Sweet Cream & Strawberries

Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Author, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Illustrator
Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Author, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Illustrator . CPM Manga $9.99 (344p) ISBN 157800713-5
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Four linked manga short stories follow four women: a successful artist, an office worker, a prostitute, and a girl in search of Mr. Right. They suffer bad luck in love and a sort of depression that implies that women can't hack it emotionally in the big city. The stories are hard to follow, and the gloom is dry and empty rather than melancholic and intriguing. The saving grace is the spare, gorgeous art—line drawings that channel a '60s op-art sense of space and lightness in which the characters seem trapped. The pictures, including the random shots of feet, hands, the back of a head, communicate far more than the words, but Nananan doesn't provide enough surrounding information to make the inner states of the four women real and believable, and the clumsy translation doesn't help. Despite being about women and relationships, this is not shojo—rather, it's a showcase of female weakness designed to appeal to men. Possibly a winner with members of the art-school crowd interested in manga, it will not strike the fancy of anyone who enjoys drama or character. Still, it's hard to write off someone who draws so well; if Nananan ever teams up with a real writer, watch out. (May)

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