Noko appears to be living a great life, she’s got a good job and a loving boyfriend, but beneath a thin veneer is a young woman who is struggling with her self-image and self-confidence as she fights to keep her weight down. To Noko, being 5 pounds overweight means being miles away from happiness in her lovelife and in her work-place.
Noko is a binge-eater, she suffers from major depression due to crippling insecurity issues and the stress of being bullied at work. To cope with her depressive episodes she eats and eats and continues to eat until she can forget everything. As Noko’s binge eating spirals out of control so too does her weight, which makes her feel even more insecure about her body. Noko is trapped in a vicious cycle of shame over her body and gorging herself. She is emotionally dependent on her boyfriend, Saitou, who is manipulative and uses her.
In order to solve her problems with other people Noko decides to lose weight, but in her frenzy she develops an eating disorder. In Clothes Called Fat is by no means an easy read – it tackles an extremely difficult topic with brutal honesty. It shows that eating disorders aren’t simply dieting, but are actually a severe mental illness that can quickly turn deadly and destroy the lives of those suffering from them.
I think I would have liked this manga more if certain characters and plot points weren’t so absurd. There is a clear antagonist that’s just out to make the main character’s life miserable and the plot with her is just so over the top it borders on not being believable. Side characters like Tabata and Fujimoto are almost comical and serve strange purposes in the story. I understand why some of these characters were introduced, as anyone losing weight will know there will always be mixed reactions from other people. There are those that will be discouraging of a person’s weight loss for various selfish reasons such as insecurity or because of a fetish, and in worse cases to keep someone down so that they can feel superior.
If the story had focused more on Noko’s private inner journey and less on the drama of these other characters this would have been a five star read for me. The aesthetician’s commentary about Noko’s destructive weight gain and weight loss is startlingly honest: that Noko is doomed because she is so wrapped up in how others perceive her and because of that she will continue to harm herself. This manga is definitely not a feel good weight loss and redemption story, it is dark, cynical, and quite frankly a wake up call for young people that weigh their happiness and self worth by how they look.
Strengths: Brutally honest portrayal of eating disorders
Weaknesses: Characters are one-dimensional, absurd side plots
Warnings: Trigger warning, nudity, sex, language, violence, bullying, abuse