In Volume 1 of Poor Poor Lips (プアプアLIPS), we met Okashi Nako, a young woman who is struggling with crippling poverty and Otsuka Ren, the Lesbian owner of a crystal shop at which Nako is employed.
Volume 2 starts with a slightly tiresome series of gags in which we reaffirm that Nako is so poor she has no phone, has never seen a computer and, with no TV or radio has no knowledge of the Internet. But this is not just random wallowing as we learn, because it shows us that despite her poverty, Nako is endlessly positive and is a little worried that Ren spoiling her will lead to her no longer being able to live happily.
Things come to a head when Ren invites Nako to accompany her to Nagoya for a crystal show. They stay at a top hotel and Nako really starts to worry about being able to remain comfortable with her real life. She asks Ren to stop spoiling her, which precipitates a horrible misunderstanding during which Nako goes missing. When they are reunited, Ren embraces Nako tearfully and begs her to allow her to spoil her, because she really likes Nako. Nako, finding an unexpected warmth and comfort in Ren’s arms, gives in.
Nako starts to worry about her feelings for Ren, but Ren is glad to offer whatever would make Nako happy, and so they begin to embrace in public.
In Volume 1, we also met one of Nako’s former classmates, Fukui, who runs a cake shop down the street. He likes Nako and worries that she’s being seduced by the evil lesbian. He makes himself tiresome and insulting, but Nako defends her relationship with Ren and, in any case, only likes Fukui for his cakes.
All of this becomes really important when Ren’s mother invites her home to attend a O-miai. Ren tells Nako that her mother knows that she is a lesbian but, frankly, doesn’t care. Nako offers to come with Ren and pretend to be her lover to convince her mother to back off.
Ren’s mother quizzes Nako and eventually says that, if Nako is truly a good lover for Ren, she’ll stop asking her to get married. They continue their play acting – which for Ren is getting closer and closer to being truth. Nako won’t back down even when a private eye follows her, and when Ren’s mother offers to pay off the enormous debt the death of her parents left her with (thus explaining her ongoing poverty.) When Nako remains steadfast, Ren’s mother sends them a message that she can see that they mean a lot to one another, but she really doesn’t buy that Nako’s not in it for the money – so she cuts Ren off.
Ren closes the store and moves in with Nako, and learns just what it means to be poor. What she would have fed her cat as a snack is suddenly dinner for both of them. But she also learns about Nako’s life and all the people in town who help her by saving the ends of vegetables and the crusts of bread for her.
Fukui continues to be annoying but he relents enough to hire both Nako, as a chef, and Ren, as a salesperson. And, as much as he blusters and carries on, it’s Ren that Nako looks at when she’s happy.
And it looks like we’re going to get a Volume 3.
Sorry for the long synopsis – but I think it’s really worth taking time to talk about this manga. It was a series I was very opposed to, because of the loli look to it, but the first volume very much surprised me – and Volume 2 has really blown me away.
Ren is portrayed realistically. Yes, she likes Nako, no she is not jumping her. Her feelings are real, are complex and for her, her friendship with Nako is more important than any fictitious relationship she might wish for.
Nako’s poverty explained (pretty much what I guessed) was one thing, but the whole storyline with her asking not to be spoiled, then accepting Ren when she was cut off into her life was…well, really good.
Fukui is horrible, but he represents the everyman perspective, spewing every nasty, tedious thing there is to say about lesbians, only to be shut down by Nako’s support of Ren. By the time he repeats himself the thirtieth time, he’s starting to look pretty obnoxious in the face of Ren and Nako’s friendship.
Will Volume 3 bring Mom around and put Ren and Nako back into their real lives? I really hope so. I will certainly get it because wherever the story goes, it’s sure to be surprisingly good.
Art – 6 for me, 8 for people who like the style
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 7
Service – 3
Overall – 9
This makes my third license request for the year – Yen, *this* is a good 4-koma. Please bring it over now, thanks.