What do this this high school boy, this pregnant woman, this ceramicist with excessively long hair and, this frigid office lady have in common? What made all these people come to this place, the Yamamoto ear cleaning shop owned by Shizue?
Sexual desire, maternal love, a broken marriage or hidden memories, each character comes with his own problems to be mended by the young Shizue.
Yamamato Mimikaki-ten is an anthology of short stories made by Yaro Abe all linked by the theme of ear cleaning. Unbeknownst to us, the practice of Mimi kaki or mimi souji 耳掃除 is quite common in Japan and represents way more than
simply hygiene, as we are used to do it, many consider the act a pleas-urable, comforting experience that embodies love and trust. Many Japanese grew up having their ears cleaned by their mothers, and associate it with pleasant feelings of maternal closeness. It isn’t surprising then how it can represent deep feelings of love and closeness.
In specialized salon, it is done by resting on the lap of a beautiful girl and getting your ear cleaned out thanks to a mimikaki, a long, pointy tool with a curved end to scrap the excess ear wax, scrubbing and poking into your ear and then blowing softly into it. It is such a sensual and intimate experience that-some even go as far as to give special services to their client. These most Japanese ear-cleaning parlors cater more to men but some female oriented ones have also been appearing.
Mimikaki doesn’t embarrass itself from having complex characters, they are from all age and social situation, each with a singular trait, expressing themselves with all their awkwardness. Their simplicity is exactly what was needed to make them sweet and endearing from the get go and get attached to them, and even when being slightly delved upon we feel a real connection with what it has to tell us.
"When the bamboo stick touched the inside of my ear, it was as if the edge of a well filed nail came to tickle in the midst of two fingers. I shivered while exhilarating goosebumps came across my whole body"
Mimikaki’s core is also a deep eroticism, one that is never vulgar but delicate and organic. Searching for a particular ecstasy, these people wander around the streets in search of someone able to satiate their desires. Thankfully, the rousing and sensual Shizue is there for them. Its head rested on the lap of Shizue, the client abandons itself to this young woman. One ear and then the other. Gentle yet meticulous gestures. Her tight breath flowing gently into the now smooth ear canal as a rejuvenating wind. With her high dexterity she manages to procure all her clients out of body sensations, often or-gasmic in nature, expressed by suprasensory illusions and allow them to take a new turn in their life. An ode to the body sensation and strong bodily sensitivity.
Behind its apparent simplicity and clumsy drawings, it reveals itself to be a really unique and precisely crafted work. Sometimes reduced to a few lines on a white background, its essence is very minimalisitic. Yaro Abe draws playfully with the representation of hands and the internal ear and his composition al-lows us to wander through the pages at a peaceful rhythm.
Mimikaki marks the first work in the career of Yaro Abe, the first chapter was written when he was 41 years old in 2004 and the last one dates from 2010. It is explained by the fact that it was cancelled after a few chapters, Yaro Abe instead created Shinya Shokudou and released some other mimikaki chapters in this timeframe. I believe starting writing comics this late and with no background in it allowed him to bring a certain mature sensibility and develop a unique, out of the norm style that fits completely the atmosphere of the manga.