Shuzo Oshimi is a different breed of mangaka. Though I do not exactly have the right to touch base on this and elaborate, it is something I will nevertheless state due to how true it appears to be. I merely talk about my inability to explore Oshimi’s nature due to how little of his work I have actually read. Granted, what I have read of his demonstrates the sincerity of his authenticity. In other words, he is not the cut from the generic cloth. Most would agree, regardless of how they receive his work.
Though I am sure people get away with discounting his stuff as nothing more than the deconstruction and/or fetishization of captivating females through the eyes of suffering introverted, incel-ish MCs; Oshimi’s work is not without merit. I am familiar with some of his critics. I understand some of the reasons readers tend to shy away from his stuff, and I can sympathize with them — particularly when it comes to the typical brief denoument of his stories. To a certain extent, these factors can not only be overlooked but also shown to be invaluable components that may serve as practical applications.
Lily is a one-shot of Oshimi’s that came out earlier this year. In a similar vein as his other works, this paricular MC is a male character who happens to be introverted, shy, etc. This is expressed both in his external behavior and his own surroundings. The panels of him lying down in his apartment, surrounded with empty ramen cups, along with a blend of trash heaps, screams that this individual may not be the most mentally stable person on the planet. This is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s as if he is the quintessential Oshimi protagonist.
The heart of the narrative exposes itself within the opening pages. This lies in the MC’s watching a pornographic video. As he is browsing what one may assume to be the hub, the MC finds a “pretty cute” girl and decides to go with the video based off of her purported cuteness. Given the nature of the situation, this seems like a decent evaluator for the act he is about to engage in under the pretenses of his primal urges. Granted, there would be no way for him to have anticipated what would follow his viewing of this video.
During his viewing of the aforementioned video, the protagonist witnesses the cute, short-haired girl sitting on a couch with her hands clamped between her legs. Upon being asked if she is nervous, she clams up and throws a deadpan stare (in an oh-so-Oshimi way) back in the direction of the camera. As the adult part of the video begins, her demeanor slowly alters. First riddled with anxiety, she flips the envelope completely. She, quite literally, asserts dominance as she takes the camera from the male actor; kicks him in the scrotum; and punches him in the face before sitting atop him and starting directly into the camera she is holding above her. This flipping of roles is further demonstrated in with the male’ appearance, who does his best impression of “The Gimp” — scantly clad with his s&m gear and a leather mask to-boot.
Needless to say, what takes place in this video catches the MC off guard. What was meant to serve as nothing more than masturbation fuel ended up driving him to tears, as he was genuinely moved by what he witnessed. Following this, he happens to encounter the girl he saw in the video: the titular “Lily.” He sees her working behind the counter in a convenience store. Shocked by this encounter, he is taken aback by the fact that Lily is standing before him. Despite seeing her, knowing it is her, he remains unable to acknowledge it to her. Both out of fear of how it may affect her and the general feeling of self-loathing, the MC does not approach her.
Time passes, one can only assume, during the bridges between the panels. The MC meditates upon Lily and her video, wondering how many times he has watched it over the course of the past few years. As he ponders upon this and wallows in self-pity, he happens to stumble upon her in the road late one evening. There is Lily, walking toward him. To make a short story even shorter, on a whim, he calls out and asks her to film him. He spontaneously develops the courage to tell her just how much her video meant to him. The MC and Lily share an arguably intimate moment, as she more-or-less reenacts the scene he had been the witness to a number of times that probably exceed the realm of human understanding. The one-shot ends with the MC watching the new video on his phone, smiling while saying:
“I’ve got the feeling…that I’ll be able to get along just fine. Thank you, Lily.”
The thing about this one-shot is that there is one of two things here: there is a lot to unpack, or there is nothing to unpack. I mean this sincerely. Though it is always an either/or, I do really feel that Lily is even moreso. Granted, let it be known that I have no desire to touch base on the intentions of the artist. My only aim is to help shed light on new perspectives for fellow readers. With that being said, I want to talk about the possibilities of how to receive this work of Oshimi’s.
For one, we as readers can just operate under the assumption that the mangaka is just drawing demented stuff, as per usual. This is not the worst take in the world. After all, he seems to both have a desire and knack for facilitating scenarios that are objectively eerie and uncomfortable. The tension is palpable, felt by his readers. Can’t blame anyone for thinking that this is his overarching aim, so it pours into everything that he creates — almost naturally.
On the other hand, we could also view Lily in a different light. As I have already stated, this protagonist is quintessential Oshimi. This MC is Oshimi fied to the core. This is demonstrated in his relationship to the captivating female other who drives him to the brink, pulling him through the torrents of suffering — whether inadvertently or intentionally — and causes him to search within himself for the answers to his own personal chaos. Like it or not, this does accurately sum up an overwhelming majority of the protagonists found within the works of Shuzo Oshimi. This is something that must be kept in mind.
At any rate, I have no idea how to receive Lily. I’ve read this more than a few times by now, yet I still fail to come to terms with a satisfying answer to the various concerns that arise when I reach the end of the story. My gut feeling is that it is demonstrable evidence of how inspiration can be found anywhere, in anyone. No one is beyond saving, whatever the context may be. It’s possible that in my desperate search for meaning within this one-shot, I come up short due to the fact that what I am looking for fails to exist. Maybe the MC is just a dude with a cuck fetish. Who knows? Regardless, I feel that there is something to be learned — a message to receive from this work.
This is the first installment in my One-shot October series of posts. I am not so sure that I picked the best one to begin with, but here we are. This post came a bit late because I was writing some papers earlier. I have some others mapped out, but if anyone happens to read this has any suggestions, let me know!
Thanks for reading.