Yumiko Kawahara continues her series of graphic short stories about living dolls -- actually, plants that look like beautiful, golden-curled little girls. Sometimes, the dolls grow up to be women. As in Volumes 1 and 2, this latest collection of stories are exquisitely drawn black-and-white fantasies about the dolls and their owners, and the emotional connections between the two -- but the overall tone of the stories is a little more macabre this time.
The first story is about a young man who finds himself becoming more responsive to light -- and drowsy at darkness -- and develops a sudden aversion to eating meat. When he goes in for a medical check-up, his doctor has an astonishing diagnosis: he is turning into a tree! “Patients with this illness are very few in number,” the doctor reports matter-of-factly, although he is familiar with other cases. He takes his patient off to his family home, which has been converted into a research center for this rare disease and introduces the young man to a tree in the yard that he claims used to be his father. The other patients at the research center are all old men who seem to be looking forward to their future life as trees and enjoy picking out their spots in the garden and discussing which species they’d most like to turn into. The young man believes at first that he’s the victim of some bizarre scam and is anxious to leave, until he discovers the dolls that are also kept at the doctor’s house and begins to think that it wouldn’t be so bad to stay awhile after all...
This is only the beginning of an entrancing, oddly whimsical tale that blurs the distinction between plants and animals in more ways than one. Of all the stories in this volume, it was the one I enjoyed most.
Other stories include:
A father buys a doll that looks just like his teenaged daughter as a little girl, and fusses obsessively over it the way he used to fuss over her (there are some creepy pedophilic overtones here).
A group of people, each too poor to afford one of the hideously expensive dolls on his or her own, pool their resources to purchase one together. There are strict rules about who gets to visit and care for the doll at what times, and how much contact the members of the group have with each other outside of their mutual doll-related meetings, but of course people wind up breaking the rules.
A little girl was abducted by a fortune-teller as a baby (the blurb on the back cover says “a woman” is kidnapped, but the child isn’t more than 9 years old), and is suffocatingly over-protected by her parents once she is returned to them. She speaks wistfully of the less confining life she had with the fortune-teller, tells fortunes herself and, since no one can tell her apart from her living doll, thinks that her parents wouldn’t notice if she ran away and left them with the doll to care for instead.
A hack writer buys a doll for his girlfriend, and finds himself taking care of it -- and telling it stories -- after she leaves him.
A rich woman’s boy-toy is desperate to have a doll of his own; when the lady refuses to buy one for him, he steals it.
All in all, it’s another wonderful and fascinating collection of stories for the fantasy reader.
The book concludes with a few charming single-page illustrations of dolls -- pin-ups for doll fanciers.