“I spent all my time wondering ‘What if?’ Then one day I woke up and I was 33.” Rinko has hustled her whole life, but one day she wakes up and finds herself a writer of a cheap online soap opera with only two friends (with whom she goes drinking most nights). In a booze-fueled delusion, she swears to get married by the time the Tokyo Olympics roll around in 2020, but it’s not going to be a straight line… and there won’t be any fairy tale endings!
Warnings: dubious consent
Note: This is a josei manga, so it not intended for teens. However, it may be suitable.
Tokyo Tarareba Girls gives you the Hollywood rom-com feel, and is about a trio of 30-something women lamenting the lack of romantic prospects in their age. It was also a difficult one for me to review, and even after a day of thinking over it, I don’t know how I really feel about it. So, I give it 3 stars, not because I don’t think it is good, but solely because it is holding that middle-ground in my head, where I am not sure whether I like it or not, and this review will also perhaps reflect that ambiguity. Take from it what you will.
When it comes to realism, Tokyo Tarareba Girls hits that perfect note on what the headspace of a career woman in her 30s, who finds suddenly finds herself unappealing to the heterosexual male population, would feel like. She vacillates between ‘I am an independent successful woman and I can wait as long as I want’ (she can’t) and ‘Oh god if only I had settled for that guy, years ago’. It is a cultural thing, as well as a personal thing – as much as we say women can be anything they want and rejoice in whatever feminism has afforded us so far, the fact remains that a woman’s worth is still being tied to her youth and beauty. Rinko knows that this is wrong, but she can’t help beating up herself over her perceived lack of both. She and her friends scramble, get spa treatments, spend lavishly on clothes and stuff, but it keeps feeling hollow because they can’t push against the societal idea that as 30-somethings, they are no longer appealing like the younger women. There is the constant repetition of this – Rinko hallucinates these mascot-like characters who keep feeding the negativity. In the author’s note, she mentions that she does not endorse the belief that women should have to hunt for husbands and build an married life, but this doesn’t come across in the story and instead plays it off for laughs.
The one thing I want to point out here is that this is set in Tokyo – and as such, very much reflects Japanese culture and society on this matter. It occasionally calls out the fact (heck, it even calls them pedos!) that men are going after VERY young girls (keep in mind that 20 is the age of adulthood in Japan, even if the age of consent is much lower), and it is considered fairly okay for them to pursue fresh-faced girls instead of women closer to their ages. Not that it comes across as preachy – the author mixes in a lot of exaggerated humor, like lightning strikes, floor falling and such to depict the utter loss Rinko feels at these moments. Rinko and her girls are also called out by men in the bar they usually drink at – as if women speaking out in public is intruding on their ‘male’ spaces, but they shout back at them.
Speaking of the annoying men, there is a certain guy at the bar who scolds them for their regular rant/drinking parties, and while they get offended and drive him off, they sort of take it to heart too. He is younger and a model and thinks, as an attractive man, he has the right to tell off women *eyeroll* But what really got me pissed at him, is when Rinko laments over the sexism in their industry (they are in show productions), he admits there is a casting couch and then proceeds to proposition a drunk Rinko to have sex with him to get ahead (not in the freaking #MeToo era!). I am not extrapolating, by the way – he literally does say that. And I don’t know about you, but coercing sex from a drunk, down-in-the-dumps woman is not consensual and I am really hoping it is not being played as an entry point into a romantic relationship for them.
So, overall, while this manga was a bundle of laughs, and reflects very well the personalities of 30-something women, I do not like some of the opinions that it presents, even if it is meant to be for the plot. I might pick up future installations to see where the story progresses, but as of now, I am very much on the fence about it.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Kodansha Comics, via Netgalley.