animefringe october 2003 / reviews

Erica Sakurazawa's Angel Nest
Format: right-left manga, 170 pages
Production: TOKYOPOP / Erica Sakurazawa
Comments: Can make a grown man giddy.
Animefringe Reviews:
Erica Sakurazawa's Angel Nest

Are grown men allowed to become giddy (yes, giddy) over girl comics? Perhaps, it might be a little odd, to grin that broadly and have eyes that sparkle that when my eyes cross over a new book by the excellent josei manga creator, Erica Sakurazawa. My eyes gloss over as I mentally go over her earlier works, going back to teddy bears, suicide, Blue Sapphire Gin, neglectful parents, angels, and messed up relationships.

And of course, lesbians.

Heh-heh. Lesbians.

Anyway, the first half of Angel Nest continues the journey of Sakurazawa's Angel, the ghostly, quiet girl who enters the lives of those who need her presence desperately. The four chapters comprising the main story center around Natsu, a hard-working business-woman who has to deal with her husband's infidelity, and the divorce that came along with it. As Natsu stands on her balcony, considering the day's events, she is visited by the Angel, who spends the next few days living with her, providing Natsu with just the quiet comfort she needs.

To complicate the situation, Emi, the woman who Natsu's husband, Ken, attempted to leave her for, comes to Natsu for help. Scared of Ken's constant attention and almost stalker-like tendencies, Emi crashes at Natsu's, trying to find a safe space where she won't feel haunted by a man she only saw as an uncomplicated fling.

What begins is a character journey for the both of them. Natsu starts to deal with the fact that, for whatever reason, she is not terribly crushed or, even that affected, by her separation from her husband. For that matter, she sits with Emi, growing content that Emi is sharing life with her on a daily basis.

Emi, on the other hand, uses her time spent with Natsu to work through the issues she has with her mother, as well as using it as a space to consider her own future and what she wants to do with her own life.

Within all this is the quiet Angel who, just as in the previous collection of stories centering around this being, flits into their lives, and leaves when the crisis of each individual passes. The Angel is an impressive creation of Sakurazawa; a brilliant vehicle to explore the lives of people in transition, connecting them all into this common thread.

This collection also contains three unrelated short stories, each centering on the spontaneous and random encounters we sometimes have with people; short rendezvous' that have the power to affect everyone involved. The star location of these three tales is the beach, each group of people finding something a little bit amazing as they walk this barrier between land and sea.

God Only Knows involves two male friends, one gay and one straight, revealing a strong and personal bond between the two. The two old friends meet an angry teenager intent on losing her virginity as some sort of vengeance, and the three end up taking a late-night drive to the beach, midnight-picnic in tow. This story is especially noteworthy, as it's one of the few women-aimed manga stories I read, that had a more honest and realistic approach to the portrayal of gay life in Japan, even if it's but a glance.

Tea Time is a short story about Taeko, a lone vacationer at a southern island resort. She comes into town unsure of the state of her lover -- a man who admittedly has another girlfriend -- and in all probability will be gone the entire time on business rather than joining her for the ten-day retreat. During her stay, she meets the easy-going Kenny, whose nature initially sets off Taeko, but soon, she comes to appreciate his style, and is subtly changed by her encounter with him.

A Gift From The Heavens, the final story in the collection involves, amusingly enough, a car-theft and a misplaced hook-up, that turns into yet another journey to the beach. As two criminals-for-the-night decide to live spontaneously, they act out the romantic scene both of them secretly yearn for.

Demonstrated here as in her earlier works, Sakurazawa has a realistic and touching grasp on the interactions that people maintain with each other. Her dialogue is wonderfully honest and well-written. Her art and stories are a dream to experience, and I'm pleased to report that her latest collection does not disappoint. Tokyopop has a winner here, and I, for one, am so pleased that I get the chance to read her works. So should all of you.