What are you willing to give up when it comes to making a relationship work? When does a compromise start to affect your values or sense of self? Volume four of Tokyo Tarareba Girls digs into these questions among many others, using the character’s relationships as a frame to examine some pretty tough questions about love and relationships. The series was recently nominated for and then won the award for “Best US Edition of International Material – Asia” during the Eisner Awards this year. Honestly, I definitely think it’s well-deserved considering the scope and gravity of some of the things this series talks about and they way Higashimura uses comedy to address serious topics. I wanted to revisit this series this week both because of the recent Eisner win and because the series is very soon coming to a close with its 9th volume next month. Higashimura has given us so many great manga series with Princess Jellyfish and now her autobiography Blank Canvas, which is currently on volume two, that I really think this hilarious Josei series deserves to sit equally next to her other series.
Volume four picks up with the story as Rinko continues with her relationship to her current cinephile, bartender boyfriend. But something is nagging at Rinko about their relationship, particularly his insistence that she change her hairstyle to match that of his favorite actress. Even as she dreams of marrying this man, she begins to question how much change is too much to ask for in a relationship and how much she’s willing to overlook for the man she wants to marry. With the 2020 Olympic deadline for marriage still looming on the horizon, all three women scramble to balance relationships and careers.
I think one of the biggest take-aways from this volume is you don’t have to compromise your values or sense of self to have a happy relationship. I think many women when they’re starting out in a relationship think that they should change or give up part of themselves to be with another person if that’s what it takes to make the relationship work. Or that if everything else is great in the relationship, they can easily overlook the other person’s faults. It’s a legitimate question of what is an acceptable compromise when it comes to being with another person for the long-haul.
Rinko struggles with this through at least half the volume, especially when it comes to her relationship to her movie-loving boyfriend. He begins this stream of thought for her by asking her to change her hairstyle to match that of one of his favorite actresses. This in and of itself wouldn’t be too bad of a request, but he keeps insisting she schedule an appointment with a hair salon even after she says she doesn’t want to do it. His repeated pressure on her to get the perm makes him seem as though he’s not really seeing Rinko for herself, but is instead projecting his own ideal woman onto Rinko just because they look similar. This and his obsession with movies becomes a dilemma for Rinko who tries to find a way to reconcile his positive and negative qualities, asking herself how much she’s willing to put up with if she does wind up marrying this person.
I’m struck by a particular moment that I think Higashimura uses to highlight the weirdness of her boyfriend’s request: the scene where Mami comes into the office with her hair dyed black and says Hayasaka said she should do it because it would look cute on her. This scene is clearly in contrast to Rinko’s issue with her boyfriend and her problems with changing her own hairstyle. I think this scene really makes it clear that Rinko’s boyfriend really doesn’t see her as a distinct person, especially as he keeps pushing the issue. Hayasaka simply mentions that Mami would look cute in with black hair, leaving it open to her to make the decision.
After Rinko makes the decision to end her relationship with him, she comes out and says that “You can divide the women of the world into two types: women who can compromise, and women who can’t.” But I think the question is what is the cost of that compromise and are you willing to pay that to stay in a relationship. That’s what Rinko is forced into facing. Earlier she says “This is what it’s like going out with a man. Talk about what he wants to talk about. Always worry about his needs. No matter how boring it is, always act interested in what he’s saying.” The question I have is how did she get to this idea? Was is the teen magazines she read when she was younger? Or the rom-coms she loves to watch so much? Or just society in general?
Higashimura further punctuates this idea of compromise by comparing Koyuki and Kaori’s relationships and basically asking what’s better, a man you can enjoy yourself with that’s not available or someone who is available but you can’t connect with? Both men admit that they enjoy themselves better when they are with them, but still don’t want to end their relationships to be with them. Has this become just another web of compromising too much and convincing themselves that overlooking this one thing will lead to happier lives? I’m not sure, but I think at the end of the volume Higashimura is trying to tell us not to change ourselves for anyone and that sometimes focusing on our careers can be just as rewarding as a relationship.
I think this is where I’m going to stop today. There’s still five more volumes to get through before the end of the series, and I’ll be coming back to revisit this series again in the coming weeks. Let me know in the comments how you’re liking this series or any other thoughts you had about this volume.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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