Walkin’ Butterfly by Chihiro Tamaki
Walkin’ Butterfly is one of the first books from Aurora Publishing. As someone who’s wished for more josei manga to read, I figured I had to check it out.
Michiko has cripplingly low self esteem because she’s freakishly tall. Her main hobbies are working on motorcycles and occasionally indulging in a little bit of juvenile delinquency. She has a crush on her friend and main source of support, a truck driver named Nishikino, but he sees her as a little sister. One day when she’s delivering pizzas for yet another dead-end job she’s mistaken for a model in the backstage area of a fashion show. Before she can correct the mistake she’s decked out in glamorous clothing and make-up. She’s shocked that women as tall as her have a job like this, and assumes that it is simple to put on clothes and walk down a runway.
The fashion designer Mihara glances at her and knows immediately that she doesn’t belong because a real model would be nervous before a big show. He tells her that she’s just “an ordinary amazon” and he feels sorry for his clothes seeing them on her. Michiko takes this as a challenge and lunges for the catwalk, determined to prove him wrong. But she freezes up when everyone stares at her, ruining the fashion show. She runs away feeling humiliated.
Michiko is determined to change her life, and she fixates on the fashion show and designer Mihara as a way to prove to herself that she’s worth something. Knowing next to nothing about the fashion industry, she’s determined to be in another of Mihara’s shows.
I enjoyed the art in Walkin’ Butterfly, which reminded me of a bit of a mash-up between Yayoi Ogawa and Erica Sakurazawa. The volume is printed on higher quality paper stock than most manga, and includes an extensive interview with the author, but I wish that it included some translation notes. There’s some scenes involving drug use and nudity that would probably put Walkin’ Butterfly in an adult collection in most public libraries. I’m curious to see how Michiko will handle becoming a model, and I wonder if she’ll find out more about the enigmatic fashion designer she’s determined to prove wrong.