Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kasumi, vol. 1

Story by Surt Lim and Art by Hirofumi Sugimoto
Released by Del Rey

Slugline: Finally, a superhero shoujo

Kasumi has to move another new school, following her botanist father around, but before she goes to her first day at a new school she is surrounded by mysterious lights while in the forest. Kasumi has her first day at a new school come off just like any other shoujo, hot yet distant guy, girls who want him that are jealous, otaku pal and a challenge. But in the course of handling the challenge Kasumi discovers things have changed, and she turns invisible whenever she holds her breath along with other undefined abilities, and the story starts to take a more scenic route through shoujoland.

Though from the basic description (especially on the back) Kasumi would seem to be a fairly run of mill shoujo with some odd bits. New transfer student, dead parent, aloof boy all that is right out of the shoujo rulebook. Even the invisible girl has been done before in manga, in the title Translucent (which has been reviewed here.) But despite appearing derivative, it is a melding of two very disparate genres that we don't normally see together. The first is the standard shoujo that we have seen hundreds of times before but here it is coupled with American superhero stories, like the X-Men, where a character discovers that they have a supernormal ability. Translucent was a slice of life title, where was taken as a matter of fact. Here it is an ability unknown to the rest of the world and this ability gives reason for other characters' strange behaviors. Sure, this is liable to be explained in terms of Japanese mysticism rather than mutation or a radioactive exposure, but the title itself wears its superhero influences proudly. The title's requisite otaku character is a Superman (analogue) fanboy rather than being a fan of Gundam or Ultraman (which makes me wish in a way that CMX had done this, because then they wouldn't have had to have a Superman analogue, they could have used the real thing.) Merely trying something different immediately puts this title ahead of most. It also helps that the art is such a good match with the story, open lines with a light touch and detailed work so that the unusual abilities are made more real because their effect are so clearly shown. The only problem of the volume is that it feels light. I am not sure why, it is a standard length but reading it almost seems like it is a chapter short. It ended at a good point, but it feels like we needed more time with Kasumi exploring her abilities before bringing the other characters back in. Still it is a very good beginning in a story bringing Eastern and Western comic traditions together.

Kasumi, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

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