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In Clothes Called Fat Paperback – July 22, 2014
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About the Author
Tokyo native Moyoco Anno was born March 26, 1971. Known as one of the major names in Japanese women's comics, she is equally known for her iconic fashion designs and as a fashion writer. Her manga and books have attained considerable popularity among young women in Japan. Though she primarily writes manga for women, her most popular title in the west is Sugar Sugar Rune, which was targeted at primary school-aged girls. In a recent Japanese poll, she was voted the eighth most popular manga artist among females and thirteen in the general category. Most of her works have been adapted for film or TV, including SAKURAN, Hataraki-Man, and Sugar Sugar Rune. In 2005, Anno's Sugar Sugar Rune won the comic artist the prestigious Kodansha Comics Award.
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Top customer reviews
Few comics or prose novels are this direct in portraying the emotional, psychological and sexual foibles of men and women as Mayocco Anno's stories. There's a sense that she wants to shed light on the insidious cruelty of women towards other women, their insecurities, anxieties and what makes them tick. You react with empathy, exasperation and horror at the heroine's self-delusion, self-loathing and terrible decisions, but it's clear that you are meant to care for her and hope she ends up in a better place. Even as she puts herself through a hellish crucible, there is hope at the end.
You read this graphic novel and you feel like you know someone like Noko. Or she could be you.
It was reading that last one that made me realize why it is that, while I appreciate Anno’s work, I don’t love it. It’s because she’s so cruel to her characters. Everyone in her books suffers, often due to their own refusal to honestly realize their flaws. That’s uncomfortable. And yet, at least all these books are available here. I doubt a revealing story aimed at women like In Clothes Called Fat would otherwise have made it to English, without a creator with a significant amount of name recognition here, which would be a shame.
Every woman can relate to obsessing over weight and eating, since so much value is put on appearance. In Clothes Called Fat is the story of Noko, a fat woman (although the way she’s drawn makes it clear that “fat” is in part cultural; if the story was told here, she’d be much larger) who uses food to handle stress and loneliness. The first few pages establish the character — she hates her body, feeling like she’s “wearing a leotard of flesh”, but keeps eating, because that’s a moment when she’s not thinking about her size and how other women denigrate her for it. In psych-speak, she’s swallowing her feelings, along with a lot of food.
Anno’s art style normally features slender women who resemble fashion illustrations, with exaggerated, overly made up features. Those women here are the villains, those who casually make Noko feel worthless. That they are external voices for her internal worries only make it worse. She already knows that guys don’t find her attractive.
She does have a boyfriend. They’ve been together for several years, but his motives for being with her are as abusive as her co-workers, and she eventually finds out he’s cheating on her. In Clothes Called Fat is an authentic, raw portrait of what it’s like not to fit in and hate yourself, although don’t come into it expecting redemption or a positive outcome. That’s the American take, where we expect Noko to just get some willpower, stand up for herself, lose the weight, and find a better guy.
Instead, events bleakly spiral into the increasingly outrageous, with paid dating, a weight-loss clinic, criminal co-workers, banishment, paranoid plots, and a very lost, self-loathing central figure. The most interesting visual change, to me, is how accurately Anno draws a bulimic Noko — she thinks skinny = pretty, but her face is haunted, with bags under her eyes, demonstrating that starving yourself is no solution. As with several other of Vertical’s recent josei manga releases, this is for adults only, given the drawings of naked women used to drive home the subject. (The publisher provided a review copy.) (Review originally posted at ComicsWorthReading.com.)