Writer/Artist: Surt Lim and Hirofumi Sugimoto
What They Say
Kasumi is a cheerful girl who, upon moving into a strange new town, received the power of invisibility from a tree god. But she is not alone - there are others like her. With her newfound friends, she'll seek to use her powers for good, without falling into the clutches of those who threaten her.
Kasumi has taken an approach that may interest some, but only confounds me. The presence of Japanese honorifics in an “OEL manga” seems strange in the first place, but I‘m willing to accept the explanation that the story takes place in Japan. The problem is that some words are presented in Japanese rather than in English. Asterisks are placed at the end of the "untranslated" words, and the translation is then provided beneath that frame the first time that they appear. Some words that appear more than once, and are not translated the second time around, include simple ones such as “hai” (“yes”). I don’t know which is worse--that words like this would be translated in any regular manga release, or that the author found it necessary to include them, in Japanese, in the first place in what is supposed to be OEL manga.
The SFX, however, are very nicely done. Originally drawn in English, they are much more visually effective than Japanese SFX with small translations, and more customized to each scene than the overlays that companies such as Viz use. It doesn't lessen my frustration with the unnecessary Japanese words, but it does bump up the grade a bit.
Del Rey as gone for a clean, simple cover for this release that is very eye-catching. Kasumi, wearing her school uniform and surrounded by glowing spheres, is the only art on the white cover. The color used in the title logo matches the pink of her jacket, resulting in a very pleasing color palette, but it is also written in hiragana (a syllabic method for writing Japanese) just below. Again, I have to ask why this is even necessary. The back cover is the real problem, as it is a very dull white background with black text and a panel containing a very pretty color image of Kasumi standing at the base of the large tree. Extras include explanations for honorifics, a summary preview of volume two, character profiles for Kasumi, Ryuuki, and Yuuta, as well as notes from the author and artist.
I’m torn on the art for this series. On one hand, I like the simple, minimalist character designs, all of which are varied enough to tell the characters apart with just a glance. Unfortunately, that simple appeal fades when characters are viewed from anything too far away from a straight-on angle. Ryuuki is the only character whose face has any sort of “shape” when viewed from the side; the rest are just vague oval-like shapes that narrow slightly to form points where the nose and chin should be. Backgrounds are also minimalist and bland, although the wind that sometimes accompanies Kasumi’s magic can be quite pretty.
Page layouts are bland and consist mostly of rectangular frames; only a few pages in the first chapter really caught my attention as having an exciting construction. Sugimoto has the habit of making his characters break borders and carry over into another panel, which becomes repetitive after seeing it a certain number of times. On the whole, the good and the bad of the artwork balance out to a decent average.
High school student Kasumi has been forced to move and leave her two best friends behind, thanks to her father’s job--again. He’s a botanist traveling from place to place, finding new types of plants to study, and can’t resist pulling over at a forest when they’re moving to their new home. When Kasumi’s father disappears, she is unconcerned and begins to look for him when her progress is interrupted by a small, glowing object. She tries to chase down the object, even crawling up a huge tree to catch it, but ends up falling off the tree instead. When she wakes up, she is simply lying at the foot of the tree, convinced that everything that happened was a dream.
Upon arriving at her new school the next day, Kasumi finds that she doesn’t quite fit in. Her attempts to perform magic tricks impress only one boy, the energetic Yuuta Goodwin; even worse, when she tries to do a favor for another girl in the class, it backfires and turns the entire student body against her. But when she tries to perform her tricks in front of the entire campus, hoping to impress the student council president, all of her trick items have been sabotaged. Crying, Kasumi wishes that she could disappear. Smoke then begins to fill the room, and when she is forced to hold her breath against it, she does actually vanish from the other students’ sights.
While learning more about her powers through experimentation, she befriends another strange girl at the school. Maiko’s habit of breaking into dance may be strange, but Kasumi witnesses her surrounded by the same lights she followed in the forest. Her friendship with the strange girl only makes the mean girls at the school more eager to have her drop out, and they plan to sabotage her swimsuit. Using her power to escape from the predicament, Kasumi runs into the mysterious student council president, Ryuuki Hasegawa. Even more mysterious, he uses his ability to walk through walls to save her from her troubles.
High school students with superpowers is hardly anything new, especially in the manga world. To make such an over-used concept interesting, something exciting has to be implemented. Interesting characters, a new twist on the plot, or great art is enough to make me happy, but Kasumi doesn’t have any of those assets. The few students at the school who aren’t incredibly cruel are either strange or reduced to mere background noise. They all easily fall into stereotypes, except for the optimistic, care-free Yuuta Goodwin. His obsession with superheroes and one-sided crush on Kasumi convinced me he would be relegated to a side character fairly early on in the series, but he slipped into the role of Kasumi’s best friend and main “protector” without too much delay. Yuuta is the only character who keeps this volume from slipping into clichéd, overly-predictable mush. In fact, I rather enjoyed most of the scenes that he was in.
Beyond the characters, everything simply takes too long to be implemented. Kasumi’s realization of her powers may be the main plot thread, but it is overshadowed by the ridiculous high school villains and their quest to get her kicked out of school using a number of highly unrealistic methods. I’m all for a mix of supernatural and slice-of-life, and Del Rey has actually published a few titles that fit that description, but the everyday occurrences here are boring and predictable. The discovery of another student who has similar magical powers occurs only in the last few pages, but it’s easily foreseeable from early on. Attempts by Kasumi to remember what really happened with the tree give some promise of a running plot in future volumes, but they feel out-of-place amongst the typical high school drama.
So far, there are just too many aspects to this story that have been introduced without any real sense of direction or balance. This first volume took too long to accomplish the few things that it did, and failed to present anything to make it stand out from the mass of similar stories in publication. You could do far worse than Kasumi, but you could also spend your money on much better series, both from the OEL and teens with superpowers fields.