#officeladyproblems, part 1: Suppli

An “office lady” is a Japanese term used to define a low-level female employee within the company organization. The OL’s tasks are generally limited to secretarial or administrative duties, with limited opportunity for promotion.

So, yes, the subject/hash tag is somewhat facetious for the manga that I’m writing about, but I still think it generally falls within the scope of the type of series that I plan to include in this grouping of reviews; that is, (josei) manga that feature women working in an office environment.

Minami Fujii is a 27-year old junior account executive at an advertising agency. Fujii is very dedicated to her career, even coming in on Sundays to work on her various projects and presentations. It’s not unheard of for her to work till the late hours of the evening, or to even sleep at the office (lining up three chairs as a makeshift bed).

So color me surprised when her boyfriend of seven years decided to break up with her. It’s hard to compete for someone’s love when somebody’s already married (to their job).

Fujii’s depressed for a bit, but even she admits that her feelings for her boyfriend have gone cold in the years that they’ve been dating; besides, she has a strong network of friends at her job who’ll be more than happy to take her out for karaoke and drinks to heal her broken heart.

One of Suppli‘s major strengths is its portrayal of Fujii’s colleagues, from her boss to freelancers to people working in other divisions. While they’re not all BFFs, they know the problems that their co-workers are going through, so they’re also aware that they’re the best to sympathize. When her direct supervisor, Hirano, encourages Fujii to be confident and push through with her own decision on a particular project, I felt as touched as Fujii was in that scene. With female bosses, sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you get really unlucky. With Hirano, Fujii got lucky: she had somebody willing to act as her mentor, and somebody who wanted to see her improve, not with the intention to inflate her (Hirano’s) worth in the company, but because Fujii deserved the opportunity to become successful on her own merit.

And of course, there’s the ubiquitous office romance. I was thinking if it was appropriate to call it a subplot, since it sometimes seems like there’s more pages devoted to Fujii’s love life or her thinking about her love life or her colleagues’ love lives than anything else… Again, with apologies in using such a trite term, it’s refreshing to read a manga where the romantic conflict doesn’t revolve around the “oh no, I’m not sure if he likes me” trope. With Fujii and Ogiwara, it’s obvious that they’re attracted to each other and enjoy being with each other. It makes me so happy to read a series where the adults are having adult relationships. I’m not saying that Fujii and Ogiwara’s budding romance is free from complications, but even then, the issues that they have to deal with feel more in-line with what two adults would encounter in a romantic relationship.

Take Fujii’s “walk of shame” in volume 2. After spending an incredible night at Ogiwara’s, she wakes up in the morning, quietly checks out his room, wrings out her clothes and then tiptoes out of his apartment. Sure, she probably knows that he’s awake, but they both sigh in relief that they didn’t have to deal with the awkwardness of the impulsive hook-up from last night. She walks slowly, and even though she has the smallest smidgen of hope, she knows that he won’t come after her.  Is their behavior right? Possibly not. Is it real, believable? Yes, absolutely.

Even though Tokyopop’s only published up to volume 5 of this manga, I’m still glad that I at least had a chance to read it. It’s a great story of how balancing work and social commitments really affect us, and how we deal with one is indicative of how well we can deal with another. I know I speak for myself when I say that so much of my life and identity are wrapped around what I do in work, and there are so many times when I feel that my happiness is dependent on how well I do in the job — which I know isn’t necessarily true since there are more layers to me beyond what I do in the office.  It’s nice to be reminded of that sometimes.

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One thought on “#officeladyproblems, part 1: Suppli

  1. I absolutely love Okazaki Mari’s art and storytelling and characters and everything! It’s totally a shame that Suppli is hardly available on online stores anymore and that Tokyopop has shut down 😦

    I think we are close in our tastes, so I’d highly recommend to you the anime version of Hataraki Man that focuses a lot on work ethics and the (un)balance between work and love relationships. If you love adult relationships, I’m pretty sure you’ll adore Natsu no Zenjitsu, too – take a look here, if you want http://kitsunetoneko.blogspot.gr/2012/02/tender-passions-amidst-winter.html

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