Yoshinaga’s work in colour. There’s a kind of vintage vibrancy to her colour work that I feel like.
Ultimately, the book is less about the trials of Yukiko, Mari and the others than it is about the mirror being put against our own lives as we struggle to make it in the world. You will see something of your own life in these pages and it’s nice to let it out for air once in a while. Ms. Yoshinaga’s All My Darling Daughters helps you do just that.
Psst: (Shameless promotion) If you want to buy this from Amazon, click on the image of the book and I’ll get a cut ;-D