Suppli 2-3 by Mari Okazaki: A-

Minami Fujii works in the planning department of an advertising agency. At twenty-eight, she’s still trying to make a name for herself and is known for pulling all-nighters and juggling multiple projects. Mostly, this can be attributed to genuine dedication, though Minami also uses work as a distraction from her turbulent romantic life.

After her boyfriend of seven years breaks up with her and promptly gets married, Minami begins to notice the people around her and makes friends with some of her coworkers. Two of the men are interested in her and, after briefly being tempted by the impulsive Ishida, she ends up choosing Ogi-san, who is still hung up on his ex. After agonizing periods during which she’s convinced that he isn’t interested in her (even though they’ve slept together), they begin officially dating, though things are not as perfect as either would’ve wished. Minami still feels strangely lonely in Ogi-san’s company and the presence of his ex (with whom Minami must work on a project) makes it difficult to be sure of his feelings.

Meanwhile, the rejected Ishida is pursued by another coworker whose plight parallels Minami’s own. Add to this a saucy freelancer, the married producer with whom she’s having an affair, and his lascivious cameraman with an appreciation for Minami’s posterior, and you get quite a tangled web of workplace relationships, infidelity, unhappiness, and insecurity.

This might seem too convoluted to follow, but it’s not really a problem. The focus is primarily on Minami, but does shift at times to the other women characters and their situations. I appreciated seeing what they thought and said about the protagonist, too, particularly the difference between what they were thinking inwardly and what they were actually saying to her face. Another female character of note is the forty-something Hirano, who presents Minami with an example of a woman who has devoted her life to her work and yet has nothing to show for it. Just before being unceremoniously transferred, Hirano gives Minami all the credit for a daring decision, attempting to give a leg up to the girl in whom she sees so much of herself. It’s a truly wonderful moment.

Alas, not all of the workplace action is so terrific. Minami’s many projects are virtually indistinguishable, and the scenes involving them include vague dialogue like, “Let’s feature the product here.” It’d be easier to care about what was going on if more details of a particular project were known, or if one actually succeeded in getting to the commercial production phase. Most of them get derailed by rewrite requests, and it’s frustrating to never see any of Minami’s harried efforts come to fruition. Also, in this office it’s apparently acceptable to skip out on meetings for projects to which you’ve been assigned. Must be nice!

As Katherine pointed out in her review of volume one, the art can be symbolism heavy at times. Women out to snare their men are shown carrying hunting traps, for example, and when Minami is sleeping with Ogi-san, there’s often water nearby, threatening to cover and drown her, much like the welter of feelings she’s experiencing.

I do like a lot of the workplace art, though, particularly how Minami’s scattered thoughts are portrayed. Often, panels of her in work mode are mixed with what is distracting her, like the messy state of her book-strewn desk or memories of an intimate moment with Ogi-san, and sometimes she walks about conducting business while thought bubbles going “jumble jumble” accompany her around. When Minami gets especially frazzled, the art reminds me of Chica Umino’s (Honey and Clover), with scribbly eyes and flailing limbs.

The third volume concludes with Minami and Ogi-san sharing an impromptu casual meal, during which she confides in him her work-related fatigue and finally allows herself to lean on him for support. Not realizing at the time, as the retrospective narration points out, that it was a mistake.

And that’s it! That’s where we will forever languish unless TOKYOPOP resumes publication of this series. Please join us at Manga Recon as we cry, “Save Suppli!”

Review originally published at Manga Recon.

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