Keiko Suenobu’s Life is at the same time one of the most magnetic and most difficult* to read manga I’ve ever encountered, and incidentally probably the most justified winner of the Kodansha Shojo Manga Award since the shojo category’s inception in 1986. Both its difficulty and its magnetism come from its subject matter; a Japanese high school student dealing with social pressures, bullying, and uncaring parents who won’t listen when she tells them her tutor is blackmailing her.
Life is a dark manga that succeeds in being dismal in all the ways edgy action series often fail, featuring self-injury, severe depression, attempted rape, and attempted suicide very prominently. It’s an approach that works because the tone of the manga is very serious, in a way that’s somber rather than edgy. Suenobu isn’t trying to shock the audience, but to help them understand that the problems in the manga are very real for a lot of people (an approach augmented by the inclusion of blurbs by professional Psychologists at the end of each volume). This particular chapter is a prime example of why the manga as a whole is so utterly captivating while inducing so much emotional fatigue.