Author: Surt Lim
Manga-ka: Hirofumi Sugimoto
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: July 2008
Synopsis: “Kasumi is a special girl – and not just because she’s a super-cute high schooler with a heart of gold. She has a major secret: She can turn invisible when she holds her breath! But when she transfers to an elite private school, it gets harder to keep her superpowers secret, especially when she catches the eye of the handsome student-council president, Ryuuki, and becomes the target of his number one fan, mean girl extraordinaire Reina. Can Kasumi keep hiding who she really is?”
The brainchild of American-born Surt Lim and aspiring manga artist in Japan, Hirofumi Sugimoto, Kasumi is the story of, as the title would suggest, Kasumi. Kasumi is a young girl who finds herself attending a surprisingly prestigious private school and quickly things take an interesting turn. From the usual female bullies, and snubbing cool guys every girl there wants a piece of, Kasumi already has her hands full… oh, and the power to go invisible.
Everything begins with Kasumi and her widowed-Father travelling through a strange forest where she encounters an elusive coloured light that leaves her unconscious on the ground. Upon finding herself in a nasty situation at school, thanks to some bullies’ sabotage as she tries to impress a boy at school with magic tricks in order to avoid student-council whiplash, Kasumi discovers that she can turn invisible when she holds her breath. A useful ability indeed and it was fun seeing her go out and play around with her newfound talent, including giving the bully team harassing girls at their school a little run for their money.
The character of Kasumi herself was a winning feature of the book for me as I found her adorably attended spunky personality actually worked pretty well. I liked her reactions to the different situations she was faced with, from her enthusiastic attempts to introduce herself in class to the resulting fall-out. It’s not that she reacts in anyway that’s especially incredible or interesting, but her earnest-nature was enough for me to find her charming as a lead.
The artwork in Kasumi is another strong feature in the book’s favour though, with a lively style that lends well to the story. Character designs aren’t especially note-worthy but are at least easy to distinguish from each other. Many of the characters are depicted stylistically without noses, but it’s a cute quirk that looks good in the overall manga-spin of things, admittedly though with the exception of side-profiles which look far too flat. Though the look overall is a little rough around the edges with a few consistency and anatomical issues here and there, it’s still an endearing visual look that has a lot of great movement and flow.
The pacing of the book itself is a little slow to smooth out, but the writer and artist find a good consistency mid-way through. Plot-wise it falls victim to most of the shoujo-story stereotypes, including harsh bullies that take hazing a little too far, but the whole story maintains a pleasantly positive energy that gives it a fairly unique feeling as far as similar sounding stories go. I did find the occasional use of Japanese words to be out of place however, and though the book succeeds fairly well at presenting a look and feel that manga fans can undoubtedly appreciate, these moments make it feel fake and forced, bringing to mind brain-numbing fan-fictions where random Japanese words are used in a bout to simulate quirky fan-approved authenticity.
Kasumi‘s lettering was probably my greatest issue however. The font sizes are inconsistent to a degree that’s distracting and at random the text is aligned differently (some center-aligned, some left-aligned), which makes the letter work look sloppy. The font bubbles in Kasumi also lacks much of the organic shapes of Japanese manga, where the artist usually draws them freehand, and instead is predominantly lettered using clean oval shapes. I don’t have any issues with this particular look but it is a visual variance that avid readers of manga may notice.
But, despite some of its flaws, I ultimately found this first volume of Kasumi to be a surprisingly entertaining read. The usual shoujo set-ups are there to ensure drama to come and I like the magical elements yet to be explained, which promise shoujo sparkles that don’t just throw themselves from the hair of pretty people. The plot elements may be lacking in originality but their execution was done with enough animated personality to make this an enjoyable endeavour that I look forward to continuing.