an existential rumination: whereupon I talk about ganguro, self-empowerment, and quirky fashion through the graphic novel Peach Girl
Growing up in Los Angeles, I read a hell of a lot of Peach Girl,
a long series of Japanese graphic novels about a ganguro highschool girl’s various romantic escapades.
Peach Girl portrayed high-school love as calculated abrasions between the leaders of different school factions:
- arch-nemeses competing for love interests,
- trendy copy-cat girls falling head over heels for a lean-and-mean sports captain,
- a well-tanned sweet natured girls pining for the affections of a longtime childhood crush,
- and (so many) little boys trying to act like big men.
In Peach Girl, Japanese highschool student’s affections are just another way to pass the day, and emotions are fleeting and fickle: the main character is liable to fall in and out of love with the same person many times in a single book.
As much as it is embarrassing to admit my romantic origins, in a way, Peach Girl taught me how to be a teenager in “love”.
A much more valuable personal takeaway was that standing out, even if it meant that others categorized a person as untouchable, was an investment if it did justice to the individual’s identity.
As a young lady obsessed with wearing clashing patterns, running around smelling like freshly cut onions (don’t ask), irritating the entire mathmatics class with my never-ending simpleton questions, the underlying message in Peach Girl bolstered my self-confidence. Hidden beneath all the romantic bullshit and passive Japanese patriarchal sexism, Peach Girl seemed to say “Believe in your identity, even if you are the neighborhood oddity. Don’t mind the stares and the whispers. Just try to do justice to yourself.”
Peach Girl‘s main character, named Momo (which translates to Peach in “Japanese,”) sported a deep tan and beach-blond hair, which she explained was due to extremely sensitive melatonin levels and the sun’s harsh rays. Her friends and frenemies just wouldn’t let up, repeatedly accusing her of visiting tanning beds and indulging in narcissism.
Complete strangers jumped to idiotic & sexist conclusions by assuming she was an escort or a prostitute and openly sexually harassing her on the street. Despite such disgusting provocations and attacks, Momo kept true to her self and didn’t try to cover up who she really was by trying to fit in. As far as I recall, she never apologized for being herself: a sweet, thoughtful, and very dramatic highschool student with a flair for fashion.
Momo’s style echoes Japanese ganguro fashion, featuring deep tans, brightly dyed hair, platform heels, and elaborate nail extensions.
Ganguro is a trend inspired by the frightening and legendary mountain hag from the infamous Yamanba play in Japanese Noh theatre. Ganguro girls, done up in elaborately fashioned facial makeup that mimics yamanba masks, epitomize one of the most rebellious attitudes towards the average Japanese civilian’s reticence of bright clothing and attitude.
Momo’s manner of dress and outspoken personality would have really fit into LA beach culture but unfortunately, the manga’s setting in placed in socio-normative Japan, where streamlined school uniforms reign supreme and dyed hair or shortened skirts can result in detention or, in the case of repeated infractions, expulsions.
To take a big step back: It seems that most every culture has a dominant trend and it is always possible to find one’s own niche in the world. Whether or not it will be accepted by others doesn’t really matter, unless you are the type of person who constantly seeks approval because you are yet weak and viscous inside.
For some, an exterior shell that fits one’s innermost feelings and inclinations is the most critical mode of being.
For others, what is on the outside matters least.
For yet others, the most important way is still unclear (or perhaps what is important is what is not important).
But I certainly will not paint the way for you. If you aren’t stuck between a rock and a hard place (financially, circumstantially, etc) and find yourself free of society’s many invisible bonds, then… please believe that:
In the end, it is up to you to decide which path to follow.