Kasumi Vol. 1 (Del Rey)

kasumi-header.jpgThis collaboration between an American writer and a Japanese artist best known for boys’ comics hits all the right magic girl/high school romance notes.


202 pgs., B&W; $10.95

(W: Surt Lim; A: Hirofumi Sugimoto)

Kasumi is an interesting example of global manga, meaning a comic which adopts the conventions of Japanese manga but was created outside Japan and in a language other than Japanese. In the case of Kasumi, the story was written in English by the American Surt Lim while the art was created by the Japanese artist Hirofumi Sugimoto.  Their collaboration was achieved through the wonders of the internet, with the help of an online translator.

The cover to Kasumi by Hirofumi Sugimoto. Click for a larger image.Kasumi adheres so firmly to the magic girl/high school romance genre conventions of shojo manga that it could easily be mistaken for a translated series from Hakusensha or Kodansha. In the first volume, the sweet but apparently unremarkable Kasumi transfers to a prestigious high school and immediately runs afoul of the ruling clique of alpha girls, who call themselves the Ryuu-Sama Fan Club after the handsome male class president Ryuuki Hasegawa. On the bright side, Kasumi is befriended by another outsider, the geeky Yuuta Goodwin who is so obsessed by superheroes that everyone calls him "Otaku-Ken." She also feels a kinship with Maiko Koyanagi, a strange girl rumored to communicate with spirits and known to break into dance at odd moments. There are other unexplained happenings, including the regular appearance of mysterious lights, and Kasumi’s memory or hallucination of falling from a very tall tree yet remaining unhurt.

While being tormented by the mean girls, Kasumi accidentally discovers that she has a special power: by holding her breath she can make herself invisible. Being a fair-minded girl, she uses this power only to play tricks on people who deserve it, until she miscalculates and has to be rescued by Ryuuki, who has a special power of his own: he can walk through solid objects such as walls if he keeps his eyes closed. Volume 1 ends with a cliff-hanger which suggests that a romance may develop between Kasumi and Ryuuki.

The art as well as the story of Kasumi is absolutely in line with shojo manga conventions, which in itself is a remarkable achievement since Sugimoto is known primarily as a shonen artist. He has a particular feel for action scenes, and the invisibility effects are nicely done, but otherwise the art mainly fulfills the expectations of the genre. In fact, that’s pretty much the story with Kasumi vol. 1: both story and art are adequate and appropriate for shojo manga, but there’s nothing to make the initial volume stand out among the innumerable high school romances already on the market.  However, Lim has laid the groundwork for more interesting possibilities: perhaps Kasumi will find additional uses for her powers, or maybe more of the students will turn out to have special powers as well, leading the story in the direction of the X-Men.

Extras include a two-page guide to Japanese honorifics, a bonus comic and three character profiles. Kasumi is rated T (Teen) for ages 13+. Further information, including a preview, is available from http://kasumimanga.com/. | Sarah Boslaugh

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