All My Darling Daughters

March 27, 2010 dreamkaleidoscope
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Originally posted on Jan. 27, 2010 at LiveJournal. There will be some discussion on female-on-male rape in the following review, so reader discretion is advised.

TITLE: All My Darling Daughters
AUTHOR/MANGAKA: Fumi Yoshinaga
PUBLISHER: Viz
RATING: Older Teen (16+)
CATEGORY: Josei
NUMBER OF VOLUMES: 1
SCORE: 7 (Good)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: Fumi Yoshinaga (mangaka of Ooku: The Inner Chambers, Antique Bakery, etc.), slice of life, romance

It’s great to see more josei titles — targeted toward older women — being licensed here in the U.S. There aren’t many available, so when I heard All My Darling Daughters was being released, I immediately put it on my “must buy” list.

All My Darling Daughters is a collection of five interconnected short stories involving the life of 30-year-old Yukiko Kisaragi and her friends and family. The first story deals with the fallout after Yukiko’s widowed mother Mari suddenly gets remarried to a much younger actor/former host after surviving a bout with cancer. Understandably, Yukiko is very dubious about this decision, worried that this guy is just taking advantage of her mother. Though Ken turns out to be a good guy who really loves Mari, Yukiko begins feeling like a third wheel and decides to move in with the average-looking co-worker she’s been dating. I’m not usually one to be completely awed by a single page of artwork, but I have to say the last page of this story is quite stunning in its simplicity. There are no words, just a picture of Yukiko crying as she’s packing her things and her mother coming up behind her, not embracing her, but comforting her just the same. You can really feel the strong connection between the two in the final scene.

I have…issues with the second story, about a friend of Ken’s named Kiyo. This story is the reason why I gave this otherwise excellent collection of short stories a rating of 7 instead of 8. The problem? Well, Kiyo is a lecturer at a local university, and one day he is raped by one of his creepy female students, who gives him a blowjob after he repeatedly tells her no. This would be fine, and even kind of interesting, if Kiyo actually acknowledged it as rape, but he doesn’t. (Other than using the excuse “She forced me!” when Yukiko expresses disapproval over what happened.) He rather enjoys the experience, and the two of them fall into a strange sort of sexual relationship in which the girl continues to give him blowjobs after hours while refusing any pleasure for herself. In fact, when Kiyo starts to develop feelings for the girl and suggests they go on an actual date, she decides to break off their little arrangement altogether, saying he’s “too good” for her.

This could have been a good story. Stories focusing on student/teacher relationships are, admittedly, a kink of mine, the “rapist” is fascinating in a tragic sort of way, and there’s some nice humor involved, but the fact that the girl raped him and nobody seems to acknowledge it just doesn’t sit well with me. I would have probably enjoyed the story more had Kiyo just consented in the first place. I get why he didn’t — the mangaka wanted the reader to see him as a nice guy — but it kind of makes him seem like the virginal heroine in a historical romance novel who is “ravished” by the hero. You can call it a different word, but it’s still pretty much the same thing. (Especially in this case, since, unlike those romance heroines who might secretly want to sleep with hero but feel they can’t because of society’s rules, Kiyo really did not want the girl to give him a blowjob. He was not attracted to her at all at first and knew it was against school policy.)  Actually, I don’t think I would have thought of him too badly if he had consented right at the beginning (provided it was done in the right way), because Kiyo really is a nice guy — especially in comparison to the girl’s former boyfriends — and the girl is old enough to decide what kind of sexual activity she wants to partake in (even if it’s clear that she has some serious self-esteem issues and could use a lesson in the meaning of self-worth). If it had been written just a little differently, it could have been an interesting story about how a strictly sexual relationship can turn into something more for one of the partners, leading to complications in said relationship when the other doesn’t want things to change, but instead, it comes off more like a case of a victim falling in love with his rapist, and I’m not interested in that.

Fortunately, the third story is excellent and by far my favorite in the book. The only two-parter in the collection, it centers on Yukiko’s friend Sayako, who decides to have an arranged marriage even though she’s beautiful, successful, and kind, and therefore shouldn’t have any trouble finding a husband. Her aunt sets her up with several possible suitors, but none of them catch her interest until she’s introduced to a man named Tatsuhiko. At first glance, he doesn’t seem like much of a catch, as he was in a car accident during college that left him crippled, but he is very kind, and the two of them hit it off well. However, when it comes time to decide if she will marry him, Sayoko chooses to break it off. I don’t want to spoil the reason why, but I will say it’s a wonderful story with quite an unexpected, but fitting, ending.

The last two stories are also quite good, but I feel the first and the third story are really the true highlights of the collection. Are they good enough for me to recommend spending thirteen dollars on the book? Well, it depends. The artwork is lovely — realistic without the huge eyes and cookie-cutter faces you often see in shoujo titles — and the presentation of the book is really wonderful. (It’s from the Viz Signature line, so it gets a few bells and whistles that you don’t usually get in the cheaper lines like Shoujo Beat and Shonen Jump.) If you enjoy slice-of-life and more realistic stories that are character-driven like I do and are interested in josei, then it will probably be worth your money; if you prefer more plotty fare, then this title probably isn’t for you.

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