My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Further beginner’s adventures in manga. In Clothes Called Fat‘s creator, Moyoco Anno, was a protege of Kyoko Okazaki, author of Helter Skelter: Fashion Unfriendly, which I think is brilliant. This book, detailing the weight-loss struggle of an office worker named Noko, agreed with me less—though, again, I was impressed with the total refusal of piety or political correctness in dealing with subject matter that most western artists, male and female, would probably treat with mind-numbing moralism and humorlessness. Anno’s art is more polished but less alive than Okazaki’s, and the narrative is set firmly in the present time and place—which means 1990s Japan—apparently, as the book depicts it, a culture that is brutally, and very directly, judgmental about female appearance. As in Helter Skelter, a somewhat closed-off world of female culture is portrayed, with the men—often very weak men—on the margins. Noko’s boyfriend is a study in how a mediocre man empowers himself by subtly dominating a sexual partner he sees as beneath him. Such psychological subtely is lost in the portrayal of the book’s villain, the heroine’s sexual and professional rival, Saito, who seems like an all-too-typical “mean girl,” announcing that she “hate[s] ugly things.” Anno ultimately seems to affirm wearing “clothes called fat” as a valid choice, especially considering the moral and material alternatives displayed, from eating disorders to sexual obsession.