Mangaka Akiko Higashimura has successfully mined the follies of female otaku for comedy and drama over in “Princess Jellyfish.” Now she tries to do the same for Japanese career women of a certain age (read: over 30) who have finally started to realize that their chance to get married has passed them by. Rinko is a writer of scripts for web series and her world comes crashing down one day when the assistant director she works with, and whose advances she rejected a decade ago, asks her for advice on an important topic. While Rinko thinks that this guy, who has become a more confident and refined gentleman over the years, is gearing up for another shot at her that turns out not to be the case. When she commiserates with her friends over this matter, they all realize that their status as marriageable women has just about expired. It’s an opinion that the classy, younger, and attractively blonde man who frequents their bar is only happy to rub in their faces.
You can mine just about any situation for comedic gold, even the aging fears of thirty-something women. The problem with this first volume of “Tokyo Tarareba Girls” is that it fails to strike the right tone in order to do so. It’s torn between wanting us to laugh at Rinko and her friends’ desire to settle down and find the right guy, and finding them sympathetic, even pitiable for the same reason. Higashimura talks about in the after-comic that this series was born out of the constant complaints she heard from her friends about how they were getting old and would likely never find husbands for themselves. While Higashimura also writes that she’s not the kind of person who believes that a woman needs to be married in order to be happy… she did just deliver a manga which says exactly all that, coming at the expense of her friends too. I’ll admit that this first volume ends in an unexpected way that made me curious to see where that sexual development leads. It’ll require me to get past the decidedly cynical tone this series currently has, as I’m not entirely sure it wants things to get better for Rinko and her friends.