Before I get to the review, I need to do some housekeeping.
First, I’ll be making an appearance at Interventioncon in Rockville, MD/ Washington DC area this weekend, August 22 through the 24. Christian Beranek and I will be there promoting Validation and meeting everybody, so if you’re in the neighborhood, we’d love to meet you!
Second, I’ve added some new work here on the site. Check out the Sketches section if you’re interested in some character designs and other works I’ve done recently.
And now, the review, or as I like to put it, “How to Suck at Being A Romantic Lover.”
“Between the Sheets” was a rare find, especially since I got the Tokyopop copy, and Tokyopop is no longer a company here in the United States. Special thanks goes to my local comic shop, Hobby’s Inc in Bridgeport, for carrying this and other Tokyopop titles.
I bought this book expecting a great lesbian love story. Did it live up to what I had in mind?
The book can be described pretty well as “watch two awful young ladies in Japan make terrible life decisions about relationships and pull shit to try and make each other jealous.”
The two characters, Saki (who I only know because the main character’s narration never stops talking about her) and Minako, are best friends. But Minako develops romantic feelings for Saki, who unfortunately is straight and keeps hooking up with absolutely terrible men who cheat on her with other women.
It eventually gets to a point where Minako sleeps with one of Saki’s boyfriends in order to prove that he is a grade-A douche and that she’s the only one that cares about Saki by protecting her from these men.
In case you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of this story.
The characters are flat and one-dimensional. You never see them do anything else other than talk to each other about boys. They go out shoe shopping at one point, but only because one of Saki’s lovers works at the shoe store. Saki is the driving force of the story, but she is the only driving force. She’s the reason the other characters act out, which is problematic, because they’re usually acting out to get her attention and love.
The romances (if you can call them romances) are actually quite poisonous. Saki herself has a double standard – where she can have affairs but her sexual partners aren’t allowed to have them (or at least, let her find out about them, as she tries to justify later). A relationship should be built on trust, and Saki is more than willing to break those bonds of trust for her own gratification.
Sadly, Minako is still in love with Saki, thinking that if only Saki could recognize her love, she would recognize she was a fool and just run away with Minako.
Except, no. That’s not how people work.
And then Minako sleeps with Saki’s partners in an effort to 1) get as close to her as possible, and 2) make Saki realize that the men in her life are terrible and therefore run to Minako, who is safe and wonderful and the “only one who really loves her.”
That is exceptionally problematic. Jealousy and bitterness are not sound foundations for a relationship of any kind. Sleeping with your best friend’s partners is an even bigger no-no, because it breaches trust with not just the partners, but with your friends.
Minako finds out about that at the end of the story (I’ll spoil it for you) when she tells Saki she slept with her boyfriends. Saki slaps her in the face (no surprise there) and screams at her to leave and never come back.
The story ends with Minako making love to one of Saki’s ex-lovers, and you can tell by the dialogue that they are both still very hung-up about Saki.
To me, Saki is not interesting enough to be a driving force in the story. As I said, she’s one-dimensional and that dimension is a terrible human being.
The art is very sparse throughout the whole thing, which sort of makes sense because the author probably wanted the focus to be more on the main characters’ emotions. Still, couldn’t Sakurazawa fill in more panels? Because the story is already empty enough without the unfinished panels and empty pages.
I am not kidding, there are some pages that are just word balloons and one or two faces. There’s no detail in the characters’ costumes or environments, either. The art is simple to the point of being boring and flat, not to mention that the tones are sloppy. A lot of people give Yoshihiro Togashi crap for some of the later volumes of Hunter x Hunter being “rushed,” but at least he made an effort and finished the artwork that he started drawing. Sakurazawa was in such a rush to make this story that sometimes whole pages are left empty and white and the tones are all over the place, like she didn’t have the time to clean up. Were her deadlines just brutal for this project? I don’t know.
In conclusion, “Between the Sheets” is a book you can definitely skip. There are, I’m sure, other lesbian love stories out there that are better crafted and care more about the characters than what can be seen in this work. Want a good place to start? Try Ai Yazawa’s work. She has far more enjoyable characters, facial expressions, and romances.
Know any good comics or manga I should review? Suggest them in the comments!
Also, I’m looking forward to meeting you all in DC for Interventioncon!
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.