I really, really love this mangaka. I first discovered Yoshinaga Sensei through the delightful ANTIQUE BAKERY (which, if you haven't read, hurry up, it's a treat as delicious as any whipped up by the pastry chef "gay demon" of that series!) and the funny and touching and totally fun FLOWERS OF LIFE (which I had to pay extra to get the later volumes, as they're a bit hard to get in English now, and has my absoloutely fave plotline including the cultural festival, so funny). Her manga artwork is distinctive. Once you see it, you know it's Yoshinaga Fumi--which differentiates her from some of the by-the-book-bishie-mediocre stuff out there. While she may be known also for her yaoi stuff, I find the non-yaoi is really where she shines. She's positively genius in using manga style to showcasing relationships, be they at work in a bakery, in a Japanese high school, or at home with family.
But what really makes this mangaka stand out for me is how she delves into the daily life and emotional workings of characters and brings them to life and makes you laugh and cry and feel strongly for these interesting, often recognizable, very human 2-d creations.
In ALL MY DARLING DAUGHTERS you get a series of stories, in some way connected to the others by characters, if not a continuation of story situations. A daughter who lives with her mom has to deal with mom marrying a young host-turned-actor. A professor deals with the wacky-desperate sexual blackmail of a dorky student (this one made me laugh A LOT, but it is a bit bawdy in storyline and some of the art--nothing overly graphic). A woman agrees to arranged dates in a marriage quest, and an unexpectedly suitable suitor triggers a life-changing decision. (This one made me feel great admiration for Yoshinaga's Sensei ability to delve into a character deeply to come to a surprising ending that makes perfect sense in retrospect.) A woman reconnects with old classmates (in flashbacks and letters) and we see how their youthful dreams did or did not pan out. A daughter's hatred of her mother leads the grandaughter of the former to seek insight about the relationship, and we end up learning how what may seem like villainy is motivated by love and the trauma of old emotional wounds.
Yoshinaga Sensei often gives us those twists in relationships that offer endings that make sense, offer more character insight and drama than a conventional one would (ie, conventional happy romance ending). I sometimes WISH for a more conventional ending, but then it would not be Yoshinaga Sensei's work, which is fresh because it surprises. But it's not cheap, shallow twists. It's twists motivated by real characterization.
Her artwork can be amazingly sensitive (in facial expression panes without dialogue) or crazy funny (like the ones that use the exaggerated manga style to provide humor...love, love her way of making a character eating funny).
These are very sensitive stories (even the funniest one), and there is such a sense of the bonds and frailties of humans here that you feel both saddened by the weight of what we bear and refreshed by the virtues and love that make life worth living.
A terrific volume that is worth buying.
Thank you, Yoshinaga Sensei. Please...MORE!