To boost circulation, the Gaijin Times, on orders from its owner Mr. Sanno, is about to convert to Japan's best-selling format—manga, or comic-book style. Freelance art columnist Rei Shimura (The Flower Master, 1999) is assigned to write up the historic and artistic significance of manga for the next issue, and Rika, the Showa College student interning at the paper, is to help with her research. Scooping up her boyfriend Takeo and a slew of comics, Rei is impressed with the Showa Story interpretation of Mars Girl, which reworks the mainstream comic heroine into a superheroine of the next century who goes back in time to the 1930s to solve prewar Japanese problems. Rei decides to interview Mars Girl artist Kunio Takahashi, but he proves elusive, and other members of his art circle are equally hard to pin down. His neighbor Nicky is soon found floating in the river dolled up as Mars Girl, a symbol sketched on his brow perhaps indicating a Yakuza connection. Still determined to interview Kunio, Rei chats up the raunchy male dancers at the Show a Boy club, where Nicky worked; collides with the family of printers who produce the Mars Girl comics; swims with The Fish, who insists Nicky had no gang connections; and dons a Mars Girl costume herself to chase after suspects at a comic-book convention.
A sly, humorous look at Japan's burgeoning anime (comics) phenomenon, with friendly swipes at Japan's xenophobic reactions to outsiders. If the plot is not quite as attractively laid out as those platters of sushi, a few hours of the company of Rei-san are well worth your time.