Walkin' Butterfly deals with the insecurities and awkwardness any adolescent reaching adulthood experiences in real life. In her case in particular, Michiko's height deviates from the average Japanese woman along with her occupation as a part time pizza delivery person, which is usually considered a guy's job. In this context, it is no wonder that she feels insecure about herself as a woman and her place in society at large.
However, during one of her deliveries at a fashion show, it is her very height that leads her to be mistaken as a model and pushed onto the over-exposed catwalk! Could this be her niche in society? A place where her deviant qualities can gain proper recognition in the society that once scorned her? Regardless, her inner insecurities and negative self image do not go past the fashion designer of the fashion show, Mihara, as he tells her she can never be a model because she refuses to see herself.
What follows is the journey Michiko takes to break out of her confining cocoon and metamorphosize into a beautiful butterfly worthy to walk the catwalk!
Perhaps to help enhance the world of art that this manga series takes place in, the art is quite sketchy at times and very simple and clean at others. It sort of reminds one of reading a sketchbook of images that ultimately tells a very lovely tale of self discovery.
A young woman who is very insecure about her outward appearance due to her unusual height (180 cm). However, a brief encounter with the fashion industry leaves Michiko yearning for a place on the long-legged catwalk and a way to find herself as a woman. In the live-action drama, she was portrayed by real-life model Aoi Nakabeppu.
Kou Mihara (三原 航,Mihara Kō?) Portrayed by: Jun Toba
The fashion designer whose show Michiko stumbles into when she is mistaken as one of his models. However, unlike the others, Mihara was able to see the ugly insecurities lurking within her and tells her that she can never become a model as she is. He is stubborn and principled, and eventually refuses an offer with a top fashion company because it would require him to compromise his vision.
Michiko's agent. She was once a top model, but now the temperamental, alcoholic president of what appears to be a failing modeling agency. Despite her cynicism, she decides to give Michiko a chance as a model. Michiko frequently calls her "Old Bat." Early in volume three, Tago is hospitalized with alcohol poisoning, saying she's quitting the industry entirely, which renews Michiko's determination to becoming a model.
Director/Producer. A somewhat mysterious character that shows interest in Michiko. He was also the one that introduces her to Ryo Tago.
According Chihiro Tamaki in an interview printed in the North American edition of volume one, the story came about because she had an editor who liked to look at models, but she thought that a story just about the fashion industry as a business would be boring: "So the first thing I did was to decide upon a girl as a protagonist who would have average, ordinary characteristics—nothing outstanding, like celebrities who are known for extremely good or bad characteristics. I developed the story of the heroine Michiko overcoming her inferiority complex about being tall and rising to become a top model." The "butterfly" in the title is intended both to be a metaphor for a growing girl and to represent a beautiful model, while "walkin'" came from the images of a model walking down a modeling runway and of a struggling Michiko walking instead of flying. Tamaki stated that her intent with the story is not just depicting Michiko "growing up and becoming independent", but also to highlight Michiko's romances.
Tamaki claimed that, as a result of doing research for the series, her favorite model became Ai Tominaga, and that she was flattered when Tominaga wrote, in an endorsement for the first volume of the Japanese edition, that there were things she had in common with Michiko. Tamaki cited as specific influences Ashita no Joe for her plots and Rumiko Takahashi's Urusei Yatsura for her characters.
Walkin' Butterfly was written and illustrated by Chihiro Tamaki. It was originally serialized by Kodansha in the shōjomanga magazineVanilla aimed at older teenage girls; after Vanilla ceased publication in 2003, Walkin' Butterfly was serialized by Kadokawa X Media by mobile phone as part of its Comics Walker service until the series concluded in 2007. Serial chapters were collected in four tankōbon volumes by Ohzora Publishing under the Ease Comics imprint. The manga is licensed in North America by Aurora Publishing, which marketed the series as a josei manga aimed at young adult women. The first three volumes were published in English between August 2007 and May 2008; volume four was originally scheduled for September 2008, but has been indefinitely delayed. Walkin' Butterfly is available in English on the Internet from the Netcomics publisher. It is also licensed in French by Asuka and in Italian by JPOP Edizioni.
The live-action drama, titled Walkin'☆Butterfly (ウォーキン☆バタフライ?, in katakana instead of rōmaji like the manga), was broadcast in 12 episodes on TV Tokyo starting on 11 July 2008, and running until 26 September. It starred Aoi Nakabeppu as Michiko Torayasu and Jun Toba as Kou Mihara. The opening theme was "Seiippai, Bokura no Uta" by ghostnote and the ending theme was "Ima Fuku Kaze" by Hi Lockation Markets. Some of the actors appeared in the theatrical movie Flying☆Rabbits playing the same characters as in the drama.
Reviewers have called Walkin' Butterfly an entertaining but not original series.Anime News Network compared the story to a josei manga version of a shōnen tournament series aimed at boys, saying "nothing here about the plot or the characters is particularly believable or novel. Instead, it is comfortably formulaic; the pleasure of Walkin' Butterfly lies not so much in the discovery of what happens next but rather in how what happens next happens." Mania.com described the series as "not particularly realistic," but called it "an interesting balance of comedy and poignancy." The character of Michiko was cited by more than one reviewer as a key appeal of the series.
Tamaki's art received mixed reviews, with several reviewers praising it, comparing the style to Moyoco Anno's and Yayoi Ogawa's, and others criticizing it as "standard" and sketchy. Reviewers criticized later volumes for allowing Michiko's mood swings to get tiresome, and for switching to a more "standard" storyline. The English edition was criticized as sometimes using awkward language and typography.
Walkin' Butterfly was voted the 2nd best new josei manga in English of 2007 by readers of About.com. The series was a finalist for YALSA's 2008 list of Great Graphic Novels for teens.
↑Carlson, Johanna Draper (14 January 2008). "Walkin’ Butterfly Book 1". Comics Worth Reading. Retrieved 24 January 2009. But the clothing designer has a good point: no matter whether Michiko meets the physical qualifications for the job or not, she’s not going to be good at anything until she knows and accepts herself.
↑Carlson, Johanna Draper (2 March 2008). "Walkin’ Butterfly Book 2". Comics Worth Reading. Retrieved 24 January 2009. Mihara, the fashion designer whose show Michiko crashed earlier, refuses to make compromises, even when it separates him from his family.
↑Carlson, Johanna Draper (2 March 2008). "Walkin’ Butterfly Book 2". Comics Worth Reading. Retrieved 24 January 2009. But my favorite character is the bitter, aged former model who’s trying to tutor Michiko. She’s drawn as skull-like and shadowed with hooded, angry eyes. She’s seen a lot, and it hasn’t been for the better. She’s tired but giving one more try to helping Michiko.
↑Carlson, Johanna Draper (30 June 2008). "Walkin’ Butterfly Book 3". Comics Worth Reading. Retrieved 24 January 2009. Seeing someone else quit gives Michiko new determination to pursue her dream, although she’s equally driven by escaping a nightmare, by getting a chance to redo a scene from her past in a better way.
↑Tamaki, Chihiro (August 2007). "Talkin' Butterfly: An Interview with Chihiro Tamaki". Walkin' Butterfly volume 1. Aurora Publishing. p. unnumbered. ISBN978-1-934496-00-8. Since the heroine is a fashion model, I thought of using the word "walking" in the title. Using a butterfly as a metaphor for a growing girl, the idea of a butterfly walking down the runway was one origin of the title. Another image I had was of a butterfly—which would normally fly—walking. Here, I meant that, the heroine Michiko, while in the prime of her youth, experiences repeated failures and struggles as she grows up, the way a chrysalis metamorphoses into a butterfly.
↑Dacey, Katherine (2 September 2007). "Weekly Recon, 9/6/07". Pop Culture Shock. Retrieved 11 January 2009. That said, Walkin’ Butterfly has the hallmarks of a great guilty pleasure, provided our uncouth heroine doesn’t lose too many edges in the process.
↑Brienza, Casey (28 June 2008). "Review: Walkin' Butterfly GN 1". Anime News Network. Retrieved 11 January 2009. Although technically a josei manga, the series begins as a textbook example of ... the shounen “tournament” formula, which calls for a protagonist who is then subjected to an indefinite number of struggles of increasingly difficulty ... For all intents and purposes, Michiko is a shounen manga hero in drag. Like Naruto, Hikaru, and Hanamichi, she is untried, sincere, and perhaps a bit stupid.
↑Eries, Sakura (2 July 2008). "Walkin' Butterfly Vol. #01". Mania.com. Retrieved 11 January 2009. In regards to Michiko making it into the world of modeling, the storyline isn't particularly realistic. If Japan is anything like the United States, modeling is a competitive enough field such that no one will bother tolerating an amateur with a temperament as difficult as Michiko's.
↑Brienza, Casey (28 June 2008). "Review: Walkin' Butterfly GN 1". Anime News Network. Retrieved 11 January 2009. Besides, it is not every day that one stumbles across a josei manga that will undoubtedly have both guys and gals alike cheering from the rafters for the protagonist.
↑Eries, Sakura (2 July 2008). "Walkin' Butterfly Vol. #01". Mania.com. Retrieved 11 January 2009. However, her rocky foray towards her goal with its fits and starts make her a character that readers can feel for and become interested in.
↑Dacey, Katherine (2 September 2007). "Weekly Recon, 9/6/07". Pop Culture Shock. Retrieved 11 January 2009. If you’re willing to overlook these minor details, however, Walkin’ Butterfly has much to offer the josei reader: a heroine who’s a believable mixture of public bravado and private anguish, a worthy love interest, a terrific villain, and a memorable cast of supporting players.
↑Carlson, Johanna Draper (14 January 2008). "Walkin’ Butterfly Book 1". Comics Worth Reading. Retrieved 24 January 2009. Tamaki’s art is sketchy, often resembling fashion drawings, appropriate for her setting.
↑ 31.031.1Brienza, Casey (28 June 2008). "Review: Walkin' Butterfly GN 1". Anime News Network. Retrieved 11 January 2009. Finally, it all blends seamlessly with a standard josei manga art style, akin to that of Moyoco Anno or Yayoi Ogawa, which tries to embody the genre's intended sassy, edgy spirit on the page. In this, as in everything else, the art is functional and skillfully executed but not especially exceptional. Outlines are sketchy; backgrounds and screentones are minimal. This brand of art serves the story, not the other way around.
↑Dacey, Katherine (2 September 2007). "Weekly Recon, 9/6/07". Pop Culture Shock. Retrieved 11 January 2009. The artwork is also a big plus. Chihiro Tamaki has an energetic, sketch-like style that reminded me of Yayoi Ogawa’s. Like Ogawa, Tamaki favors characters with huge, expressive eyes and mouths; Michiko might be a distant relation of Sumire Iwaya, the long-suffering salarywoman of Tramps Like Us.
↑Eries, Sakura (2 July 2008). "Walkin' Butterfly Vol. #01". Mania.com. Retrieved 11 January 2009. Though Tamaki has a fairly good sense of pacing, her drawing style is very rough. In one place, Ryo's black hair is darkened with scribble instead of being completely inked in.
↑Carlson, Johanna Draper (30 June 2008). "Walkin’ Butterfly Book 3". Comics Worth Reading. Retrieved 24 January 2009. I’m getting bored of reading about Michiko being depressed and giving up only to vow to try again. These mood swings are tiring, and they don’t seem to add up to actual forward progress. Her changes of heart are abrupt and not always believable.
↑Carlson, Johanna Draper (30 June 2008). "Walkin’ Butterfly Book 3". Comics Worth Reading. Retrieved 24 January 2009. After Michiko starts getting work, the story becomes much more familiar in structure and tone... Suddenly, she seems more like a typical manga heroine, cheery and optimistic. I miss her crazy edges, even if they gave me whiplash. I didn’t care for how they were inconsistently portrayed, but at least they made this book different.
↑Dacey, Katherine (2 September 2007). "Weekly Recon, 9/6/07". Pop Culture Shock. Retrieved 11 January 2009. A few folks may grumble about production values—e.g. the unattractive font used for voice-overs and interior monologues—but most readers will be pleased to see the care with which Walkin’ Butterfly was packaged, from the high-quality paper stock to the appealing omake.