Manga: Kyoko Karasuma
Mangaka: Ouji Hiroi(Story) & Yusuke Kozaki(Art)
Publisher: Carlsen(Germany)
Original Publisher: Gentosha
Published in: BIRZ
Price: 6,00€
Released so far: Volume 1-4
Release Schedule: Volume 5: September 2008
Additional Information: 1 colored page and translation notes at the back

The review of the third volume took much longer than I expected with some real life stuff kicking in and all. With this, I only have volume 4 to review and then I’ve caught up with the German releases, until September.

The volume 1 cover was in red and volume two in blue, so it’s time for another primary color: green. This cover adorns a Kyoko in a slightly submissive pose displaying a weird oni tattoo or drawing on her back, maybe to represent a stigma of her past; if she actually has one, we shall see. As usual the city landscape fills the background and a modern font is used for the actual title (on the German cover).

This release also includes another colored page. This time the chief of the homicide division, Kozo Mitamura himself, gets the spotlight. He’s wearing an elegant brown coat and holding his two jitte in a defensive manner, yet his eyes reflecting his readiness to strike immediately if necessary. Following that, there’s a brief overview of the characters, completed by a quick summary of what happened so far.

Volume 2 ended on a cliff-hanger right before Kyoko and Uchida were going to fight it out for the third time. Expecting a furious battle right after starting the first chapter I was surprised to see that not happen. We are not shown the destined battle place. Instead the first pages focus on the chief of the oni forcing his way through a police-control, before it shifts to Kyoko and Uchida again. We don’t get to see the two battling each other yet, but as we know, they’re only postponing the inevitable. Similar to last time, Uchida uses his superiority in power to provoke Kyoko and tries to convince her that she is an …oni. It seems he has a different agenda: he wants to create a master race with her to rule the world.

Parallel to his insane monologue, Raymond and Miki Sugiura, an ex-member of the British SAS, are still fighting the oni that runs amok in the streets of Tokyo. They can’t seem to find a way to kill this monster though. The two scenes pick up pace, climaxing with the monster being killed by bazooka and Kyoko capitalizing on Uchida’s carelessness, putting a bullet in his abdomen. The chapter then finishes with a reference to a Japanese children’s tune, the Toryanse, which I found really interesting, especially the idea behind it. I love historical and cultural references even if it’s solely about a children’s tune.

The consequence of the monster appearing in public and the use of bazooka should be easy to guess. Now the whole public now knows about the existence of the oni and the officials are confronted with a situation they haven’t prepared for. They are unsure how they should react to the new threat. Some of them want to continue like before and do not see the need to ‘militarize’ the police to defend the citizens against the oni. I don’t know if the Japanese have a similar article in their constitutional law that doesn’t allow the military to act within the state like Germany has, but it might explain why they don’t try to use their military forces to get rid of the oni.

In the end the police decides to form a special task force to deal with the oni under the leadership of Mr. Mitamura, while Ms. Sugiura will be their adviser and consultant. At the meeting Kyoko and Miki meet for the first time. Ms. Sugiura makes a sharp observation, stating that Kyoko looks mentally tired and in fear of the coming fight, starting off a cat fight. It seems the shocking facts Uchida confronted her with did do some damage.

The volume doesn’t start another ‘long arc’ but still possesses the episodic structure, dealing with various character backgrounds: what happened to Kyoko in the past, the building of the new police force, how things are connected to Mitamura, and why Raymond hates the oni so much. These and more questions are at least partly addressed and answered, explaining many things and building up to a probably more action and fighting-filled fourth volume.

Now to the art; the art is better than in volume 1, however I could spot a few deformed heads again. Those glitches are not too numerous otherwise it would’ve reflected on the art rating. I really like the variance of paneling, the different use of perspectives and the range of angles he shows the characters in. I rarely encountered such rich variance before; Blade of the Immortal perhaps. Maybe that is due to the fact that Yusuke Kozaki usually works with anime and character design and has to use them frequently, but I don’t have any other manga by a character designer to compare it to.

Rating:
Story: 8/10 – Except the abruptly ending first fight, the story reveals interesting new background information about all the characters and slowly the chess pieces gather.
Art: 8/10 – Few deformed looking heads, but the art generally improved.
Enjoyment: 8/10 – Best volume so far, after the action-heavy first volumes I was eager to know more about the background of Kyoko.
Overall: 8/10

Comment on Carlsen’s release: This time I actually have a comment! Despite the very good editing and lettering I have to admit I found the translation stumbling for the first time. It just didn’t support the images and made me wonder occasionally about the quality.

On a very important side note I just confirmed that the pages of Kyoko Karasuma smell differently than Carlsen’s other releases…I do not know why, maybe I should ask them. They smell more comic-like; a bit nostalgic, like the old Asterix comics I used to read when I was a child.