28 Jan, 2010

All My Darling Daughters

By: Michelle Smith

By Fumi Yoshinaga
VIZ, 208 pp.
Rating: Older Teen

“A mother is an imperfect woman.”

So thinks Yukiko Kisaragi, the central hub around which the collection of stories in All My Darling Daughters revolves. As the story begins, Yukiko’s mother, Mari, has just undergone a successful cancer operation and decides that, from now on, she’s going to live her life the way she wants. To Yukiko’s dismay, this involves getting remarried to an aspiring actor and much younger man, Ken Ohashi, whom she met at a host club. At first, Yukiko is convinced it’s a con, and maintains a guarded demeanor around Ohashi, but once he proves his love for Mari really is genuine, she breaks down. “She’s always belonged entirely to me,” she sobs.

From there, stories focus on those Yukiko knows. The second chapter is about a strange student named Maiko who forces herself on Izumi, a lecturer friend of Ohashi’s; the third features Sayako, a pretty friend of Yukiko who has decided to investigate arranged marriage; the fourth is about middle school friends of Yukiko and how their career plans went awry; and the final chapter focuses on Yukiko’s grandmother and her relationship with Mari. Meanwhile, we catch glimpses of how Yukiko’s life is evolving through a series of revelations about what has occurred “off-camera.”

At first I had a hard time understanding how some of these stories related to each other. Sayako’s story, for example, is incredibly touching and sad, but her mother does not play much of a role. The story of the forceful student seemed entirely out of place. But then the common thread hit me: this book is not just about mothers and daughters. It’s about the relationship between any caregiver and a child, and how something that might seem inconsequential to one could affect the other for the rest of their lives.

Sayako is crippled in love because her well-meaning grandfather told her, “You mustn’t discriminate among people.” Maiko has a warped view of relationships because someone indoctrinated her with a servile disposition—even though Izumi repeatedly says, “Who told you that?” it’s a perception she is unable and even unwilling to shake. Yukiko’s middle school friend is unable to fulfill her lofty goal of being a trailblazer for women in the workplace because an abusive father forces her to leave home early and quit school. Even Mari’s not immune, since her mother’s denigrating comments (made with good intentions, we later learn) about her appearance gave her a lifetime complex about her looks.

By the end of the volume, it’s apparent that Yukiko really is living a charmed life. Mari may be an imperfect mother, but she’s honest about her foibles and the two share an incredible relationship. Yukiko even achieves a sense of peace about her new step-dad, realizing “this strange boy is necessary for my mom.” Yukiko’s husband, Jun, is sweet yet equally imperfect, and a casual remark near the end of the volume reveals they’ve made headway in conquering a problem of equality in their marriage. Career-wise, Yukiko is the most successful of her group of middle school friends, prompting former chum Saeki to think, “At least one of us fulfilled her modest dreams.” And who is it whose fierce yet loving care enabled Yukiko’s life to turn out so well? I’ll give you one guess.

In addition to all of this thoughtful, integrated writing, Yoshinaga also employs her distinctive artistic style in the service of the story. True, the bulk of the panels contain talking heads in white space, but sometimes these headshots are exactly what one needs to get the point across. The most effective example of this occurs in the third chapter, when a two-page spread of close-ups is used to convey how Sayako and a prospective husband, Mr. Fuwa, have instantly achieved a content companionship. And if you don’t get sniffly when this technique is used again in the final two pages, you might just be a robot.

9 Responses to "All My Darling Daughters"

1 | Herron

January 28th, 2010 at 6:53 pm


I really enjoyed this collection as well. I was a little lost with how they connected at first and that not all stories dealt with mothers and daughters. But all the stories were really interesting. I wish I could get my mom to read it, but I think the manga format confuses her.

2 | Michelle Smith

January 28th, 2010 at 8:09 pm


Yeah, I don’t think my mom’s going to be reading manga any time soon! :)

I tried to get a coworker (a mom herself) to read it, but she wasn’t particularly enthused.

3 | Salimbol

January 29th, 2010 at 3:56 am


Hey there; it’s been a while! I hadn’t heard of this Fumi Yoshinaga book before, and you’ve made it sound great (well, I expect that with a FY book, of course). It’s definitely going on the to-get list, along with all her other stuff that I haven’t yet managed to lay hands on!

4 | Michelle Smith

January 29th, 2010 at 8:35 am


Good to see you back and commenting! :) I’m glad I convinced you to check this one out.

Now if only someone would license Kinou Nani Tabeta! I’d be so happy.

5 | Salimbol

January 30th, 2010 at 9:45 pm


Thanks :-) . And ooh, that’s another one I haven’t heard of! I did see a new series of hers when I was in Japan, but I couldn’t read the kanji in the title so it probably wasn’t Kinou Nani Tabeta (’cause I can read those characters). Now, of course, I’m cursing myself for not buying it! But I had such limited room in my suitcase…

6 | Isaac Hale

January 31st, 2010 at 3:59 am


I’m so excited for this volume! Sadly, my local comic stores don’t have it. Time to succumb to my evil Amazon.com overlords.

7 | Michelle Smith

January 31st, 2010 at 9:08 am


@Salimbol: Probably, everything of hers will eventually get licensed here, so don’t beat yourself up. :)

@Isaac: I hear you! I think the UPS guys must be boggling at how often they have to come drop off Amazon packages at my house.

8 | Free to a good home: All My Darling Daughters « The Manga Curmudgeon

February 3rd, 2010 at 9:50 am


[...] also employs her distinctive artistic style in the service of the story.” Michelle Smith, Manga Recon “At times haunting, and at times very sweet, this book isn’t easily classifiable. It even [...]

9 | Friday Procrastination Aids, 1/29/10 « The Manga Critic

September 28th, 2010 at 8:21 pm


[...] Michelle “Manga Recon” Smith shows us how it’s done with a thoughtful take on All My Darling Daughters… and David “Manga Curmudgeon” Welsh makes a pitch for Doubutsu No Oishasan, a [...]

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