Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 142

What Is Obscenity: The Story Of A Good For Nothing Artist And Her Pussy

by Rokudenashiko Genre notes: autobio, crime, imprisonment, women's studies, social commentary 176 pages
ISBN: 192766831X (Amazon)

I'm never super excited for autobio comics because they're usually not great. Everyone thinks their story is so great but in reality, it'd probably be better massaged into a fictional character's life as part of a narrative with a path and a goal. So, as per my M.O. I wasn't super excited to read What Is Obscenity. Fortunately, the subject matter was fascinating and informative and intersects with my interest in Women And Patriarchy.

Rokudenashiko is an artist and comics creator who has made a name for herself as a manko artist. Rokudenashiko means "useless" or "good for nothing" (her real name is Megumi Igarashi), and manko means "vagina" (or as the book says over and over "pussy"). Rokudenashiko makes art out of molds from her vagina. She made dioramas and cellphone covers from such molds. She made cute little chibi manko. All of this with the goal of spreading awareness of her country's toxic understanding of the vagina as something repulsive and dirty. (She goes into all this in the book and does a fair job of laying the land.) Then everything went sideways when she made a boat. A kayak made from a giant 3D print of her manko. She kickstarted the boat and as a reward tier, she gave people the 3D model digitally so they could manipulate it and make their own 3D printed creations if they wanted.

Then the cops came. She was arrested on the grounds of obscenity and went to prison. Then she went to prison a second time.

What Is Obscenity is about 1) her art, 2) why she does it, 3) why her country needs it, 4) her arrest, 5) her experience in prison, and 6) the aftermath of it all. I'll be honest that the prison section felt a little long to me. Prison is a story we're all pretty familiar with. It's the rest of it that's so fascinating. Additionally, the numerous chapter breaks are fenced by sometimes interesting and sometimes helpful informational pages—sometimes about Japan as a nation, sometimes about Japanese culture, and sometimes about her case. (The letters to and from the court are interesting. Also interesting was the page about fertility festivals in Japan that feature enourmous phalluses, while she goes to prison for providing backers with a 3D model of her labia.)

Understandably, the subject matter is not going to be a fit for all readers, but I found it contributed well to the worldwide discussion of women in a world largely shaped by men and male concerns. Though... it never does get around to answering the titular question: What Is Obscenity? And that was what I originally picked up the book for.

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