This month will mark the one year anniversary of this wee little review blog. I'm proud to have gotten this far, and I've read a lot of interesting things (both good and bad) over this last year. To celebrate this anniversary, I've decided to declare this THE MERRY MONTH OF MANGA! I will be posting a new review EVERY SINGLE DAY this month, with no particular theme. This month I will be looking at all sorts of series, long and short, good and bad. To kick the month off, I've decided to review a book from my favorite mangaka, a book whose title sums up the month's theme nicely.
KAORU MORI: ANYTHING AND SOMETHING, by Kaoru Mori. First published in 2012, and first published in North America in 2012.
This is a collection of odds and ends, ranging from short stories about maids, schoolgirls, and other ordinary women to sketches and background pieces for Mori's previous and ongoing works.
You probably noted that the summary is much shorter than normal. Well, there's good reason for that - this isn't so much a manga as it is a scrapbook, a pastiche of short stories, sketches, and author's notes.
The volume progresses from the longer pieces to the shorter ones, and many of them are quite enjoyable on their own. Not surprisingly, considering that we're dealing with the creator of Emma and Shirley, there are a lot of stories about maids. Some are comic, like the one where an errand boy is all but seized by a wacky maid and butler seeking a new master, or the one where a mad scientist is defended by his sole remaining servant, an impossibly swift and strong maid. Other stories are more solemn and serious, such as the one about a kindly maid and her young master, who is dealing with the transition from being treated like a child to being treated like an adult.
Of course, there are more than just maids. There are a few stories about modern-day schoolgirls that are pure slice-of-life, like the girl getting a new pair of glasses or the one about the tiny girl with the oversized school uniform. They're pure trifles, but they're at least well-made and endearing trifles. By mid-volume the focus shifts to Mori's more fanservice-laden pieces. That may seem a surprising shift for a female mangaka known for historical pieces, but one must then remember that Mori's works, both full-length and fragment, are published in a seinen magazine - that is, a magazine targeted towards young men. Thus, we get ambiguous little fragments like the story where we follow an alluring bunny-suited hostess as she works the floor, or the one where a wife tries on an old swimsuit for her unseen spouse, or the one about a girl climbing a tree that spends most of its time focused on her ass.
The remaining third is dedicated to everything from concept sketches for A Bride's Story to sketches for bookstore signage and autograph boards to more of Mori's particular brand of omakes, even pages dedicated to particular research topics for Emma such as corsets or fireplaces. They are all lovely to behold in their own right, but admittedly they will mean more to those already familiar with Mori's previous or ongoing works. Of course, if you haven't read them yet, then OH DEAR GOD, GO OUT AND READ THEM NOW. COME BACK LATER AFTER YOU'VE READ THEM. IT'S OK, I'LL STILL BE HERE, AND THEN WE CAN TALK ABOUT HOW AWESOME THEY ARE!
*ahem* All fangirling aside, this is a rather hard book to review because there's really not a story to review. None of the pieces extend beyond a chapter or two, but most are interesting or entertaining in their own right, and if they have any fault at all, it's only that they're unfinished scraps.
For the most part, the character desgins are typical Mori, with their similar, shovel-shaped faces which nonetheless are always attractive, subtle, and expressive. The only exception is the story with the battle maid, which has a very flat and cartoony look; it's still cute, but it does stand out like a sore thumb. As mentioned before, there is a fair bit of fanservice and that may be a little shocking for those used to her longer, more restrained works, but true to form she handles the fanservice in a mostly restrained manner. It certainly helps that Mori has a gift for drawing women that are genuinely beautiful, voluptuous, and realistically proportioned. The panels tend to be large - all the better to show off all the beautiful artwork - and the panels themselves are presented in a plain, straightforward manner.
Surprisingly, Yen Press opted to put this out in hardback, complete with dust jacket. It does make for a handsome volume, and it fits with the similar treatment they have given A Bride's Story. Now if they could just license rescue Emma and give it a similar treatment...oh well. There are also brand-new omakes from Mori at both the beginning and the end.
This volume may not have a lot of appeal beyond those who are already fans of Mori, but those who are fans or are at least curious will find a lot of fun stories and lovely artwork to sample.
This volume was published by Yen Press. It is currently in print.
You can purchase this volume and many more like it through RightStuf.com!