Nee, Mama (My dear, mom)
This is a collection of stories by a manga artist who has portrayed various female lifestyles, such as the woman in Tsukuroi tatsu Hito who inherits her grandmother’s dressmaking shop and continues to create tailor-made out ts, and the 26 year-old single woman in Princess Maison who wants to buy her own home of destiny. Nee, mama comprises seven stories with “mother” themes, including Kirakira to ame (Glittering Rain), the story of a mother who can’t get her feelings across to her increasingly independent son; Zaza et Yaniku, the story of two girls living in a monastery; and Yuyake ka-nibaru (Sunset Carnival), which portrays interactions between a girl and a solitary elderly woman who runs an antique shop. The characters that appear in these stories are not only mothers in the actually family sense, but also people who play mother-like roles to somebody; they include a nun, a housekeeper, a pair of elderly sisters encountered on a trip, an old lady in the neighborhood, and a little girl who dreams of becoming a mother. They can be tactlessly honest, commonplace, and in some cases cunning. Even so, they are portrayed as gentle, warm and loving. Each story is loosely connected, and the motherly love that connects person to person is propagated outwardly to others. Landscapes that are sometimes depicted using large panels envelop the characters, and large blank areas with sparse dialogue coupled with images possessing velvety light and shade leave a deep impression on readers.
While the title calls to mind something sweet or indulgent, the stories depict the absence of a mother or a child. IKEBE, who has continued to portray “being alone” in her work to date, is in no way saying that this is an unhappy thing. She illustrates the present or coming happiness that only the person in question can understand, praises these “mothers” (in other words, adults), telling them, “It’s okay even if you are alone,” and gives them strong encouragement. The support for the children is a bit different. She has her motherless child characters seek the closeness of other adults. In one story, an old woman who often says, “Every person will someday be alone,” hugs and says the following to a girl whose mother left her and is about to enter an institution: “You are such a precious child.” This beautiful scene seems to symbolize IKEBE’s tender view of children, looking on them with kindness, as if to say, “You are alone, but not by yourself.” It should also be stated here that one more work by IKEBE, Zassotachi yo, taishi wo idake! (Ambitious Ordinary Girls), which depicts girls going through puberty, made the Jury Selections and was in the running for a prize until the end, competing with the above work, which ultimately won. (KADOKURA Shima)