With multiple new publishers popping up in the last few years bringing more alternative manga titles to the English market, readers have been feasting and it is an exciting development for the industry. One of these publishers is the (as of now) digital-only manga publisher Star Fruit Books, who just announced their debut license Pop Life by Minami Q-ta in June. Pop Life Volume 1 was officially released Sept. 5th and I was excited to dig into this slice-of-life series. It features translation by Dan Luffey and lettering by Meg Argyriou.
Pop Life Volume 1 gives a relaxed peek into the lives of two single mothers who have decided to live together with their children. Sakura is a manga artist in and out of work, who handles many of the chores and cooking while Akemi is away at her job. Sakura has one son, Kaede, a quiet 16-year-old navigating a part-time job and correspondence school. Akemi, on the other hand, has young Taichi and Ruru, who are nine and eight, respectively.
The manga is largely episodic, as it is just small glimpses into these women’s lives. Sakura is clearly trying to connect with her teenage son to make up for the times she wasn’t there when he was younger. It is touching, and those were the moments I wished Q-ta had leaned into a little more. The strongest chapter is definitely the one where Sakura goes to take care of Ruru on a school trip when Akemi isn’t able to. It really solidifies just how much trust the two women have in each other. They are not a romantic couple, but this household is a family with two mothers nonetheless.
The series isn’t solely focused on the two raising their children, however. In fact, the kids pop in and out each chapter. We get to see comedic moments of Sakura and Akemi drinking after everyone has gone to bed, and even going out to buy a fridge together after theirs broke. The series really hit its stride in the last two chapters, when Sakura takes up futsal. Each family member’s respective reactions told a lot about what goes on in this household without them having to say much.
This isn’t a manga for everyone. It is slow. It breathes. If I had a complaint it would be that I just want to see more of the household all interacting together.
The art matches the down-to-Earth style of the story. Characters are realistically proportioned and Sakura lounges in baggy tees. Solid black and the occasional pattern are used to differentiate items such as clothing from white backgrounds. Stillness is the theme throughout, as though each panel were a picture someone took for a scrapbook. One odd thing, I don’t know if it was the digital copy I specifically had, but the margins were very wide on both sides. It generally didn’t seem to make the art feel compressed in the chapters, but the interlude sketches in between definitely looked a little distorted.
Overall, Pop Life Volume 1 is a solid debut title from Star Fruit Books. A peaceful slice-of-life following two single mothers, that would be a nice pickup for anyone looking for a genuinely relaxing read.
Pop Life Volume 1 is available now digitally through Star Fruit Books’ website.
Pop Life Volume 1
Pop Life Volume 1 is a solid debut title from Star Fruit Books. A peaceful slice-of-life following two single mothers, that would be a nice pickup for anyone looking for a genuinely relaxing read.