No matter how beautiful it is, a rabbit is still just a chunk of meat once you skin it.
An award-winning josei
manga by Kyoko Okazaki, Helter Skelter
tells the story of Ririko, the most gorgeous woman in the entertainment industry. She's hugely popular and successful, but behind her winning smile lies an ugly secret: her beauty is entirely artificial, being the result of dangerous extensive full-body plastic surgery
, which requires heavy medication and frequent touch-up surgery to maintain. Even as she's at the top of her profession, Ririko's mental and physical health quickly disintegrate as the strain of her possessive manager
, her unsatisfying relationships
, a detective investigating the shady plastic surgery clinic
she attends, and the ticking clock
counting down to her becoming a has-been all drive her closer to the edge.Helter Skelter
was adapted into a live-action film
in 2012, starring the famous actress Erika Sawajiri.
This manga provides examples of:
- A Threesome Is Hot: Very subverted when Ririko shows up at Michiko's apartment and has sex with Michiko's boyfriend while she watches. Michiko and the boyfriend are both mortified afterwards. Later on, Ririko manipulates and coerces them into a long-term three-way relationship.
- Arranged Marriage: Ririko's boyfriend (a corporate heir) dumps her for a purely political marriage to another girl.
- Author Existence Failure: Nearly. Okazaki was hit by a drunk driver in 1996, leaving the manga finished but unpolished until her former assistant, Moyoco Anno, readied it for a tankobon release with guidance from Okazaki.
- Back-Alley Doctor: The plastic surgery clinic Ririko attends is connected to illegal organ dealing, forced abortions, and other shady stuff.
- Bad Boss: Ririko is awful to work for.
- Beautiful All Along: In a really twisted way. It turns out that pre-fame Ririko was ugly, except she had nigh-perfect bone structure. All they had to do was carve away all the flesh obscuring it.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Ririko tears this trope to shreds.
- Becoming the Mask: Michiko starts out hating Ririko and only sticks with the job because she needs the money. It's not long before she's completely wrapped around Ririko's little finger and even maims another beautiful woman at Ririko's behest.
- Beleaguered Assistant: Poor Michiko.
- Bile Fascination: In-universe, this is why Ririko has a second wave of fame at the end of the comic — everyone loves watching a former star fall apart, literally.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Ririko's beauty is entirely skin-deep.
- Body Horror: The fate of Ririko and all the other women who went to that shady plastic surgery clinic.
- Casting Couch: Ririko is shown sleeping her way into jobs.
- Come to Gawk: Ririko's final fate: starring in a freak show in Mexico.
- Contractual Purity: Possibly Ririko; she even exploits it by going behind her manager's back and leaking news that she's dating a guy to the tabloids in order to whip up scandal.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Ririko got her start as a prostitute, before getting discovered by "Mom."
- Depraved Bisexual: Possibly Ririko. Though she might have just been using Michiko for the power trip.
- Driven to Suicide: Ayako and several other nameless victims of the plastic surgery clinic that Ririko frequents.
- Ririko herself considers suicide at the end, but instead stages her own disappearance.
- Eyepatch After Time Skip: Ririko has one at the end, due to the eyeball she left behind.
- Face Death with Dignity: Before she commits suicide, Ririko has Kin-chan bust out his best make-up skills to cover up all the damage from her surgeries. Subverted when it turns out she didn't die.
- Fairest of Them All: Ririko even semi-jokingly says the phrase to her mirror at one point.
- Fairy Tale Motifs: When Ririko is blowing off her old friends: "I don't need seven dwarves anymore. What I want is my one and only prince."
- Later the manga compares the breakdown of old plastic surgery to Cinderella's gown and carriage disintegrating when the clock strikes midnight.
- When Kozue finds out about Ririko's surgeries, she compares her to the wicked queen from Snow White.
- Fan Disservice: There's a lot of intentionally disturbing and nauseating nudity in this series.
- Financial Abuse: "Mom" told Ririko that a percentage of her income was going to her family. Instead it was going to pay for all those surgeries.
- Foil: Unlike Ririko, Kozue is a natural beauty, and she doesn't crave the limelight, instead looking forward to the day when she falls into obscurity.
- Girl Friday: Asada's assistant.
- Gonk: Chikako, Ririko's little sister.
- Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight: Ririko grows to loathe her acting and modeling gigs, but she can't bring herself to stop.
- Hero Antagonist: The detective, Asada.
- History Repeats: In the epilogue, Asada meets with Ririko's ugly-duckling sister, who now looks a lot like post-surgery Ririko.
- If It Bleeds, It Leads: When Michiko leaks the documents about Ririko's surgery, her past as an escort, and the dirty dealings of the clinic, it becomes a media frenzy.
- Inelegant Blubbering: Ririko looks like a trainwreck whenever she cries, probably because she is a trainwreck on the inside.
- I Was Quite a Looker: Mom used to be a model.
- Left Hanging: The ending sets up a sequel that never materialized, because of the author's car accident.
- Lonely at the Top: Fame and beauty haven't made Ririko many friends.
- Manipulative Bastard: Ririko, especially towards Michiko and her boyfriend.
- Mood-Swinger: Ririko, partly due to all the medication she's on.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: A possible attempt when somebody throws acid in the face of Ririko's ex-boyfriend's new fiancée.
- Never Found the Body: In the end, Ririko mysteriously disappears, leaving behind a huge pool of blood and a single eyeball.
- Not So Different: Ririko and Asada.
- Off-Screen Breakup: When Ririko's boyfriend dumps her, she finds out by reading it in the paper.
- Rape by Proxy: Ririko coerces Michiko and her boyfriend into having sex while she watches them. Considering how toxic their relationship with her is and how unhappy they were during the act, it comes across as pretty rapey.
- Replacement Goldfish: For Mom, Ririko is a replacement for her younger self.
- The Rival: Kozue, a fresh-faced naturally beautiful 15-year-old whose existence reminds Ririko that her career's clock is ticking.
- Shower of Angst: Michiko takes one after Ririko pressures her into performing oral sex.
- Status Quo Is God: Played for tragedy: Five years on, Kozue is still a model despite not liking the work much, and Michiko and her boyfriend are still with Ririko.
- The Svengali: Ririko's manager, whom she calls "Mom," is manipulative and possessive, but claims to be working in Ririko's best interests.
- Taking You with Me: Ririko's attitude toward her fellow humans. "I want to have fun completely ruining other people... Because I'm being completely ruined by other people, too."
- Through the Eyes of Madness: In Chapter 8, when Ririko takes a bunch of shady medication.
- Title Drop: The song Helter Skelter plays in the closing pages of the manga, during Ririko's show.
- Uncanny Valley: In-universe, Asada describes Ririko as looking pretty at first glance, but creepy on closer inspection. Except that's what he likes about her.
- Villain Protagonist: Guess who.
- White-Dwarf Starlet: Ririko will do anything to avoid this fate.
- Worst News Judgment Ever: A rich girl getting acid thrown in her face gets more attention than a plane crash that killed 159 people.
- Yangire: Ririko.