Manga: Kyoko Karasuma
Mangaka: Ouji Hiroi(Story) & Yusuke Kozaki(Art)
Publisher: Carlsen Manga(Germany)
Original Publisher: Gentosha
Published in: BIRZ
Price: 6,00€
Released so far: Volume 1-3
Release Schedule: Volume 4: January 2008
Additional Information: 1 coloured page, character sketches in volume 1, and extensive translation notes.

Kyoko Karasuma is a collaboration by the by the mangaka Ouji Hiroi, author of Sakura Taisen(licensed in Germany as Sakura Wars by Egmont) and is illustrated by Yusuke Kozaki, who did the character design for Speed Grapher and Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto. This is Yusuke Kozaki’s first attempt in a full-length manga. However, he’s not totally inexperienced as he also participated in ROBOT, whose fourth instalment has recently been picked up by Udon Entertainment. Five volumes have been released so far, but despite the fact that it’s been more than nine month since the release of volume 5 no set date for volume 6 has appeared on amazon.jp. However the German manga publisher Carlsen still lists it as ongoing and the usual interval between the releases were around a year, so no worries there. Now after the lengthy introductorily paragraph, let’s get right into it.

The first volume has a conventional start for a detective story: first thing we see is a dead body, followed by with the presentation of the Asakura Police department’s section for security and the main characters. Kyoko Karasuma, the main protagonist, is a 16-year old ‘genius’ detective. Also working in the same division/section is Ise, a graduate from university. He may take the academic path in the future, but for now he draws handouts and makes tea for their chef, Mitamura. To me, Mitamura immediately made a suspicious impression. He just didn’t seem to fit into the stereotypical image of a bureaucrat, his senile-ness did feel fake to me, but maybe I’m just feeling that way because I already read volume 2 and 3. Last, but not least, there’s Raymond Kumano, the warhorse of the troop, who also takes the role of Kyoko’s partner in arms. As you can see, it’s a rather colourful bunch.

Kyoko Karasuma takes place in the years sometime after 2050 and takes place in Tokyo’s pulsing metropolis. What perplexed me was that despite the fact that it’s set in the future, the visuals do not disclose that to us. The buildings, the cars, the weapons are all like they are in our present world. The only difference is that all Japanese has a so called Identification chip implanted in them. To me it actually had an opposite effect; it did not even feel modern, but gave me more of a nostalgic feeling. There might be other reasons for that, like the cultural difference in Europe and Japan, so I suppose I see it differently than other people. However I soon became to realise that the setting actually fits the manga quite nicely. You might want to call it unoriginal, but the theme that is being brought up in the manga is better addressable with a not too-futuristic setting.

In volume one, the story is mainly focussing on fighting and hunting occasional appearing abnormalities by Kyoko and her partners. The author uses old Japanese legends to give the abnormalities (oni and one ‘weredog’) a historical background and I was pleasantly surprised by the translation notes. They were really helpful and nicely explained some historical/religious aspects of Japan.
Volume one is fast-paced and action filled. The first story quickly finishes with the execution of one of the abnormalities and introduces the main theme in Kyoko Karasuma: the struggle between science and customs. How does the past adapt to modern times and how humans do react to abnormal situations? Ah, the clash of science and myth, superstition and things that cannot be yet explained by science.

Through the volume it is not only science that is an issue; Kyoko’s emotional state comes into play. A sixteen year old holding so many responsibilities hasn’t matured mentally. Not only is she angry with the politicians who cover up the existence of the abnormalities and seem to not care, but also she’s frustrated with confronting her weakest point: her past.

The overall art is fairly good. I liked the coloured page with its autumn colours and the modern cover design. The action scenes are nicely illustrated, considering that it’s his first attempt on a ‘full-length’ manga series and that he worked for the anime industry before. Still, the scenes sometimes lack flow and appear static; they remind me of an anime story board, where the animation will fill the gap. Missing just one or two panels make it seem stagnant and disjointed.

Positive notes are the many different perspectives he uses, which can also lead to confusion, if used too often. I personally liked the variety displayed; they made the reading more interesting. Furthermore some people might argue that there are too many blank backgrounds but I found them fitting to the fast and rough style that reflects the story.

What I particularly disliked the most in this first release was the shape Kyoko’s head occasionally took. It looked horribly wrong and not in proportion. As for the reason; I don’t know. All the other heads look fine and work perfectly with their bodies, except hers. It’s pretty apparent in the first three chapters; later on I didn’t notice any deformed heads anymore, but maybe I just didn’t look carefully enough.

Rating:
Story: 7/10 – A solid and good introduction to the plot; not very creative about the setting, but the main themes make it very interesting
Art: 7/10 – Solid art, far from perfect, but it fits the manga’s setting and story; would’ve been 8/10 if not for the deformed heads
Enjoyment: 8/10 – I loved the fights, but I’m also happy that the story is finally progressing, I’m eagerly awaiting volume two, as it seems major story progress will be made there.
Overall: 7/10

Comment on Carlsen’s release: I’m kind of getting tired writing something here…the release was good, I liked how they changed the cover, even though they erased that nice flower around the volume number. The lettering is nicely done and the editor at least didn’t make any obvious mistakes.