Autobiographies can often be viewed as an outlet in which an individual can more appropriately showcase themselves to the world, providing selective bits of one’s own life that they feel best represent who they truly are. Of course, like all forms of autobiographical and biographical works, personal interpretation of such life events on part of the author can also be misconstrued for the sake of achieving a heightened sense of dramatic effect, in turn leaning towards exaggerating the truth of a supposedly authentic account of one’s life. Japanese female manga artist Moyoco Anno’s autobiographical work Insufficient Direction is one such example of excessive dramatization, but given the focus and nature of Moyoco’s outrageous relationship with real life husband, otaku, and famous animation director Hideaki Anno, it all seems alluringly fitting.
Exploring the daily life episodes from the perspective of Moyoco, Insufficient Direction is affixed on bringing about a comical reflection upon the Otaku-laden sphere of Moyoco and Hideaki’s interactions with one another. The overarching theme present throughout the manga is Moyoco essentially wanting to understand and cooperate with Hideaki’s rather nerdish mannerisms, in turn representing the esteemed position of being an otaku wife that can equally rival that of Hideaki’s own quirky behavior. This prevalent theme of Moyoco wanting to complement her husband’s uncanny personality in almost every fashion is what makes the episodic construct of the manga much more appealing, having us explore the rather kiddish nature of both Moyoco and Hideaki as they become more accustomed to the daily doings of the married lifestyle. Life events such as looking at houses, taking care for one another when sick, and bringing a pet cat into the family, is just a few of the more ordinary things that Moyoco explores with a comedic taste that relies on the exaggerated to pinpoint the hilarity in her life.
Considering the rather seclusive nature of her counterpart Hideaki though, the manga offers a rather insightful exploration of his persona, even if it is at times, like practically everything within the manga, overly sensational. With the narrative being viewed primarily from the perspective of Moyoco, it is interesting to see how she interprets the comedic actions of Hideaki, a man who is envisioned here as an individual who embodies the very essence of otaku-ism, jumping fervently across the manga panels through a bizarre mix of Kamen Rider, Ultraman, Gundam, and train eccentricities, which is only touching the surface here. There is a lot of inside material that only one familiar with Japanese culture will ultimately ‘get’, which is evidenced by the rather substantial annotations at the end of the manga that is needed to help explain every intricacy that the reader may have missed.
This approach places the manga in a rather convoluted state of often being considered too much information for the average ‘lacking in knowledge of Japanese culture’ Western reader, with a majority of the comical setups and anime references being rather inaccessible to such a reader in the most direct way. There is an assumption throughout the manga that is directly correlated upon knowledge of the reader, with Moyoco relying on the supposed well versed nature of the reader in regards to Japanese culture, and more specifically, that of otaku and pop culture as well. This is where the hit-or-miss structure offered through the narrative may confound, let alone disappoint, some readers expecting to find a simple tale of Moyoco and Hideaki’s peculiar relationship. While the narrative is simplistic in the sense that it explores everyday events in the most unordinary ways, it overall leans heavily upon obscure references to do so.
One of the obvious main draws of such a work is that it allows us to see the interactions – no matter how idiosyncratic they are presented – between Moyoco and Hideaki in a humorous light, viewing these two significant individuals within the anime and manga industry as two down-to-earth individuals finding their way through the complexities of marriage and life in general. This in itself makes Insufficient Direction a compelling albeit difficult read for even the most learned reader, but it still retains a charming resonance of two rather famous people experiencing the most routinely occurrences of everyday life in the most unexpected of ways.