Saturday, June 17, 2017

[Manga] Private Report

Sabishisugite Lesbian Fuuzoku ni Ikimashita Report (The Private Report on my Lesbian Experience with Loneliness) – 8-8.5/10

“Pushed into a corner, even a mouse will turn and bite you.  Push a twenty-something into a corner, and they’ll go to a brothel and publish a report about it on the internet.” – Private Report

What compelled me to read this manga, I will never know.  Normally on seeing such a title I would dismiss it as a racy story based on lurid self-divulgence, the sort that have gained such popularity through masking voyeurism as personal expression.  However, something lured me in.  Maybe it was the source of the recommendation (thanks sj), a peculiar mood, or an embarrassing lapse in my own standards.  Whatever the reason, I am grateful that I read this little gem.

“Private Report” neatly sums up the nature of this work.  On one hand, it is deeply personal: it is autobiographical, detailing the confusion and mental ordeals of the author’s 20s.  Intimate and completely uncensored, it is a full disclosure of her experiences.  However, coupled with this is a sense of detachment.  It is not a plea for pity but an informational summary designed to enlighten others.

A summary of the plot does little to capture the essence of the series.  The innominate main character has graduated from high school, but finds herself completely lost in the world.  She drops out of college, falls into depression, and becomes profoundly burdened by her own psychological rumination.  After many years of wandering in this mental wasteland, looking for jobs, trying to please her parents, and not fully understanding her own desires she contacts a prostitute in an attempt to resolve some of her issues.

What makes Private Report so appealing is the candor with which she approaches the topic.  There is no moral to the story, no judgment on her part of herself.  She elucidates what did happen, not what should have happened or even why she thought it happened.  This latter part is crucial, for she avoids entangling herself in psychological theories that can often warp the perception of such events.  Whenever she does speculate, she makes it obvious that she is doing so, and usually after the fact.  This clear separation of observation and causation bears witness to a personality with an extremely developed sense of self-reflection.

She also displays a great deal of tact in what she omits.  This might be surprising; after all, didn’t she detail her entire sexual encounter with a prostitute?  Her approach is very genuine; given her tendency to live in her head, it is all about what she is thinking (NSFW), the visuals almost an afterthought.  The style also comes to the rescue, preventing it from being truly pornographic.

But more deeply than this, sex is not terrible.  What is terrible, and what she only mentions in passing, is her tendency toward self-harm.  Early on she comments on the scars on her arms (NSFW), but declines to display their origins.  Later she comments about how for the first time in her life, “Die” was off the options.  Yet never once does she mention her suicidal tendencies directly.  I suspect she skips these in part because of the painful memory, but also because she is a very conscientious author.  She isn’t writing this manga for casual consumption, but out of a mature self-reflection, and it comes through.  Drawing panels of her cutting herself would simply be vulgar and add nothing; it would stoop to making her suffering a spectacle.

This also brings me to the humor.  The subject material is deadly serious, yet her wry and hilariously honest thought processes manage to keep it light-hearted, even in the most intimate of scenes (NSFW).  It is the sort of humor that doesn’t make one laugh out loud, but instead grin or slightly chuckle at the verisimilitude to one’s own aberrant thoughts.

This is where her simplistic art style was a perfect fit.  It reflected the very child-like impulses that were still lurking in her, that she had yet to deal with.  It also allowed her to draw outlandish scenes as external representations of her mental state and have them feel continuous with the narrative.  Another good touch was her very-literal labeling of herself, with thoughts and emotions appearing as physical objects.  It also accomplishes all this without feeling surreal, an approach which I feel would have hurt the manga by muddling its down-to-earth sensibilities.

Finally, one element that I think she is very aware of in herself and I find very pertinent is her comment on the effects of fiction on her perceptions.  Nowadays we are smothered in artificial depictions of all situations in our lives, and this creates an ungrounded network of expectations which are more and more removed from reality (NSFW).  Another layer of fantasy that all of us must dig through to find contentment.

While Private Report may seem inappropriate to some, it is a deeply earnest expression of uncertainty, growth, and hope.  The contradictory and confusing modern milieu that affects us all now is one of the defining aspects of the current generation, and the author artfully expresses the suffering and disorientation that many experience as a result.  At the end I found myself overjoyed that she found her “new nectar”, as it reflected on that general hope that we can all find that someday.

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