Drip Drip probably has one of the strongest starts to a self-contained single-volume story that I have read in quite some time. Paru Itagaki‘s works are usually far from subtle, but they make up for that with interesting misdirections and just the right amount of comedy. The volume opens up with a very visceral and uncomfortable bloodbath that’s genuinely off-putting, but that’s just Itagaki getting us into the mindset of how our main character is normally viewed by others. Once the manga shifts to her perspective, and we get an understanding of what exactly her daily life is like, I was 100% strapped into this tragic story.
I do think a lot of this is carried by Drip Drip‘s art, which feels almost childlike in its simplicity and designs. There are a lot of round and smooth surfaces where everyone looks kind of soft and droopy, but that cartoony aesthetic does allow the characters to be expressive in a very unique way. There are thankfully moments of levity in here, and a harsher or more detailed art style would’ve ended up working against the manga’s intentions rather than helping it. That said, the art still allows for some incredibly striking and mature imagery. There’s almost an evocative, seductive feel to Drip Drip, with the copious amounts of blood on display accentuated with minimal shading so that the blackness of the blood on paper stands out more. I wouldn’t recommend this series for anybody that is opposed to nudity or squeamish around blood, because while I don’t think the manga ever feels exploitative with its imagery, I can understand it not being for everybody.
Similar to BEASTARS, Drip Drip‘s themes tie into ideas of sexual liberation and the imperfections of society. However, unlike BEASTARS which tried to highlight society from a variety of different perspectives, Drip Drip tightens that focus by showing things from a warped and almost unreliable narrator. Mako is a woman who has a good head on her shoulders and was raised in an environment where her body has arguably changed beyond repair. Itagaki keeps it vague as to whether or not this is a physical or psychological condition (or maybe a mixture of both), but the overall implications of her nosebleeds and their triggers are extremely fascinating.
Mako has spent most of her life being reminded of the filthiness of society, but at the same time, she feels singled out and stuck. What happens when you want to experience the touch of another human being but can’t because of being conditioned into thinking that everything is dirty and corrupt at its core? What exactly constitutes being dirty and what exactly does it mean to be clean? These are all things that Drip Drip juggles with, and you want nothing more than for Mako to be able to find some solution to her predicament. You can see how unhinged living like this for over 20 years of her life has made her, but that’s all the more reason why you want her to find someone or something that she can embrace without trepidation.
However, maybe the problem isn’t that society and people are dirty by nature. Maybe the issue is that deep down Mako is afraid. At a certain point, the manga does begin to explicitly explain its ideas instead of showing them, which brings us back to my point about Itagaki’s lack of subtlety. It almost felt like Itagaki was trying to quickly wrap up the story after a certain point despite the story having extremely thoughtful pacing beforehand. That said, Mako’s arc is still concluded in a way that left me mostly satisfied…until I realized there’s about one-third of the manga volume left.
Without giving away too much, the manga shifts perspective to somebody far more shallow and less interesting compared to Mako. You could argue that the character themselves does play into the larger theme of dirty deceit and the value of sex, but I think the simplicity of the character hurts the story more than it helps it, even if that is the overall point. There are hints of a potential character arc here that I could easily see tying into Mako’s, but the remaining page count is nowhere near enough to explore that in a satisfying manner. Mako suddenly becomes relegated to a background character until the very final pages of the volume, and the book’s sense of pacing gets progressively worse to the point where I’m not sure how much time passes between that shift and the very end. It’s a shame, because I feel like whatever Itagaki was going for with the perspective shift could have worked if it was given more space to breathe. But at its current state, it just feels like a last-minute add-on to fill up the rest of the volume after the main story ended at its intended stopping point.
This assumption is made funnier when you realize that the volume squeezed in a quick one-shot about a Japanese Santa Claus spending the night with an escort. No, I am not kidding about that, but trust me, the story is more heartfelt than it sounds, and the overall message at the end is easier to digest. But similar to the main story, it does have a bit of a muddled execution due to its brevity.
Overall, Drip Drip is a story with an incredibly interesting premise that introduces a very complicated and depressing subject matter in a very unique way. The first two-thirds of the book are incredibly well-paced with a sense of style that effectively balances tragedy with levity. In a lot of ways, I could recommend the volume off of that alone. However, when the volume finally does end, it’s hard not to feel like it was bleeding out on its way to its climax and collapsed along the way.