Story and Art by Kyoko Okazaki
Original Publisher: Magazine House (1989)
Length: 1 Volume (16 Chapters)
“All work is prostitution. So is Capitalism.”
To be concise, Pink was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had this year. It wasn’t just a profound, or even entertaining experience; it was enlightening. Through its lighthearted depiction of melancholic events, a likeable and insightful story was produced about young adults teetering on the lower rungs of society. They do what they have to in order to survive, whether it’s becoming a prostitute to afford crocodile food, or sleeping with married women in the hopes of observing something noteworthy. What seems like uncertain and stressful times, when coupled with vibrant art and positive perspectives, instead becomes a very inspiring slice of life manga.
I’ve already vaguely introduced some of the characters, but Pink follows the life of Yumiko, a young lady who becomes a call girl because her day job doesn’t pay her enough to feed her pet crocodile. After following him home, Yumiko meets Haru, her mother’s mistress, an aspiring writer who, even at the most turbulent time of his life, has no experiences to write about. Their personalities immediately paint them as affable. Despite muddying themselves through actions considered amoral by society, they are characterised in relatable ways. It’s a clear depiction of the “searching” phase of early 20s life, with each character embodying the same sentiment; trapped in long, un-rewarding jobs, attempting to collect experiences while battling a general uncertainty about the future. As our ages are so similar, a lot of their struggles where relatable. Their struggles are only emphasised by their backdrop, a demanding Japanese society with even higher expectations for its younger members due to an economic boom. Despite its astute observations on both emerging adults and the society they find themselves in, Pink also loves contradicting itself using surface-level explanations to solve important issues.
Why does Yuko own a pet Crocodile? Because she can. What does one do when they can’t afford said Crocodile? Become a prostitute. What does one do when they’re feeling sad. Buy a new hand bag of course! At first, these little plot points seem like an attempt at humour, but as you delve further into the piece, you realise the creator is not joking. Enjoy buying things? Enjoy sex? Then do it! Pursue what makes you happy. Okazaki urges the reader to shed off many of the harmful perceptions society suggests, because at the end of the day, they mean very little. From a conventional standpoint, this manga seems like a sad, bitter tale of a young lady forced into prostitution to pay rent. But its anything but that. It’s about a strong, content young lady who does what she does because she WANTS to. She never dwells on any negatives. Instead, she buys cute clothes, a bunch of pink flowers, and moves on. It’s a form of empowerment that questions harmful perceptions to build strong imagery, and often points out societal hypocrisy. And simply put, it is the embodiment of female empowerment; taking what many consider to be the worst occupations a person can do, and showing an attractive, likeable young lady who not only achieves success through it, but also happiness.
When a slice of life is done well, it’s the most emotionally stimulating genre for me – and Pink falls into that category. On a surface level, I enjoyed being part of the character’s day-to-day shenanigans. When I looked into these simple moments, they held a lot of truth about a young adult’s perspective, wading through unrealistic expectations that cannot be attained. Through its humour, sometimes the most ridiculous situations arise, though many of them present underyling issues or thoughts. What makes this manga so special is how these frustrations manifest. The art style is so different – It’s so fluid, yet refined. It provides exceptional imagery and faithful depictions, but doesn’t do anything more than it needs to. It’s loose and cartoonish structure reflects the philosophy of the manga; exploring deeper themes through the use of simple (and often unimportant) day-to-day situations.
If I were to analyse Pink any further, I would be defeating the whole purpose of it. If you were to excavate too much of its symbolism, too much of its profundity, then the simplistic mindset it relies on is sacrificed. In this piece, Okazaki portrays simplicity as a source of happiness. Without an almost ignorant mindset, we can never achieve the satisfaction our characters do, even in the most dire of circumstances. To live is to endure many things. But to live is also to enjoy many things. Everything that makes Pink, Pink is its perspective, one I hope to incorporate into my own life.
Art – 10
Story – 9
Writing – 8
Overall – 9/10