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[MANGA TALK]

About KAWASOU Masumi (河惣益巳)

**Please click here for more images by KAWASOU Masumi**

There is so much information about KAWASOU Masumi in the japanese Wikipedia, so much so that I pray someone would eventually translate them onto the english wiki someday….!

I am always excited whenever I get the chance of reading a series by the KAWASOU Masumi; well, may be less so for her “one-shots” these days for the reasons which I will explain later.

Despite of her works being categorised as shoujo manga, “sweet and romantic” are definitely not the appropriate words for describing KAWASOU Masumi’s characters. Her protagonists, or the heroines in particular, are always characterised with strong personalities, determination and leadership skills, for instance Eugenie Victoria Smith in the Jenny Series, or Saradinasa here. In fact, I even ponder if KAWASOU Masumi’s characters could be used in anyway to showcase feminism in shoujo manga.

Having said the above, it does not mean the protagonists were all good and perfect. For instance, both Dean, the top assassin from Touring Express and Jenny, a respectable female Major from the Jenny Series, could well be cold-blooded, unethical and cruel as and when needed to. KAWASOU Masumi’s characters are neither “all-good” nor “all-bad”, which is what I like about. : )

KAWASOU Masumi’s strength in story-telling is reflected through her longer (and earlier) series. Her story plots were often well-structured and exciting, together with a perfect pace to build up the settings. Introduction of her characters, sometimes using flashbacks, was always captivating all the way reaching the climax. When the storylines reach the turning points and finally the resolution, I was left more than satisfied at the conclusion of the stories….. hence the reason why I am less keen on KAWASOU Masumi’s “one shots” these days, not because they are not good, but I just found it less satisfying not being able to see a build-up of characters and story plot to a fuller extent.

Out of all series by KAWASOU Masumi, my preferences are Saradinasa, Jenny Series, Hana Junrei (and possibly Kaze no Caspa now that I am half-way finish reading it…).

More on Saradinasa can be found here.

Jenny Series (click link for images and round-up summary)

The series started with an introduction of Jenny Victoria Smith as a highly regarded mercenary and a former US Army officer. In Volume One, Jenny and her team were involved in a number of armed conflicts, in which her army/ leadership skills were shown off. But from Volume Two and onwards, more characters were introduced, such as her best pal from the army whom was in fact deeply in love with her; her father whom had betrayed her trust when she turned 16 (and thus the reason why she “ran away” from home to become an army officer), and etc.

As the series progress with occasional flashbacks , we also learned to see different sides of Jenny through her interactions with other characters including her twin sons, her wicked mother (who actually plotted twice the assassinations of her own daughter!), as well as other minor characters later in the series.

The only cons I see with the Jenny Series are that, firstly, the flashbacks can appear to be confusing especially for the first-time readers. Secondly, this series ends far too soon – I would love to see more romantic interaction between Jenny and Red (i.e. her companion since the US Army) at the end!!! You may even consider this as a “warning” since there is a serious lack of romance throughout the series!!!!

But I would not get too bogged down by it since the “shortfall” of romance is offset by other humorous moments in the series, e.g. a jealous Red firing up and grilling Jenny with questions after he saw those hickeys all over her body… and Red “reluctantly” volunteer to suck the breast milk for Jenny who was post-pregnant and her breasts were swollen unable to nurse her baby at the time!

That’s the other thing I like about KAWASOU Masumi’s works – the artist is certainly not shy to throw a few sex scenes or some sexy naked bodies but only as and when was needed. In some series, these scenes were used effectively to show off the intensity of a relationship that gradually became so emotional and passionate, for instance Dean and Charles’s “first time in bed” finally after twenty-something volumes of Touring Express! 🙂

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Hana Junrei(花巡礼) tells an evolving story across three generations of mothers and daughters relating to Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was married to Louis VII, King of France. Compare to the other series mentioned above, Hana Junrei offers a story-line that has a quieter tone but is still captivating in merely three volumes of tankoubons. The series also contains more romantic elements than the others, although in Hana Junrei, the female characters were once again being created with strong personalities, i.e. perseverance, determination and thoughtfulness in this case.

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Other series you *may find interesting*:

Touring Express (BL) Karin (loosely based on the Chinese mythology, Fengshen Bang)
Kuro Tsubaki (loosely based on geishas of the modern days) Kikoku (spin-off of Kuro Tsubaki)

Also:

Ryuuhou (りゅうほう) – Yui Shinrin was born in a brothel in occupied early 20th century China. She’s grown up beautiful, but is no stranger to tragedy. Not yet old enough to be one of the working girls she has caught the attention of two different foreign men at an opium-addicted Japanese man and a supposedly-well-meaning British man. Both of these men have their own reasons for their interest in her. Can Shinrin survive these men fighting over her and get out of this world? And if she does, then what? (From Google)

Kami to Oni no Kuni (神と鬼の国) – In the 17th century, a princess Seiko with special powers dedicated to defending the Imperial Family, confronts a mysterious Spanish merchant, who is plotting to invade Japan. (From Google Books)

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*Please don’t let my prejudice deter you from reading these series; for a number of various reasons, I personally do not rank these series as much as the other titles I mentioned above. For one, I did not like some of the characters (namely Charles the protagonist) in Touring Express so much that I have troubles enjoying reading rest of the stories. Ironically, I do like the pace of the settings and the graduate build-up of the relationship between Charles and Dean…. so I guess it is a love and hate thing I am experiencing with Touring Express!

With regards to Ryuuhou and Kuro Tsubaki, I must admit I found their story plots somewhat flat, hence less captivating compare to the likes of Hana Junrei and/or other “predecessors”. Perhaps Ryuuhou could have been more interesting has it not been concluded after “only” 4 volumes; I felt the execution of its story-line was rushed and unsatisfying.

On the other hand, Kuro Tsubaki fell even more disappointing for me; I suppose I was expecting but fail to see a storyline similar to Memoirs of a Geisha which was suppose to “uncover a hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation….”. Although Kuro Tsubaki still offers its readers some degree of insights into the geisha world of modern days, the series seems more like a “soap manga” with the lack of a solid story-line and unnecessary introductions of new characters.

In contrast, although being an one-shot spin-off of Kuro Tsubaki, Kikoku offers an interesting storyline about Hijikata of Shinsengumi and his psychology being reflected through his erotic affair with a mysterious geisha.

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