By Kyoko Okazaki. Released in Japan by Magazine House. Released in North America by Vertical.
It took me a while to get through reading Pink, and even after reading it I was somewhat confused at my basic reaction to the title. I’d enjoyed Helter Skelter, another josei work by Okazaki, but it was a walk through some very dark places, and the characters were ultimate very difficult to sympathize with. Pink is from a much earlier period in Okazaki’s career, but also deals with women who do a lot of horrible things to each other, and men who are unable to stop themselves from being drawn to said women. As for why I’m confused, well, it’s the fact that I found this title to be quite light-hearted and fun.
I’m not really sure how I came away with that impression. Our heroine, Yumi, is an office lady by day (whenever she feels like she wants to work) and a prostitute by night (as that’s where she makes most of her money). She has a poor relationship with her step-mother, but a strong one with her little sister, who is a young tween who’s far too intelligent for her own good. Yumi tracks down Haruo, who is a college student and aspiring writer who is currently sleeping with her step-mother, but soon he’s also sleeping with Yumi. Oh yes, and she also has a pet crocodile, who she feeds dead animals to (she mentions several times feeding humans to it, but there’s no real sense she’s ever done that). As for her johns, some are sweet, some are nasty, some leave her huge piles of cash, and some just rob her. It’s not especially pleasant, but it gets her what she wants; cash to buy things.
Yumi’s attitude may have a lot to do with the feel of it. She’s constantly living in the moment, and tends to let bad news just pass her by bar the odd temper tantrum. She mentions at one point the close relationship she had with her mother, and how she found her body after she hung herself. So it’s a sort of calculated attitude, one that keeps people at arm’s length while allowing her to still have the benefit of their positive emotions. Despite her self-centredness and petulant actions, you never really see her as unsympathetic per se. Certainly you side with her against the stepmother.
But I think in the end I feel Pink is fun because of the way it’s written – it feels like fun. Even the ending, which could be considered suitably tragic, will affect our heroine only a little bit in the long run, I expect. The writing, particularly the narrative, feels very much like a Bridget Jones sort of work – I particularly liked the description of Haruo’s college classmate/lover as “shockingly skilled at cooking, skiing, and fellatio”. It’s not just Yumi – the author is also doing her best to make this a light, breezy work despite the content. The dissonance that provides is what will make it a good book for a reread. But on this first read, I felt it was a hell of a lot of fun. Even if that thought confuses me a bit.