Tokyo Tarareba Girls (東京タラレバ娘) by Akiko Higashimura is a josei, comedy, romance manga series that has nine total volumes, of which I’ve read one so far. It follows a young woman named Rinko—and her female comrades—that is in her 30s and is beginning to feel the heaviness that comes with midlife. Her hasty career-climb has plateaued and she’s still dreadfully single and alone. Then one evening while she’s getting smashed at a local pub with her mates, she encounters a young man with blonde hair who challenges all of the “what-ifs” that Rinko and her friends like to brazenly chat about upon getting drunk. What is the point of living if she’s only going to reminisce about the choices that she didn’t make versus getting off her arse and actually doing something about the shite that makes her feel so miserable?
Before I dive into my first impressions, I would like to gush about the mangaka’s artistry. She is one of my favourite illustrators. Her character designs and beautiful use of shading is always fresh, dainty, and feminine while still feeling rather natural and comfortable for readers of any gender. The harsher and more dramatic lines of her exaggerated and comical facial expressions when characters are shocked or angry, or the panels where she highlights specific background details as foreshadowing, are always done so brilliantly without ever detracting from this lovely and graceful aesthetic that is quite unique to Ms Higashimura. Even when the subject matter turns serious for a moment or two, it never loses it’s light-hearted and inviting vibe. It would be safe to say that her illustrations created a supremely alluring aura for me as I dove into the first few pages of this series. What I never expected beyond the charming artwork was a story that is so hilariously relatable, especially if you identify as a woman in her 30s.
Man, the introduction volume really doesn’t refrain from telling it how it is for women who are so independent and focused on their day-to-day that at night all they can do is ponder the what-ifs of what they left in the dust for their careers until it becomes poison in their brains. It shows a more vulnerable side to that headstrong and capable individual. It made me laugh my fricking arse off as much as it made me feel an ache in my chest to the truth that was being told, and I loved every glorious second of it.
Did I mention that Tokyo Tarareba Girls is breathtakingly funny? Okay, just checking. The comedy can be exaggerated in certain situations or scenarios, but this is done purposefully to illustrate the outrageousness of those respective scenes, or beliefs/arguments that is being portrayed. It’s very much an instance of how the artwork drives the narrative in an exquisitely complementary manner. For example, when Rinko and her chums get loud-mouthed during their bitch-fests as they get sloshed, a random guy and the owner (one of the friends’ parentals own the pub) shout at them to shut their ridiculous whining. There are a lot of goofy and cartoony expressions and yelling in these panels. It wonderfully expresses how ludicrous it is for such gorgeously strong, fiercely independent, financially stable women to feel so insecure in their own brains because they aren’t in relationships. They are so focused on the things they didn’t do that what they still can do passes them on by like Takumi Fujiwara on Mount Akina in a tofu drift (woot, Initial D reference).
As a thirty-one-year-old who tends to contemplate about those moments in life that I didn’t take, either from pursuing other shite or from being too scared or from some stupid superficial nonsense, I can attest to the arguments made against this sort of behaviour and how accurate those jerks are. Yet, within Tokyo Tarareba Girls, it isn’t only about missed opportunities. It addresses the very real-life notion of how you can have absolutely everything and none of it can mean a damn thing when you are drowning in loneliness. These negative feelings become so much stronger as you get older. The manga’s tone, in addition to being jovial, has genuinely mature undertones that shall appeal to most adult readers specifically.
There’s a lesson within this relatively short manga series about the misconceptions of what it means to become an adult and get older, particularly with societal expectations and how it brainwashes us into believing and desiring one thing on the surface when, within the deep confines of our meaty, fleshy, hearts, what we want and believe is entirely different altogether. After I finish reading the series wholly, I shall elaborate more on this because I think it would be the perfect foundation for the sort of manga review that I’d like to write up.
All in all, I fucking loved Tokyo Tarareba Girls and I cannot wait to finish reading through the remaining eight volumes! I’ve put them on hold via my library and shall (hopefully) receive them soon. I can say with one-hundred-percent certainty that I shall be adding this series to my personal library at home as soon as I am financially able to do so. It’s so bloody good. If you are a fan of josei manga and in search of a new deliciously hilarious yet honest series that isn’t a large time sink, definitely check out Tokyo Tarareba Girls.