I’m reading about adultery a lot lately. I don’t think it’s on purpose, like I have some unconscious grudge against monogamous relationships so I’m reaching for books that see said relationships destroyed through infidelity and lies. But I can never know the depths of my subconscious, so who knows? Maybe I am on a secret quest to wipe out faithful partnerships from the face of this earth. Or maybe it’s just a topic that more and more josei artists are taking up, and I am trying to read more josei works. At any rate, I just finished the latest volume of 1122, which is painful in a physical way and if you have the dangling kind of junk between your legs, proceed with caution.
And then I stumbled upon the latest Higashimura the other day, Giso Furin, which means “fake adultery” but which my mind keeps presenting to me as “fake furin” in a pleasingly alliterative mix of English and Japanese that only us bilinguals will appreciate. Despite this, I want the English title of this series to be “fake furin.” It’s just so satisfying with those “f”s. Of course, I will never have to argue about this with any potential publisher because this is yet another josei title that I very much doubt will ever see the light of day in English. The only way we’re going to see more josei in English is if people start buying the existing josei in English. So while we’re here, might I point you towards Moyoco Anno’s Sakuran or Higashimura’s existing English works, Tokyo Tarareba Girls and Princess Jellyfish? Or maybe you could pre-order her forthcoming Blank Canvas? And let’s not forget the great Kyoko Okazaki. Also, if I may be so bold, perhaps you could consider picking up a copy of my translation of Asumiko Nakamura’s Maiden Railways from new manga publisher Denpa? Show publishers that readers want josei so that they will license more josei, okay? Thanks, good talk.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s focus on the adulterous josei to hand. Giso is Higashimura’s first full-colour comic, and as I read it, I was really puzzling over why she was doing a colour comic now, considering black and white is still the gold standard in the manga industry. Not to mention, the colours are actually flat and often take away from the page rather than enhance it. More than once I found myself wishing for a separate person on colours the way there is in North American mainstream comics. The colours do get better and more integral to the book as it progresses, so fingers crossed that the next volume goes even further in that direction and makes the colours an essential part of the story being told.
Of course, I could just check on that now since the reason for the colouring is that this is a web comic. Which in hindsight, I should have guessed since that’s the majority of colour stuff in Japan these days. But it did not even cross my mind until the afterword where Higashimura explains how the comic came about. She was approached by Korea’s Naver Webtoon to do something for them, and since she is a huge K-pop fan, she was excited to have a platform that would reach Korean readers directly. The series is simul pubbed in Japan on Xoy, while the print book was published in a tie-up with Bunshun Comics, which makes the business side of my brain reel at the contracts that must have been involved in making all of this happen. (Yes, I did just go through some contract gymnastics myself, and no, I cannot tell you about it yet. But be excited for something pretty great coming soon!)
So were all those contractual somersaults worth it? If you like Higashimura already, then absolutely yes. Is this the volume that will win over new readers? Probably not. It’s fun and good, but not outstanding the way Princess Jellyfish is, say. But it’s got all the elements we’ve come to expect from her: a protagonist entering her thirties struggling with societal and personal expectations about marriage and work, an inanimate object that serves as an inner voice externalized, hilarious misunderstandings, and an ill-advised relationship with a hot guy. In this volume, the protagonist is Shoko, the inanimate object is a bump on her head, the misunderstanding is marital status, and the hot guy is a Korean photographer.
When Shoko’s temp contract is up, she decides to take a trip to Korea and borrows a coat from her disapproving older sister. At the airport, she reaches into the pocket to discover her sister’s wedding ring, but before she has the chance to put it away again, Hot Guy is slipping it onto her finger and asking her about her husband. And due to a blow on the head and her own internalized shame over being a single woman on vacation, she just goes along with it. The title pretty much gives the whole thing away, so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Hot Guy is hot for some extramarital activity, and before she knows it, Shoko is having an “illicit” affair with him.
It’s a comedy of errors that reminded me of Roman Holiday in a way. So far, we only have Shoko lying about her identity as she is whisked around the city doing things she’s never done before, but I have high hopes that Hot Guy (whose name I have no idea how to spell in English, sorry) is also holding some cards pretty close to his chest. Even if he is just a photographer who is into adultery with J-wives, I will still keep reading this series for the serious takes on J-society as voiced through an anthropomorphized bump on the head and the ridiculously exaggerated reactions of Higashimura’s protagonist. Higashimura is one of the most prolific and popular josei artists working today for a reason.