When I lived in Chicago, I used to read a lot more shoujo manga. There were two in particular that I loved that I never would have thought I’d go for. One of them was Beauty Pop, a manga about a high school hairstylist and a team of makeover artists, and the other was Love*Com.
It’s a seriously simple plot: tall girl and short guy swear they don’t like each other, argue, eventually get together, then have a zillion problems. It follows them from their first year at high school through their first year at college, and all the relationship-related trouble therein. Love*Com stands for “Lovely Complex,” because the Japanese love shortening things. It’s very endearing.
What I love about it is that it’s filled with manzai jokes and Kansai references, but more than that because it’s one of the more realistic depictions of a relationship in shoujo. Even after Koizumi and Ootani get together, they have to deal with tons of issues. I’m not saying it’s a hundred percent realistic by any stretch of the imagination, but you do get to see how they both grow and progress, and how their lives change in the transition from high school to college. It also shows that relationships aren’t always perfect and sweet, and that sometimes what you want isn’t what you get but that things work out they way they’re supposed to.
Sometimes I get it into my head that I want to read an entire run of manga. It happened with HanaKimi, which is over 20 volumes long, and it happened with Fushigi Yuugi, my very first shoujo manga back in 1996. I decided to read it over again, but when I went into my manga library (yes, I have a separate manga library) to get some, I realized that I had forgotten it was 17 volumes long. Oops. There’s no denying the manga jones, though, so I brought them all out into my bedroom and hid them in the cabinet so Wasabi, Eater of Worlds wouldn’t chew on the corners.
There was a special ritual I’d go through whenever I read Love*Com. I’d go to Borders, buy the tankou, then go to Whole Foods and buy a slice of carrot cake. Then I’d go home, read the manga and eat my sweets. It was a wonderful memory and one of those self-care things that make life go smoother. I had a similar ritual for Higurashi, only it involved Garden of Eatin’ Chili Lime tortilla chips (yes, I have specific foods that trigger specific memories. Being bipolar is fun sometimes).
Even now, when I’m reading it I think about how it felt to live in an apartment that I paid for on my own, reading manga and eating carrot cake, walking home from the train station, smelling the city’s air and knowing that I’d found my home. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t grieve that loss. I remember the smell of my apartment, the snow crunching under my boots, the taste of Sultan’s Market’s Jerusalem salad, picking up The Onion every week. If I’m ever able to go back, the first thing I’m going to do is buy an entire carrot cake and read Love*Comfrom beginning to end.
As for this read-through, I’m hoping to convince Mister E to take me to Whole Foods this weekend for a piece of carrot cake so I can enjoy my manga as nature intended. It shouldn’t be hard, he loves their carrot cake too.