As I mentioned last Monday, I discovered a very nifty online comic named Red String and spent most of last weekend reading through several years of archives. It's a wonderfully written comic, nicely drawn, with characters who react and think and live just like real people. Red String is a comic about love in all it's forms and contains several heterosexual couples, one gay couple and one lesbian couple. There is also one bisexual character, though that's not confirmed by the story yet. The focus of this post is on the lesbian couple, more specifically the flirty and fun Hanae, the supposed 'fat girl' of the series. In the banner below, Hanae is the red-head.
When we first meet Hanae, Fuuko (not the main character, but one of the main character's best friends) has just moved to a new city and joined the drama club. It doesn't take long for Fuuko to figure out that Hanae likes her 'like that' and the two quickly become a couple. There is some strong tension between Hannae and her mother over her being a lesbian, (didn't you know? Lesbians always look butch! They can't like pretty things or have long hair! Silly mom) and then Fuuko and Hanae go back to Fuuko's hometown of Kyoto to visit with her old friends. During their visit a large group of friends goes to an amusement park, with Fuuko and Hanae deciding to take the ferris wheel at one point. It's really sweet as I get the impression this is Hannae's first time in one, and Fuuko takes the opportunity to tell Hanae she loves her. Check it out. Awwww! If you continue on, however, things become pretty negative as a couple of guys waiting in line for the ferris wheel make fun of Hanae for her weight.
Reading through this the first time I was stopped in my tracks. "Wait, what? Hanae is fat? No she's not! Look at her! She looks JUST LIKE ALL THE OTHER FEMALE CHARACTERS, except her face is a tiny bit rounder, and she's actually got boobs!" The next panel explains that Hanae has always had a problem with her weight, but Fuuko reassures her that she's the 'prettiest girl she's ever met' and the two enjoy the rest of their day. I have to wonder if Hanae's weight loss wont come back to haunt her, or be a part of a future story-line in some way. It doesn't explain how she lost weight, only that she has, which makes me think it's only temporary. Seriously though, I was pretty shocked and disappointed to find what's considered a 'fat' character in this comic. For those of you who may read manga or watch a lot of anime, is this the norm? No fat characters unless they're a caricature? Or a deity? (I'm thinking of the Laughing Buddah, Ebisu, and others). Or male? Sumo, anyone? Or a villain? Hell, if you Google image search 'fat comic book character' and you'll find nothing but pics of Fat Albert, some guy named Fat Cobra, and hate. Lots and lots of hate for fat folks, so don't do it. I already did it.
If Hanae is fat, what does that make me? Or Carolyn? (More on Carolyn on Tuesday!) For such a realistic comic, one that's deeply rooted in today's thinking, tackling problems that teens face in love and life, this is one area where I feel that Red String falls incredibly short. Compared to Jamie of Girls With Slingshots, Hanae is downright slim.