In this, the first of hopefully many articles, I’ll be covering the known [and surprisingly less known] works of some of my favorite Mangaka – and maybe introduce you the reader to more of their works. And starting this off I thought id go with one of my favorite [and yet most mysterious] artist.
Kaoru Mori, like many Mangaka, is loathe to reveal herself publicly [in fact the only image I could find of her [other than from fellow mangaka Morihito KaneHira’s “manga diary” article, where he gets to meet her [and promptly goes to mush – see below] was an official artwork from Kaoru herself [see above]
Born in Tokyo in September 1978, At an early age she had developed an absolute love of maids and both English culture and the Asian/ Persian silk road [more on that one later…]. Later on she, like many mangaka, cut her teeth in the world of dojinshi as a member of doujinshi circle “Lady Maid”, working under the pen name of Fumio Agata.
However her big break came in January 2002 when Enterbrain’s Comic Beam magazine picked up Kaoru Mori to create her first series:
2002 – 2006 : Victorian romance Emma.
Regular readers of this blog will need no introductions to this, the series that brought Kaoru Mori’s name into the spotlight of mainstream fandom both in Japan and the west. This tale of a love that crossed the social classes, and the many struggles they faced to cross them, stands out as an outstanding professional debut [with many Mangaka having to need time and many other serials to meet the same level of popularity that Mori would make with this series]. For much of her early days with this work she herself conducted research into the Victorian era, while in later volumes she received help from historical consultant, Rico Murakami, who would later go on to consult on the later Animated adaptation.
Originally a creation from her days working with the doujinshi circle “Lady Maid”, Shirley actually pre-dates Emma, despite the publication date.
The first half of the book follows our heroine, Shirley Madison, as she becomes the new maid [despite being only 13] of tavern owner Cranry Bennet and the slice of life adventures that take place.
The the last two chapters of the book are taken up however by 2 separate stand alone stories – one “An afternoon with Nelly and me” follows the relationship between Nelly, a young maid and “little sir” the lonely son of Nelly’s Employer, and their relationship[NOT THAT KIND! – sheesh, readers today…..]
The second story, “Mary Banks” follows our heroine, a long-suffering maid of James Bulletin, an elderly lord with an altogether prankster nature, and their love/hate relationship – despite Bulletins passion for pranks.
Its easy to tell that Shirley is an earlier work of Kaoru Mori’s, with the familiar attention to detail and artistic style, while still in its early days, is still none the less recognizable.
This is an oddity as this is not entirely her own work [she was only responsible for the artwork, while the story was written by Satoshi Fukushima ] and her only story, to date, to take place in contemporary Japan. The story follows two high-school students – Momo Satou, a carefree student who joins the schools art class as an excuse to pursue…extra curricular activities with both her latest bo of the month and an affair with the art class teacher.
However it the other student Sumire Maezono, a withdrawn, prodigy of an art student, who has the strange habit of burning a picture after she has finished it, seemingly obsessed with achieving a piece of art that she is satisfied with, who is the main focus of this story as the two girls, Momo an Sumire, find their live strangely drawn together when Momo asks Sumire to draw a picture of her.
The art of this oneshot, like all her other work, has the same standard of well detailed artwork and well proportioned characters and backgrounds, while Satoshi Fukushima’s writing skills fills out the characters, with Momos lack of regard for her own future juxtaposed with Sumire’s obsessiveness to achieve perfection with her art – in fact the only real criticism I can really lay at the feet of this work is the fact that this is was only a single chapter story, as it felt like it could have extended to make a short story of at least 3-4 chapters, without affecting the story at all.
2008 – present: Otoyomegatari [brides story]
Two years after finishing Emma Karou Mori made a spectacular return with her [to date] current work, Otoyomegatari [ or Brides story to use yen press’ English title].
This new series takes us away from Victorian England and instead takes us to the wild wind swept mountains and grasslands of 19th century Central Asia, and in particular a small settlement near the Caspian sea.It is into this environment that we are introduced to Amir Halgal, the daughter of a tribe of nomadic herders, as she is presented to her new husband Karluk Eihon, the son of a Family of formerly nomadic people who have since settled down.
The unusual thing about this arrangement though being that Amir is 20 years old and Karluk is only 12 [at a time where life expectancy was barely into the 30s if you were lucky this kind of arrangement was all too common, and up-until a few hundred years ago were also common In the west], yet this series to its credit never takes the eminently easy route of playing this arrangement for fanservice or raunchiness and instead takes a much more mature approach to it, with the characters showing maturity beyond their years – an all too necessary need at a time when children as young as 15 were expected to take over the family business.
The artwork, as always, is exquisite and well details, and yet Kaoru, in the intervening years between this and Emma, seems to have taken the artistic talent up a notch, with the costumes and environments taking on an almost realistic nature. Additionally this work shows the amount of research that she has gone into this – from the breathtaking environment of Central Asia, to buildings, farming practices, and even innocuous items such as pipes, cutlery, the design of wood panels – even to underwear [don’t ask].
As much a side story as a spin-off 4 koma of brides story, this series focuses on Pariya, a young girl who is acquainted with Amir, and her attempts to make herself better suited to be selected for marriage [ yay woman’s lib]. The story itself is played for humor, with Pariya trying various roles and situations, with….less than acceptable results.
With no apparent link to the main series, this series is probably more for the dedicated fans of the series.
With one award [the Excellence Prize at the 2005 Japan Media Arts Festival for Emma], “A brides tale” currently ongoing in publisher Enterbrains magazine “fellows!” andwith two volumes to date published, it seems that the futures bright for Karou Mori.
And I for hope that continues for many years to come.
Emma, and Shirley, while originally published in their entirety by DC Comics late manga division CMX comics prior to its closure, are still readily available from good manga retailers and online from Amazon.
A brides tale, however, is currently being published in the west by Yen press, with the first volume already available, with the second volume coming out in October 2011.
Sadly, to date there are no plans to publish Violet Blossoms in the west.
Additionally pleas let me know, either on twitter or on the comments section below, what you thought of this, and whether you’d like to see more spotlight articles like this in the future.