I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up
by Travis Hedge Coke
The following will contain limited spoilers, so after you have read them I want you to forget them.
Translated by Lora Gray and Amber Tamosaitis, Kodama Naoko’s single volume 2018 comic, I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up, is a treasure.
It is impossible from the title, I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up, to not know what you are getting into. To steal a phrase, does what it says on the tin.
Kodama draws in a clean, high contrast black and white style, using a variety of simple screentone-simulating effects, moire patterns, and a two-character focus, I Married My Best Friend… even keeps the our couple differentiated both by light- and dark-presented hair, differing hairstyles, but also giving one or the other a darker clothing style in each scene to contrast the other.
When a third principal character is introduced, an ex girlfriend, she is presented nearly in halftones, between our two primary characters.
The comic, while never becoming complicated, complexify its characters’ lives and interpersonal dynamics. I Married My Best Friend… operates as an accordion narrative, so that every push to closeness, also moves us closer to the pull apart.
Morimoto Machi conspires with her roommate and best friend, Hana, to portray themselves as a newly married couple to appease her parents. What seems like a simple Act of good friendship, becomes immediately turbulent, as neither woman necessarily shares their definitions of friendship, lust, romance, or marriage.
Hana is an out lesbian, with a dating history, but does it times seem to believe that her attraction to Machi is platonic. Or, that it can be made to be so. In other moments she is more honest about her love.
Machi, coded as the more responsible, more mature, of the two women, has no serious dating history to speak of. She dates men, but feels no interest in them. She has only a limited awareness a sexual attraction, and of the social expectations or common perceptions of sexual attraction.
It is this sliding scale of unsureness that keeps them from reconciling quickly, despite a desire to, despite genuinely loving each other and meaning no harm.
Hana, who leaps at the idea of a false marriage, also pressures Machi into what Hana believes are marital duties. This does not include sex, but does include bathing together.
Control of Time
When Hana and Machi come close to sex, after over one hundred pages of a one hundred and fifty-six page volume, the first hundred and twenty or so comprising the I Married My Best Friend… comic, Hana stops them, as Machi seems still nervous. She says, “We are married after all. We have all the time in the world.”
I Married My Best Friend… controls time masterfully, making a short single volume comic seem endless, as open as life.
The average page has four or three panels, but a scene may contract or expand by beginning with four panels, another four-panel page, three panels, then two. Memory may be shown as a series of events in one panel. Time may be slowed or arrested by panels with no representational imagery, only dialogue or entirely empty space.
Even the addition of a second story by Naoko Kodama, entitled, Anaerobic Love, serves to extend the comic, without any sense of impatience or strain. Anaerobic Love is disguised as potentially another chapter, as the title of contents lists it between the numbered chapters of I Married My Best Friend… and an epilogue of I Married My Best Friend…, followed by the afterword, which turns out to be a four page autobiographical ramble in comics form.
I Married My Best Friend… is there for us. It is to its audience that it is loyal.
When Hana says that it is impossible for her “super straight” pretend wife to make love with her, it is for Hana, but also it is for the audience that Machi says, “It is not impossible!” The exclamation mark is for us.
Hana’s confrontation of Machi’s immaturity, and performative nature of her heterosexuality, could be cruel. In many stories it would be. Many times in real life it would be.
Kodama’s I Married My Best Friend… gives us, as much as it gives Machi, or even Hana, their space to understand, our space, an available, a safe space, in which we can come to acknowledgement.
I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up is a kindly, generously told story. The comic is good to its characters, and it is kind to its readers.
Emotion and I Married My Best Friend… is genuine. It is elegantly, yet purely portrayed.
When the second story, Anaerobic Love, interrupts what we believe is a finished tale, many a reader will need the break. We will need to believe that the story has ended. We will need to believe that the story can go on but that we know where it will go.
When I Married My Best Friend… is revived for a final chapter, it is revived with a candor and humor, we both need and can now assuredly, as the characters can, handle.
I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up
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