Suppli Volumes 4 and 5 by Mari Okazaki
Wow, there has been a two year gap between volumes of Suppli. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that josei series simply don’t sell well here, so I’m happy with whatever I can get. I was worried that this series was going to be on permanent hiatus, so getting the next two books packaged together as an omnibus was a treat. Overworked Fujii continues to have problems juggling her stressful job at an advertising agency and her increasingly disastrous love live. At the start of the book Fujii is jotting down all the random observations of the day that she wants to share with her boyfriend Ogiwara. They are both so overworked that they never see each other, so she’s trying to keep track of all the things she wants to share with him. Unfortunately things are even worse than Fujii thinks as Ogiwara is about to be transferred overseas and he doesn’t like long-distance relationships. He dumps her, and her response is to smile and say “I’m fine. Goodbye.” She realizes after seeing his relieved expression after the break up that she doesn’t need him anymore.
Fujii takes refuge in shopping, buying “lucky” items, and hashing out the aftermath of her relationship by going out with her girlfriends. The next man on the horizon for Fujii is the arrogant photographer Sahara, who looks alarmingly like a manga version of Jermaine from Flight of the Conchords. I probably have more tolerance towards Sahara than I should because I kept thinking that he was about to burst into song. But it is too bad for Fujii, instead of dating a charmingly dim Kiwi she’s stuck with Sahara. Their first dates are not traditional dates as they each keep getting ill and end up nursing each other back to health. While they are attracted to each other, it seems like Fujii has not lost her knack for fixating on a spectacularly inappropriate man. Sahara is very talented at his job, but he seems to be a bit of a womanizer.
One of the things I like about Suppli is the general feeling of sadness that seems to settle over Fujii in quiet moments. This is chicklit with a dysfunctional heroine, and while some people might find Fujii annoying I felt sympathetic towards her. She’s consumed by her work to such a degree that she ends up placing emotional importance on shopping even though acquiring new things is an empty exercise. She’s so desperate for human contact that she ends up with the first man to show interest in her after she was dumped, and falls for him even though she knows she’s making a bad decision. Okazaki plays with layouts, showing some panels rotated 90 degrees. This ends up placing a different emphasis on the expressions and body language of the characters. Okazaki also continues to add little surreal touches that create an otherworldly feel to the more prosaic backgrounds of Fujii’s office. When Fujii and Sahara go to scout an outdoor location for a photo shoot, the scene is filled with an organic pattern instead of a defined background. The characters look as if they are about to dissolve.
It felt to me like there was a little more focus on the supporting cast in these two volumes of Suppli, with side stories detailing the lives of some of Fujii’s office mates who are dating. Even good guy Ishida has moved on, and Fujii’s new trainee doesn’t treat her mentor or her co-workers with any respect. I hope that Fujii eventually achieves some sort of work-life balance, although I’m predicting another painful breakup from Sahara before that happens. It looks like the next volume of Suppli is also going to be an omnibus and is scheduled to come out in February, so I hope the ending of the series is published.