Review: Fruit Machine Part 1 / Created by: Mimi (aka Evelyn Hewett) / Release date: Out Now
Art student Jason Fellows is confident, egotistical and about to fall completely in love with Sheridan Chapman. Originally published as a webcomic, this is one title that’s light on plot but positively oozes style, boasting massively expressive character designs with equally flamboyant wardrobes.
I am NOT Fruit Machine’s target audience, but this in no way detracts from the fact that I know talent when I see it. Highly influenced by Ai Yazawa, Mimi has created an intimate college world in which a popular boy can forget a long string of girlfriends and fall head-over-heels in love with the new boy in class. There’s no angst or drama here, no soul-searching or discrimination yet, so there is no way to interpret Fruit Machine as anything other than a whimsical homage to some of the classic tropes from Shojo and Yaoi, but to criticise these elements would be missing the point. Male on male relationships exist in manga predominantly as a way for young women to read about and explore relationships in a non-threatening manner, and that’s exactly what Fruit Machine is. There’s nothing sordid here, no angst raining on anybody’s parade, just an exuberant enthusiasm for the characters and some heavily stylised art. The use of colour is reserved but energetic; the use of screen-tones garish but totally in keeping with the concept and generally the whole book is remarkably polished.
My only complaints would be that the characters tend to dominate each page, often at the expense of background, and I think that Mimi would benefit in general from pulling the camera back a little. Not a lot happens in Part 1 of Fruit Machine but hopefully in time the plot will develop and as Mimi gets to know her characters a little better their exploits will become more ambitious.
Overall Fruit Machine is a classy book, populated by effortlessly cool characters that live in a world of optimism and light. Teenage girls are going to get a kick out of Fruit Machine, and do you know who used to spend a LOT of money in Travelling Man on a Saturday afternoons when I worked there? Teenage girls! Comics in the US and UK are no longer the sole dominion of an ageing population of men and Fruit Machine is leading the charge to bring comics to a new generation of readers.