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Insuficient Direction by Moyoco Anno
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Insuficient Direction

by Moyoco Anno

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I picked up the first few volumes of Moyoco Anno's manga series Happy Mania more on a whim than anything else. After reading them I immediately went out and tracked down all of the manga by Anno available in English that I could find. I have been a fan ever since and even went so far as to host the Moyoco Anno Manga Moveable Feast. Anno is an extraordinarily talented creator. I adore her work and so was extremely happy when Vertical released Insufficient Direction in 2014. Originally published in Japan in 2005, the manga is a somewhat fictionalized account of Anno's married life with her husband Hideaki Anno of Neon Genesis Evangelion fame. Now, I know quite a few people who were interested in Insufficient Direction primarily because of the Hideaki Anno connection. In addition to being one of the manga's main subjects, an essay in which he discusses Insufficient Direction is also included as part of the volume's extra materials. But for me, my interest in Insufficient Direction was all about Moyoco Anno. I was excited to have the chance to learn a little more about her and her life directly from her own perspective.

Rompers (aka Moyoco Anno) and Director-kun (aka Hideaki Anno) are getting married. It just so happens that Director-kun is one of the "big four" of Japanese otaku. A director of both film and anime, he is also a huge fan and obsessive collector of Japanese pop culture. Rompers has her own otaku tendencies and enjoys manga, anime, and such, but she has tried to keep those impulses under control in order to lead a more "normal" life. However, Rompers' marriage to Director-kun makes that almost impossible and she slowly becomes bona-fide ota wife. Although Rompers obsesses over some of her own interests, it's nothing when compared to Director-kun. Instead of denying her otakuness, Rompers begins to embrace it, partly out of self-preservation. She and Director-kun are able to share their love of Japanese television, anime, and manga, but how much is too much? Their home quickly fills with their collections and they can be embarrassingly enthusiastic over the smallest bits of trivia. In the end, it is a way of life and they love it (although Rompers continues to have some reservations). But more importantly, they love each other.

There are a ton of references to tokusatsu, anime, manga, and other Japanese pop culture and celebrities. In fact, there are thirty pages of annotations to help interested readers keep a handle on everything. Sometimes reading the notes actually takes longer than reading the chapters they're associated with. However, understanding all of the minutia and details isn't absolutely needed to enjoy Insufficient Direction; simply recognizing the extreme levels of geekiness and nerd cred involved should be enough. Rompers and Director-kun make an adorable and loving couple. The reason that there are so many pop culture references isn't just because that is what they are interested in, it's also one of the ways they connect and communicate with each other. Entire conversations can be held that consist of nothing but quotes from anime and other media. Singing theme songs at the top of their lungs brings them even closer together. Vacations and excursions are based on locations from films and television shows. Fortunately, because they do share so many interests, they usually can happily spend time enjoying them as a couple.

Although Insufficient Direction is fictionalized--mostly to emphasize the more humorous aspects of Rompers and Director-kun's relationship--I find it to be entirely and completely believable. As a bit of an otaku myself, I am very familiar with relationships that work in similar ways to theirs and am all too aware of some of the challenges faced by avid collectors. Insufficient Direction shows both of the Anno's to be very relatable people. At least I could certainly identify with them. Insufficient Direction is quirky, smart, and very funny. Compared to some of Anno's other manga, the artwork in Insufficient Direction tends to be simpler in style, suitable for what basically amounts to a real-life gag manga. The individual chapters are short and there isn't really an overarching plot so much as there is an ongoing challenge for Rompers and Director-kun to put up with each other's quirks and interests. There's quite a bit of good-natured teasing in Insufficient Direction and quite a bit of love, not just for each other but for art and entertainment as well. I found Insufficient Direction to be a very enjoyable read and am very happy to have it in English.

Experiments in Manga ( )
  PhoenixTerran | Mar 28, 2014 |
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