Title: Between the Sheets
Tokyopop (US release reviewed)
Author: Erica Sakurazawa
Suggested Retail Price (SRP): $9.99
Number of Pages: 200
Reviewed: 9th May 2004
Reviewer: Rich (Webmaster)
As TokyoPop’s success has grown they have begun to import
some more niche titles – one shot stories and series that at best will only
appeal to a limited market. On the plus side this has lead to a much wider
variety of manga being available in the west, on the minus side some of these
titles only appeal to limited audiences for good reason.
Between the Sheets is a one volume story about two women – the sexually
promiscuous Saki and her best friend Minako, who spend much of their free time
in bars and clubs looking for men. Well, Saki does. Minako has realised
that she no longer has eyes for the myriad of ‘cute guys’ that Saki introduces
her to, but instead is finding herself attracted to Saki, who, for her part, is
busy cheating on her boyfriend and always on the lookout for someone else.
Will Saki recognise Minako’s feelings? Will she feel the same way?
The idea sounds interesting if nothing else, homosexual overtones are common in
anime and manga but it is only recently that series are being released in the
West that dare to tackle the subject head on. Between the Sheets
eschews comedy and the usual clichés of manga romance in favour of a pretty
explicit and decidedly unromantic look at the love lives of young women in the
city, with the story mainly being told from Minako’s point of view as she
struggles with her feelings for her friend. People used to romantic
comedies like Love Hina and Maison Ikkoku are going to be in for
one hell of a shock if they pick this up.
I must admit that my manga collection doesn’t really veer much from the
mainstream sci-fi and fantasy of series like 3x3 Eyes or Ranma ½,
so I was intrigued to read something like this as a break from the norm.
Unfortunately I was not impressed.
From a purely visual point of view, the artwork often seems rushed and sometimes
unfinished, and it is occasionally difficult to work out who is saying what,
particularly at the start, because of the bad layout of the speech bubbles.
In terms of the content it must first be said that the characters are pretty unlikeable. Saki is mercenary when it comes to relationships and has real
double standards, regarding her affairs as fine but just dumping anyone who
cheats on her, whilst Minako gets increasingly obsessive and travels well down
the route to bunny-boiling, even going so far as seducing Saki’s boyfriends in
order to get closer to her. Chuck in Ken, Saki’s similarly mercenary
on/off boyfriend, and you’re left with an unengaging cast of characters that do
little to hold your interest. In fact the only vaguely balanced individual
in the entire story – a shoe shop clerk called Yukimura – is picked up, used,
dumped and generally treated like crap by everyone else.
The story also promises more than it delivers, with a potentially interesting
and original premise reduced to a pretty formulaic string of sex scenes which
becomes a chore to read long before the end. Many of the ideas and
situations have been done before and better, albeit not usually with a lesbian
spin, by series like This Life and Sex in the City, but to be
honest I was never a fan of those series either.
To start with it nearly works, it builds up with some scenes of them acting
normally – clubbing, sitting around chatting – and these are the most enjoyable
parts of the story, but even then it never has that spark that makes you think
‘I really want to see where this is going’.
All in all, whilst I recognise that I am not a fan of this kind of gritty
relationship drama, I feel that this is a poor attempt to tackle a subject which
is often seen as taboo. Although it works in places it doesn’t in too many
others and ends up as a depressing and uninteresting mix of relatively strong
sexual situations and angst ridden obsession. Fans of Sex in the City
style relationship dramas
will no doubt get more from it than I do, but I feel they’d be better off
spending their cash on old This Life vids.
The all to brief early shots of their normal nights out.
Saki's justification for her double standards regarding affairs.