Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan: Yukari Takinami

My friend M. introduced me to Yukari Takinami’s Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan. She’s never pushed anything on me so eagerly before. “Ekoda-chan is us!” she insisted. “She says all the things we want to!” Which is sort of a lot for a collection of yon-koma (four panel) strips to live up to.

Our hero’s name comes from the fact that she lives near Ekoda Station in Nerima-ku in Tokyo. Which is where I used to live, so that was a weird sort of coincidence. Nerima is definitely not the hippest ku in town. In fact, I’ve been told that it is the only ku where people still farm. And those people farm daikon. The Hello Kitty for Nerima is basically a daikon with a Hello Kitty face. Yes, I felt ripped off. Also, I’ve never seen anyone actually farming in Nerima, much less farming daikon.

Anyway, Ekoda-chan is naked as often as possible because, as she explains, speaking directly to the reader, on the first page of the first volume, then she doesn’t have to do laundry so often. She shouts the words “全裸!” (zenra, completely naked) like a battle cry, which never fails to crack me up and is one of the things I think would get lost if the books were translated into English. “Naked!” just does not have the same power as an impassioned cry of “全裸〜!” I keep noodling around in my head for a good translation and never come up with anything quite right.

It’s how cynical and yet secretly hopeful she is that makes me really love her. She constantly dates two-timing creeps, but fantasizes about some boy sweeping her off her feet. Although those fantasies usually end with her smoking in bed thinking disillusioned thoughts, while the creep falls asleep beside her. Once, on the train, the man sitting across from her has his manparts poking out of the bottom of his shorts, and when Ekoda-chan exclaims about it to virginal friend R. (who shows up every so often to showcase how crass Ekoda-chan is), R. remarks that she thought it was a glove; the narration says, “At that moment, Ekoda-chan wanted to protect R. forever.” Whenever she and her equally cynical friend M. come across the eyelash-fluttering ingénue type of girl they like to call a bird of prey, they flip tables over and shout out at the absurdity of flirty lies. “I’m so drunk!” the bird of prey giggles as she stumbles into the cutest boy at the party. “Lies!” Ekoda-chan roars, pointing an accusatory finger.

The books are almost a catalogue of small failures and attempts to overcome them, which also fail. Like when she finds a record player in front of a second-hand store, clearly meant to be a donation, and decides to take it, only to realize that she has no speakers. She tries to listen by making a cone of paper and holding it up to her ear, which of course doesn’t work. Or when she notices something growing up out of the drain in her kitchen sink. She pretends not to have noticed it and when she looks again a few days later, it has sprouted unwanted children.

Whenever I read Ekoda-chan, I have a hard time not describing every strip to anyone who will listen. They’re just so good. She battles a cockroach with her shower! She doesn’t like cats, but likes to play tricks on them! She takes the last piece of sushi at group parties! She fends off pervy old men! She is forced to stay on the phone for hours with a customer who forgot to hang up because it is a company rule that the customer has to hang up first!

Sadly, I really doubt this will ever make it into English. There’s just so much that is so culturally specific that the jokes wouldn’t really be funny to someone who hasn’t experienced the Japan of hostess clubs, office ladies, Shibuya gyaru and all the rest. So I will probably be stuck loving Ekoda-chan alone in the English world I live in now. Sigh. At least I can email M. anytime for instant Ekoda-chan bonding.

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