Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Suppli: It doesn't exaclty supply the adult content promised

Get it? Eh? Eh? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, etc., etc. Okay, enough of that nonsense. Here's a book I've been meaning to talk about:

Suppli, volume 1
By Mari Okazaki

At first, I just didn't think this manga was for me. Its tale of a career woman who realizes that she has no friends or social life outside of her job after breaking up with her boyfriend simply wasn't connecting with me. I thought maybe as a josei manga that was aimed toward adult women, it was too far out of my range of experience, and I just couldn't relate to the travails of a Japanese woman trying to balance love and work. Or maybe it was a poor translation, and various cultural jokes and references just weren't making the transfer from Japanese to English. Bits like this one kind of supported that theory:

But as the volume went on, I found these thoughts disappearing. After a few chapters, Mari Okazaki starts to develop the cast, focusing on main character Minami's interactions with her coworkers. There's a bit of romantic intrigue, with a couple of other love interests introduced, but just as much of it is about Minami connecting with other women in the office and trying to make friends. And there's also an emphasis on her job; we see that she is very driven and hard-working, wanting to make a real impact in her career as an advertising executive. It's a well-rounded portrait of a character, showing us her goals, troubles, habits, and flaws.

And on top of the good story, Okazaki delivers some really nice artwork. Her characters are expressive and relatable, sometimes morphing into cartoony drawings and performing silly antics:

But they're also often drawn in really nice portrait views:

Okazaki also fills the pages with some beautiful design work. In one chapter, Minami and a coworker (and possible love interest) make a business trip via train, and Okazaki fills the margins of a double-page spread with intertwining train tracks:

She uses the same effect later in a scene involving cherry blossoms:

The overall effect is like a more sophisticated, grown-up version of shojo manga, which makes sense, since that's exactly what josei manga is (as I understand it).

So while I started out wondering if I was not in the book's target audience (actually, I guess I'm still not), it quickly drew me in with its nicely-done character drama. I'll definitely seek out future volumes.

One one final note, I did find it odd that the book was shrink-wrapped and labeled with "parental advisory - explicit content" sticker, since there's nothing objectionable here, other than maybe some alcohol consumption or mild swearing. Maybe it gets more explicit in future volumes, and Tokyopop decided to just label the whole series as "Mature". But it still seemed odd to encounter zero salacious content. Maybe next time.


  1. Have you ever read Tramps Like Us? It's also a josei manga, and very entertaining. I've also been meaning to ask, have you've read Banana Fish? I saw you mentioned it once and have been wondering ever since.

  2. No, I haven't read Tramps Like Us, but I've heard it's pretty good, so it's on my theoretical "might read someday" list. It does seem like another josei book that I might like. I haven't read Banana Fish either, but I did read Shaenon Garrity's Overlooked Manga Festival entry for it.

  3. Thanks for this review, Matt. Suppli caught my eye somewhere as a manga that might be a little different than most of what's out there, and your review has piqued my interest.

  4. Seconding the "Tramps Like Us" suggestion-- I just finished reading the entire series and it combines some silly comedic sequences and fantasy scenes with real-life situations. Of course, it's less real than "Suppli."

    And I'm still on the fence about "Suppli." I like the characters and the work/life storyline (I work in media myself and understand the "go, go, go" mentality), but the artwork is too busy. However, I feel like the artwork is almost an extension of the character and her chaotic work life. I'll have to read the second volume before I make any decisions on whether or not to keep reading.

    As far as the rating goes, I wonder how much the new rating system at TOKYOPOP influenced the mature rating on the series...Because this volume certainly didn't rate as "mature."

  5. TOKYOPOP doesn't like to rate volumes individually, because bookstores like to know what they're getting into right from the start. Suppli is indeed rated M because of later volumes rather than the first one.

  6. Thanks for the information, Peter.