domingo, 7 de agosto de 2016

All My Darling Daughters

Although I haven't talked about the magnificent Ooku series for a long time now due to my tragic break up with bookdep, the All My Darling Daughters one-shot have being awaiting its moment within my shelves for years. Now that I'm resolved to reduce the non-read-manga-volumes-list, this compilation of short stories created by Fumi Yoshinaga appeared really appealing.

After surviving cancer, the 50-year old widow Mari decides to marry a younger than her daughter prior host, thus immediately rising the suspicions of Yukiko who feels certain about the dubious intentions of Ken.

In my humble opinion, there are several overlooked issues in manga, one of them being mother-daughter relationships which, as the title already suggests, are obviously addressed in this first chapter. Actually, I think I had never read about how an adult women (Yukiko is already in her thirties) felt about her mother before and, even more, I had never read about a 30-year old woman who still lived with her mother! I love how the author portraits arguments between them, including the classic conflict of messy teenager rooms.

Not only that, but Fumi Yoshinaga also lets an old woman to marry a younger man which basically defies a so to speak stone-written gender role... How many times have we watched a mature old man started dating a young women (or even an underage girl) in fiction? And the other way round? This direct criticism towards palpable Japanese (and universal) sexism will be present in every single chapter of the anthology.

Kiyo is an adjunct lecturer at the university and doesn't know how to react when one of his students shows up in his office demanding to do him a blowjob.

The second chapter of this anthology is as disgusting as you are guessing. Don't expect the author to make characters evolve so you stop wanting to slap them on the face because she doesn't. Actually, I would say, the further the plot goes, the worse it becomes. Maiko has no self-esteem to be found, Kiyo supposedly doesn't like the situation because Maiko is so ugly and weird but... who would say no to free blowjobs every day, right? God, this story really made me want to puke.

Anyhow, it is sadly true that there a lot of women that believe they have to be outstanding sexual partners in order to be in a couple. And, of course, having a boyfriend is mandatory if one wants to be happy... even if he insults you, abuses you or despises you continuously. I mean, if it weren't so sad, I would laugh at the fact that Maiko has a complex with her really big breasts but ends up being glad that men prefer them that way. Having a complex itself is bad enough but caring more about what society thinks than what you feel is... outrageous.

Sayako has trouble finding a boyfriend so she ends up looking for an arranged marriage but no candidate seems to be adequate for her.

This may be the story that exasperated me the most since it could have been so good and ends up so poorly. Sayako has it all: she is beautiful, she is skilled, she is intelligent, she is hard-working and she is gentle. Unexpectedly, she isn't married yet nor has she a boyfriend. Being Japan such a retrograde country, Sayako feels she should look for an arranged marriage. But, candidate after candidate she rejects them all.

The situation seems to be turning around when she mets a disabled man whom she starts to grow fond off but, then again, the author chooses to surprise her readers once again. The plot was making me think Sayako was going to come out as a lesbian but Yoshinaga goes far beyond that pretending to be so groundbreaking. Well, she made me feel so disappointed... not only for the romantic part of it but for the working one! Being a capable person while enjoying helping others, Sayako's choice feels nothing but irresponsible. You know: with great power, comes great responsibility.

When they were still on middle school, Makimura and Saeki vowed to be successful women when growing up but reality does not usually fits childhood's dreams.

And here goes another really troubled chapter depicting merciless gender inequality, sexual harassment and gender violence in Japan. Because it has them all: sexual abuse, sexual discrimination, and unfairly different standards for male and female work loads.

With a very subtle narrative, Fumi Yoshinaga explores long-term effects of childhood abuse which root deep in forging an individual's personality and philosophy. Evidently, the author couldn't possibly be at ease exploiting only one serious subject so she additionally discusses the role of women in the working market: discrimination, precariousness, unreasonable beauty standards for office work (where you are not supposed to interact with the public), etc.

Yukiko's grandma got bullied due to her appearance so she raised Mari, Yukiko's mother, to never feel proud about her beauty so she wouldn't turn as an arrogant bully herself.

Fifth and last chapter may be my favorite. The author uses the death of Yukiko's great-grandmother to explore (again) mother-daughter relationships. On this occasion, she delves into how life events and, more specially, early experiences, shape our character and our future decisions. Thus, it is very common that couples who were raised by strict parents will be too indulgent with their children and, then again, their children will be stricter anew in a continuous struggle across generations.

To sum up, Fumi Yoshinaga addresses countless sexist issues women have to endure in Japanese society affecting all spheres: love, family and work. In her effort, she may be exceeding one-shot resources, exploring too many different subjects at the same time and thus, not developing them enough. Nevertheless, I would say All My Darling Daughters is an interesting and (japanese like) feminist(~ish) read highlighting very common problems Japanese women experience in their everyday lives.

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