The first time I saw the cover of Miss T’s Sexcapades in Japan, I thought it might be another typical shojo manga. To be sure, it has plenty about young ladies and their youthful misadventures, but once I took a serious look inside, I discovered so much more than I had imagined. In addition to the above, it is also (and excuse me for spoiling the surprise) a bold and visually explicit exploration of a young woman’s sexual journey. In other words, this is no ordinary comic book!
Books from Taiwan invited RiceDumpling, the creator of Miss T’s Sexcapades in Japan, to have a chat about the development of the book. On the morning that I conducted this phone interview with RiceDumpling, I discovered her voice was as full of energy and enthusiasm as her comics, and the conversation got off to a roaring start.
When the Girl Next Door Meets Prince Charming(s): Miss T and Her Bevy of Beaus
Miss T from the comics gives readers the same refreshing feeling as RiceDumpling herself. She defies the shy and gentle stereotype of Asian women, instead reminding me of that favorite gal-pal many of us have: easy-going, clear about what she wants, unafraid to go out and get it. If she sometimes comes across as rash, it’s always in an endearing way. “If there really was a Miss T in this world, she wouldn’t be all that strange,” is how RiceDumpling describes her. RiceDumpling intended Miss T’s full-contact, no-harm-no-foul approach to life to convey the idea that life is a game – even if you fall down, you can always get up and try again. Miss T’s unflappable attitude in even the most unfortunate and awkward of circumstances helps readers to adopt a more tolerant and relaxed attitude to the book’s often racy content.
And what about Miss T’s various hookups? While most are as dashing and well-heeled as the male love interests in a TV drama, none of them can further Miss T’s mission to maximize pleasure in the sack. “I wanted to work in that gray area between love and hate. That’s what gives the story tension.” RiceDumpling notes that there are a range of reactions to the male characters in the story, according to each reader’s preferences and tastes. In this way, the online fan discussions of the perceived flaws and virtues of these characters has helped to expand the the range of issues addressed in the comics.
Authentic, Bold, and Uproariously Sexy: An Original and Unlikely Combination
In addition to its easy-going narrative style and well-defined cast of characters, one aspect of Miss T’s Sexcapades in Japan that continually intrigues readers is its bold choice of subject matter: online hookups. It’s not just RiceDumpling’s frank approach to writing about one night stands, it’s the fact that she chose to not to sensationalize them, instead writing about sexual exploration as a normal part of adolescence and young adulthood. When asked how she brought realism and humor to hookup culture, a still-controversial topic often associated with content warnings, she responded, “Even with the typical high-school drama there are two sides to the coin: there’s the puppy love and there’s the bullying. The writer can always choose to focus on what’s wonderful about a topic, or they can choose to focus on the darker side of things.” In order to deal with society’s often negative reactions to explicit portrayals of sex, RiceDumpling chose to push in the opposite direction, innovating a new approach that emphasized humor and compelling narrative.
As fresh and outstanding as her work is, RiceDumpling admits that at first she only shared it with close friends. Later she published the first three chapters online, and only after a flood of enthusiastic responses was she finally approached by a publisher. Now her comics is not only selling well in Taiwan, but also in the country where the story is set – Japan!
When a Comic Book Crosses the Line, or The Many Uses of Miss T’s Sexcapades in Japan
A devoted reader of online forums, RiceDumpling has continued to seek out reader feedback even after the publication of her book. To RiceDumpling’s surprise, and through no intention of her own, Miss T’s Sexcapades in Japan has become a sort of aphrodisiac for many couples. One reader claimed that she and her boyfriend had averaged one love-making session per chapter. A complete read-through took the couple two whole days! Readers in the early stages of a romance shared the graphic novel with their partners, and found that it helped them take their relationships to the next level. “I never imagined the book would become an intimacy aid!” RiceDumpling joked.
In addition to improving relationships, RiceDumpling feels that the book also serves a valuable purpose by opening up discussion on difficult subjects. The entire story revolves around sex and hookups, two topics still considered sensitive if not downright controversial in Taiwan. Readers often post about their reading experiences as they progress through the book, creating the opportunity to exchange viewpoints with others. Since the sex comes packaged in a humorous narrative, it helps dispel the awkwardness of broaching a taboo topic. You might even say the book is a conversational lubricant!
Go on an Adventure with Miss T and Discover the Joy of Being a Young Woman
When asked what she hoped Miss T’s journey would mean to readers, RiceDumpling referrenced an online discussion the topic of the benefits of being a young woman. The vast majority of participants were of the opinion there were no benefits – the posters didn’t like being women. Reflecting on her own experiences growing up – dealing with negative stereotypes, the pain of menstruation – RiceDumpling found she was sympathetic to their complaints.
“Reading those comments I found I wanted to draw a story about the joys of being a young woman,” RiceDumpling said. She hoped her readers, in addition to enjoying the story, would feel inspired to go on their own adventures, just like Miss T., RiceDumpling also hoped that by reading the comics, overseas readers can gain a better understanding of Taiwan and the young women who live here.