Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"We eventually called our parents.
"But for some strange reason, my parents didn't get angry.
"I'd assumed they were just waiting to give me a proper beating.
"But they didn't lay a finger on me, let alone ask where I'd been.
"That's probably because they'd known where I'd been all along."
Which was 'working' at an escort bar... for all of a couple of days before Jinju and her friend Jeong-Ae began to realise what that would actually entail, and with whom...
But, as she mentions, this was one of the very rare occasions that Jinju didn't get a right old battering off her dad / mum / close relative / teacher / all of them!
Written from the point of view of a comics creator looking back at her high school years - and I think it may therefore be at least in part inspired by Ancco's own experiences - South Korean society in the '90s certainly seemed to espouse a somewhat hands-on philosophy of child rearing, shall we say. Barely a day seems to go by without Jinju being subjected to a GBH-level assault from someone at least mildly irritated with her. Here's the rap sheet from the publisher to tell us more...
"Jinju is bad. She smokes, drinks, runs away from home, and has no qualms making her parents worry. Her mother and sister beg her to be a better student, sister, daughter; her beleaguered father expresses his concerns with his fists. BAD FRIENDS is set in the 1990s in a South Korea torn between tradition and Western modernity and haunted by an air of generalized gloom. What unfolds is a story of female friendship, a Ferrante-esque connection formed through youthful excess, malaise, and struggle that stays with the young women into adulthood."
But whilst Jinju does briefly run away, this is no QUEST FOR THE MISSING GIRL, neither tonally, artistically, nor indeed simply because her parents didn't even bother looking for her. Though I suspect on that latter point, it was purely down the fact that they had finally had enough and were hoping a short, sharp shock of hard reality might bring her scampering sheepishly home, which it did.
No, tonally this has much more in common with the likes of Yoshihiro A DRIFTING LIFE Tatsumi's fictional works such as THE PUSH MAN, all bleak, grim and unhappy, though offset with some dark humour reminiscent of Taiyo Matsumoto's SUNNY material. The overall feel is thus one of mildly delirious despair, both Jinju with her teenage existential angst and her parents with their rapidly diminishing hopes that their wayward daughter will sort her life out before she does something she really regrets. Like becoming a comics creator...