So Pretty / Very Rotten is a paperback of the size of a thick manga omnibus, the same kind of paper, it's about 300 pages long, which is quite a bit! It was written and drawn by Jane Mai & An Nguyen and has a contribution by and interview with the well-known Novala Takemoto (writer of Kamikaze Girls). It contains both short comic-stories and several essays on the fashion and the culture.
It starts off with some general explanation of the fashion and some examples of sub-styles. Then follows a comic, that I don't really see much connected to lolita fashion, except for a page where the person in question (one of the writers actually) buys Lolita clothes to do 'research' instead of actually working on a comic, but it's nice to see something that tells a bit more about the writers (possibly?). Luckily most other comics are indeed about the fashion and lifestyle and they are interesting to read.
Sometimes just more or less examples of what happens in the subculture, but sometimes also rather absurd and with a hint of macabre. Most of the time very recognizable.
When this book arrived at my home, my husband asked: "So, you as a lolita are rotten?" This "rotten" part comes from a quote from Momoko from Kamikaze girls, and relates both to the inner and outer demeanor of lolita's, plus that it is indeed still quite materialistic. Within both western and Japanese communities this is sometimes a bit of a sensitive subject, and this is talked about a bit in the essays and comics. But as lots of lolita's think: if it makes you that happy, then what does it matter? It reminds me of one of the reasons why I also like wearing lolita: if I wear this outside for the day, I feel like this world is my world. That I can choose to do what makes ME happy, despite of what others think (and that it isn't cheap), it's a wonderful feeling.
There are several comics about girls that are new to the fashion and are interested in it and it reminds me of when I got into it, I think it's a precious moment that lots of lolitas recognize and treasure...I wonder if people who don't wear the fashion could understand it truly without trying it out.
What I do miss a bit though are pages about for example the issue of the size of the clothing. Because I know there are girls out there who'd love to wear it but can't (not even only about being to large to fit, but also longer people in Europe that feel that it doesn't suit their body because it doesn't look as cute). Next to that, there is a part about online communities in one of the essays, but I do miss the influence of things like secrets/Behind the Bows and 4chan in the comics, or actually what really happens, and how rotten that actually is (but maybe that is also offline I guess, but just not so spoken of). I wonder if they didn't mention it on purpose.
|Illustration by Jane Mai|
(from her website)
The part that I find very well-written is what role the fashion plays for people and how that is explained. Not just (alternative) clothes, but a way to stand against the 'normal', a way to still keep that cute pure feeling of when you discover something so wonderful that suddenly the world changes, and that you can still keep that by buying, creating and wearing this fashion. But that it is also something that might pass at some point.
Another interesting subject that is captured well is how communities and social media play a role, how one can start to look up to these online persons while their view of them might not be realistic. How well-known people are just still very human.
But besides some of the more darker side of it, it captures the tenderness, wonder, sensitive and pure kind of happiness that comes with this fashion pretty well too, and all of it is a great read!