“Life was like sweet. So what if it was deceitful?” says a woman clad in a Rococo-impressed outfit, after breezily explaining that the best way she obtained her cash for purchasing was by telling her clueless father a bunch of sob tales; she has no buddies however she doesn’t care: garments make her completely satisfied. “My happiness was at stake. It’s not flawed to really feel good. That’s what Rococo taught me. However truly my soul is rotten.”
This monologue, uttered by the Lolita vogue-obsessed protagonist of the cult film Shimotsuma Monogatari (“Kamikaze Women”) (2004)served because the inspiration for the title of the e book So Pretty/Very Rotten, written and illustrated by cartoonists Jane Mai, based mostly in Brooklyn, and An Nguyen, from Ottawa. Not too long ago launched by Toronto-based mostly Koyama Press, the e bookis a group of essays, illustrations, and brief comics that try to provide Lolitavogue a broader cultural and sociological context.
Lolita vogue quietly started as a subculture within the Tokyo district of Harajuku within the 1970s, however didn't totally flourish till the ‘90s, its outfits a synthesis of Victorian and Rococo types (with Marie Antoinette and Alice in Wonderland being the last word muses). Popular culture took word. Manga artists, as an example, have drawn loads of inspiration from Lolita vogue and so has the film business: apart from Kamikaze Women, notable motion pictures embody Gothic and Lolita Psycho (2010) and X-Cross (2007).
However Mai and Nguyen’s e book comes at a peculiar time for Lolita vogue: Cult-like magazines completely devoted to Harajuku subculture and Lolita vogue have folded within the final couple of years: CUTiE, the primary journal that used the time period kawaii in reference to Japanese aesthetic and vogue, ended its run in 2015; Kera! ceased publication in April 2017; Gothic and Lolita Bible “went on hiatus” in Could 2017; and FRUiTS journal printed its final copy in February 2017 — its editor and chief photographer Shoichi Aoki stated that “there are not any extra cool youngsters left to .”
Being a “cool child” that pictures nicely, although, is barely a floor-stage side of Lolita vogue. As Mai and Nguyen present by entertaining however academic storytelling, Lolita vogue is full of complexities and contradictions. The identify Lolita, for instance, is purportedly inspired by Nabokov’s nymphet, however the truth is has little to do together with her portrayal within the novel; reasonably, Lolita vogue is supposed to convey an thought of perpetual innocence. The origins of the identify “Lolita vogue” itself are unknown, although some theorize the identify is supposed to reclaim Dolores Haze’s innocence, eliminating Humbert Humbert’s male gaze. “Previous to the novel, Lolita was the nickname for Dolores and didn't have the nymphet connotations,” Mai and Nguyen write within the “Steadily Requested Questions” chapter.The innocence embodied by Japanese Lolitas, nevertheless, is perceivedby the conservative Japanese society as a provocation and disturbance to the nation’s strict conformism. Novala Takemoto, the writer and dressmaker who impressed the film Kamikaze Women and whom Nguyen interviewed for So Fairly/Very Rotten,has beforehand argued that the Lolitas’ everlasting childlike look is their very own “type of resistance […] They don’t exist to please anybody.”
The energy of So Fairly/Very Rotten stems from the manifold approaches the authors take towards Lolita vogue. They taxonomize it: for instance, they clarify and draw, intimately, the variations between demure “traditional Lolita,”fond of tapestry-impressed materials and muted hues, the “candy Lolita,”who favors pastel colours and pictures of cute animals and muffins, and the “gothic Lolita,” who adopts a extra funeral-impressed apparel and may carry, say, a coffin-formed bag. Mai and Nguyen examine it as a tradition intersecting with different cultures, corresponding to shojo (a cultural idea that can be utilized to confer with a “little woman,” “maiden,” “younger girl,” and “virgin”) and the indie music scene, particularly the glam rock motion Visual Kei. Mai and Nguyen, who've firsthand expertise with Lolita by dressing in that vogue, observe the psychological ramifications of the approach to life itself, significantly the way it’s fueled by a really materialistic drive, which might trigger a state of everlasting dissatisfaction.
Nguyen truly obtained a PhD in anthropology with a thesis on Lolita fashion, and we are able to discover excerpts and variations of her tutorial work in So Fairly/Very Rotten. Whereas painstakingly amassing info on the subject, she had a persistent thought: “If solely I might draw about this idea reasonably than use phrases to explain it.” In 2014, she requested Jane Mai to collaborate together with her and that was the genesis of their e book.
Mai and Nguyen strategy the topic by completely different views: Mai’s work veers on the macabre and is strictly centered on the toll a consumerist tradition like Lolita takes on those that partake in it. She will get her level throughout by sprinkling her comics with greater than a lightweight contact of horror: “My garments are good, I will likely be okay,” says the protagonist of one of her comics whereas scratching her bald, scabby scalp that she hides beneath a doll-like wig; she had simply coughed up a large quantity of blood, however she nonetheless appeared good.”
Nguyen takes a extra anthropological and interpersonal strategy. One comedian options Nguyen herself interviewing a number of Lolitas (one thing she truly did for her doctoral thesis) and the solutions she receives are insightful: “Do you like to be cute or lovely?” is answered with “Stunning issues appear far-off by some means, like out of my realm. It’s for another person to say, not for me to outline or need. However cuteness appears extra attainable and at hand, so it’s one thing that I can think about being.” “Do you assume Lolitas are robust or weak folks?” is replied with, “Lolitas are weak as a result of we're overly variety, however we're robust as a result of we aren't afraid to be completely different.”
The drawing types of the authors differ to an ideal diploma, too: the place Mai makes use of daring traces, rounder shapes, no grayscale, and illustrates closely stylized characters that occupy the web page with out being constricted into packing containers, Nguyen has a extra ethereal fashion, and doesn't use as a lot black as Mai does. Their comics have a no-frills sketchbook-like high quality: this permits us to deal with the enlightening dialogue reasonably than on, say, the flowers adorning a Lolita’s bonnet. And that is definitely not as a result of lack of drawing abilities: the truth is, within the bumper illustrations and vogue part dedicated to the completely different types of Lolita, Mai and Nguyen made positive they reproduced even essentially the most delicate ruffle within the utmost element.
In his interview and essay featured in So Fairly/Very Rotten, Takemoto bemoans how, in Japan, Lolita vogue has hardly been accepted as a worthwhile analysis subject, therefore the dearth of important documentation save for strictly vogue-centric content material. With few exceptions, likeMasafumi Monden, students have confined Lolita into temporary chapters of books exploring vogue subcultures typically. An correct and complete e book on Lolita vogue remains to be to be written. Within the meantime, Mai and Nguyen’s work is a useful useful resource for whoever needs to get acquainted with a tradition that, beneath its frilly clothes, is a paradoxical type of empowerment and self-assertion.