Between the Sheets

By Erica Sakurazawa
208 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

As more and more manga comes overseas into English-speaking countries, there are phrases you hear thrown around a lot. Shonen (“boy’s manga”) and sh˘jo (“girl’s manga”) are two of them, with people quickly pointing out which story elements make a book meant for which gender. Well, if you read Erica Sakurazawa’s Between the Sheets, the question then becomes: What’s the name for women’s manga?

“If I was a guy, I would definitely be in love with her.” That’s what Minako first thought about her best friend Saki after the two spent another evening in a bar full of pathetic men. But is Minako, in fact, in love with Saki? Minako likes men, after all, but she also likes Saki. Does she really love Saki, though, or does she love Saki’s life? And what happens when all of these lines start blurring together?

What immediately struck me about Between the Sheets was that this is a comic for adults. It sounds strange to say that, with all of the great alternative and independent comics being published these days, but with the boom of material brought over from Asia almost entirely aimed at teenagers as well, this really stood out. While the comparisons I’ve heard to hit show Sex and the City might not be entirely on target, they’re not that far off either. Sakurazawa’s story is full of twists and turns, as betrayals and lies fill the lives of our main characters. You may not particularly like Saki or Minako, but Sakurazawa makes them absolutely entrancing. You really can’t turn away from what’s going to happen next, and this is a book where you really can’t find yourself second-guessing the author on how everything will all turn out. You may not know someone exactly like Saki or Minako, but it’s certainly very easy to imagine knowing someone very much like them.

Sakurazawa’s art in Between the Sheets reminds me a lot of what you might find from American publishers like Top Shelf, Alternative Comics, or Drawn & Quarterly. I love the simple lines that Sakurazawa uses to flesh out her characters, with their expressive faces and actions. Sakurazawa keeps up the snazzy look of her book with a lack of fear of failing to use the whole page. Panels are scattered across a page in a way that looks attractive rather than what can cram the most in there, and I think that helps a lot with the pacing of the story. This is a book that feels very confident with its approach and how it’s going to get to its conclusion.

With its eye-catching cover designs and classy interiors, Between the Sheets is the sort of thing you could see the chic people on the subway engrossed in on their way to work. It’s a book that is adult in my eyes not because of any explicit content (although don’t get me wrong, there definitely is sex in this book) but more because of the storytelling structure and attitude. I think that’s why TokyoPop is branding Sakurazawa’s books with a similar cover style and general look—because like discovering a new author in the prose world, once you read one of Sakurazawa’s books, you’re going to want to read them all.

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