Thursday, December 6, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Kaoru Mori: Anything and Something (@yenpress)

At times hilarious, at others heartwarming, this collection of short stories penned by one of Japan's most talented artists is a perfect addition to any library! A young girl discovers that new glasses give her a whole new perspective on the world, a bunny-girl waitress learns to cope with her male customers with dignity, an introverted art student inspires her fellow club members even as she takes inspiration from them, and more! Fans of Mori will enjoy seeing concept designs and historical notes from her award-winning series, as well as Mori's own brand of enthusiastic commentary throughout.

I'm really glad that Yen Press decided to translate this little treasure trove of work from Kaoru Mori.  Very few publishers deem collections like these to be worth translating since it doesn't fit in with established series.  In fact though this collection of short comics, editorial notes, illustrations, sketches and whacky doodles is quite an insight into Mori.

Her trademark love of maids is ever-present in several tales, however there's also a comic about a woman explaining why she never got rid of a bathing suit she'll never wear again, a young girl's growing pains, a hostess assurance that things will never change, how to capture an elusive 'master' and much more.

While this is a treat for her fans, this may also be a good jumping off point for getting the reluctant or indecisive reader to commit to her works.  By necessity of length and theme this collection doesn't include the staggering level of research Mori puts into her comics, the shorter stand alone nature of the diverse array of comics included exemplifies the intelligence, perceptiveness and humor her longer works are known for.

For fans there's entire sections devoted to illustrations not previously seen stateside from Emma, Shirley and A Bride's Story and each illustration comes with a small caption (presumably the translated caption from the Japanese edition) with an explanation of its origins or meaning from Mori.  There's also a few 4-komas about characters from various series, some research pages that Mori found particularly useful (corsets!) and pages of Mori discussing her process.

In short this is a treat.  Yen Press does a wonderful job with making the translation flow smoothly (whether its when Mori is conversing or its in the comics), the hardcover is lovely to hold and the perfect size.  Not badly priced either ($16.99).  If you know a Kaoru Mori fan who's waiting patiently for A Bride's Story volume 4's release (in January!) hand them this.  It should shut them up for the next few weeks.