Have I told you how much I love Okazaki Mari? Perhaps this must be improved. I’ve reviewed her shoujo-ai story in Shibuya District: After School and praised how lovely both the story and the art was. But this was just a grain of sand and not many English manga readers know her, especially since there are only two titles of hers available in English -the one half abandoned- and out of print. Let’s change that one step at a time. Shutter Love is a great first step.
Take a look at the cover illustration; isn’t it challenging you to pick the manga up? The protagonist’s gaze throws flames and kind of mocks us who dare look down on her (pun very intended). Aren’t you intrigued?
Maki is a school girl engaged in some dirty unsolicited photography of her classmates’ neither regions. Her best friend, Yumi, is a bit of a bimbo who seeks eternity in love. Asai, a professional phtographer, bumps onto Maki at the place where she sells the photos and he sees potential in her. Sai is Asai’s girlfriend, also a photographer, and Asai desires to motivate her by making Maki into her rival. Those four produce an unforeseeable reaction. This isn’t your typical shoujo where flowers bloom everywhere and the drama overflows.
In a single volume, with only 5 chapters, spanning around 195 pages, Okazaki Mari manages to tell a powerful story of growing up and of liberation. Her characters may begin a bit unlikeable but within a short time the development they undergo as individuals is both realistic and astonishing. Even at the start though, the mangaka makes sure to give each of them a redeeming point – she writes them as flawed as real humans if you’d prefer to see it that way.
The same goes for their interactions. Although they are meant to clash due to their personalities and situations in an intense but not stagy way, they also learn together. Some might be dismayed by the whole premise, the manipulation and the hostility expressed between women and to those I can only say to be a little patient and read it through the end. They won’t get disappointed.
The art reflects the contrasts in their interrelations perfectly. There’s a lot of juxtaposition that highlights the opposing ideas and intentions and at the same time brings them together as complementing elements. The usual flourishes are absent and the general style is accustomed to the content of the manga, namely the layouts resemble photos or give a similar feeling.
Except from that, the highly-detailed hair strands and cloth creases, the big eyes and lips, which are Okazaki’s trademark, remain. She also draws some magnifiscent splash pages, which aren’t used by many mangaka unless it’s for the chapter cover or a promotional in magazines. They sure make a difference in the reading experience.
Beyond the art and the back cover synopsis one might be attracted to this manga for its photography theme. If you get in Shutter Love with the hopes of learning more technical aspects of photography, you’ll be let down. However, it exposes you to how amateur photographers can take great photos in spite the fact of lacking on technique. It also inspires the reader to take his/her camera and experiment, feel happiness and/or passion.
It’s not called Shutter Love for nothing after all. The sound the shutter makes, is highlighted as a source of joliness, of finding some sort of freedom, and as music that is able to create spaces. Photos are mostly known as mementos, as something that captures special moments. Here photos are more than that: they are testaments of a liberating, self-reflecting process. They are mirrors of the photographer’s soul. And photographing can either be a carefree meditation or a fervent battle.
Besides, it underlines two issues which aren’t often encountered: the goal of a professional photographer and his/her relationship with the model (or even a landscape). A professional photographer doesn’t aim only to take good pictures; there’s something specific (s)he wants to show to the word. Therefore, “what you need, is your own outlook on things and a solid point of view to express”, Sai says. Some photographers discover their direction on the way, as they collaborate with other artists and models. Whom or what someone chooses to photograph might reveal more than expected about oneself. And a good rapport between the photographer and the model seems to be a key concept.
If you liked Paradise Kiss and/or Revolutionary Girl Utena, you’ll definitely enjoy Shutter Love. Give it a try!