By Moyoco Anno. Released in Japan as “Kantoku Fuyuki Todoki” by Shodensha, serialized in the magazine Feel Young. Released in North America by Vertical.
The North American market has been enjoying Moyoco Anno’s manga for years now, be it Happy Mania, Sugar Sugar Rune, or Sakuran. Hideaki Anno has also been a favorite over here, mostly for Evangelion but also for cult classics like Gunbuster and Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. (And also infamous for the Kare Kano anime… and, well, Evangelion.) As a result, a volume such as this one, which is a biographical look at their married life with an otaku slant, is one that can actually be released over here and gather some interest. The book itself is a lot of fun, though it did go in a direction I wasn’t quite expecting…
Of course, this is deliberate. Moyoco Anno frames the story to set up my expectations of a normal Japanese woman overwhelmed by her insane otaku husband. The first chapter shows her avatar, Rompers (so called as she draws herself as a baby in a sleeper outfit), stepping on Gigantor toys left around the house like they were a child’s Lego toys. And yet throughout this book, the message we get is somewhat different: Moyoco is a lot like him. It’s very easy for her to get drawn into the otaku lifestyle, and she’s a lot less ‘normal’ than she may pretend to be. As for Director-kun, his sense of self and peace with being a giant weirdo is so great that he ends up being the calm and collected one a lot of the time. It really reads like a great relationship.
A word of warning: there are a LOT of translator notes for this volume. The Anno life is cluttered with 60s Japanese TV series, be it familiar ones such as Ultraman and Star Blazers or untranslated works like A Karate-Crazy Life. And, like many obsessed fans (including myself), the couple tend to speak to each other in terms of the media consumed. Even an argument about proper use of Japanese is referencing Dragon Ball and Galaxy Express 999. This is not something that a casual reader should pick up, though if they do they can at least be reassured that there are lots of notes telling them the importance super sentai shows and George Akiyama.
I note that this series ran in the josei magazine Feel Young, and its presence there was not all that unusual. Most josei magazines (and many seinen ones as well) have these slice-of-life biographical “and here’s what my husband/child/cat did the other day” comics running through them, usually in short 5-6 page bursts in between the larger serialized stories. (And indeed, the chapters in Insufficient Direction are all about that length.) It’s a type of story we’ll almost never see over here, partly due to cultural translation issues but mostly because there’s not really a market for it – North American anime and manga fans tend to prefer their slice-of-life looking more like K-On!. As such, this title is not only an amusing look at the otaku lifestyle of the author and her husband, but also a glimpse into a genre that we are rarely privileged to witness. It’s a lot of fun.