Kio Shimoku is a manga author who is best known for his work on the 9-volume Genshiken series, about the members of a college anime/manga club. It’s personally my favorite manga series ever. It may come as a surprise then to know that Kio’s latest manga, Jigopuri: The Princess of the Hell, concerns itself with a topic normally far-removed from that of watching anime: Teen Pregnancy.
Well, not teen pregnancy per se, but it does center around a widowed 18 year old mother and her newborn child. The mother is Okiura Ayumi, her daughter is Okiura Yumeko, and living with them is Ayumi’s twin sister Hino Kaname. The raising and nurturing of young Yumeko, who is less than one week old when we first see her, is the central focus of Jigopuri, and the manga’s approach to a topic which is incredibly common in the real world but incredibly rare in comics is rather unique.
Despite its realistic tone and content, the art style of Jigopuri is closer to that of Kujibiki Unbalance than it is Genshiken, and it might be difficult to reconcile the fact that doe-eyed moe anime girls are discussing topics such as diaper-changing and the unbearable stress that comes part and parcel with raising a newborn. What can be even more jarring is the fact that Yumeko is drawn in a rather realistic style, more closely resembling a photograph than a kawaii anime infant.
No, Yumeko is not an ideal entertainment baby who is ten parts adorable and one part cuddles. She is a wrinkly, crying, pooping baby who needs attendance at all times because she’s a baby. Everything revolves around this fact, from the deliberately slow pacing of story (chapters generally span only a single day) to the way it handles all of its seemingly incongruous artistic elements, and understanding why Yumeko is portrayed in this manner is the key to understanding Jigopuri.
From the start, Jigopuri puts a young, inexperienced mother with no time or desire for romance in the spotlight, and in doing so makes Ayumi, and by extension the whole of Jigopuri, into something partially meant to stand against the tide of common trends seen in moe anime and manga. Although Ayumi at times feels helpless, it is never because she can’t do anything, but rather because she does so much. That doesn’t mean Jigopuri condemns moe, but it does remove much of the glamor and fetishism that accompanies many tropes of modern anime and manga. Nowhere is this more evident than in the comic’s portrayal of breasts.
As one might expect out of Jigopuri, breastfeeding occurs frequently, but the sight of an attractive woman exposing her large, shapely breasts (with nipples shown) begins to lose its erotic appeal once you are made aware of how inevitably their appearance is attached to the shrill cry of Yumeko as she wakes a sleep-deprived Ayumi up in the middle of the night. After a while, you begin to really feel for Ayumi, as you think to yourself, “She has to take out her breasts again?” And further cementing this un-fetishizing is the fact that Ayumi’s breasts are visibly veiny, an effect achieved through smart use of screen tones, and an indicator that these are not the idealized breasts you’d see in other works willing to show them with the same frequency as Jigopuri.
That’s Jigopuri as of Volume 1, and I really do recommend it, though I understand it’s not for everyone. Its cutesy art style combined with its realistic content can throw people off quite a bit, but if you can read Japanese or if it comes out in English, I think you should give it a chance.