Mangaka Profile – Kusunoki Kei

Kusunoki Kei is a bit of a curiousity because a majority of her works is shoujo, yet she has always had shounen titles thrown in there, too, and doesn’t seem to be doing shoujo at all any more. Even when she did, her art style is very, very much not your usual shoujo fare; it looks more like what’s you’d find in a shounen manga instead. Indeed, for the longest time I thought that she was actually a man who was doing shoujo for some reason. Most notable is probably the fact that she uses pretty thick lines, at least for outlines, and the result is certainly not the whimsy, big-sparkly-eyed shoujo that you’d expect to find in Ribon in the early 90s.

For an example of this, here is a review of Jinrou Zoushi that contains pictures. I have no idea if this is one of her shounen or shoujo titles, though I’d guess shounen, but that’s her art style.

Kusunoki started her career in Ribon Original in 1982. She drew mainly shoujo with a bit of shounen here and there; her focus was on the horror and (romantic) comedy genres. Since this is when all of the manga I own by her originated, this is what I associate with her. Wikipedia tells me that her newest works are all shounen and seinen, and not necessarily horror or comedy at that. The two series that seem most foreign if one is used to her earlier works are probably Girls Saurus (and Girls Saurus DX) and Bitter Virgin. I haven’t read either, but while Girls Saurus is reminiscent of her earlier works by being a comedy, it’s different due to the apparent ecchi content. Bitter Virgin, though the title may sound perverted, is a seinen drama, also void of any fantasy and not even a comedy, at least judging from the synopsis.

A lot, or even the majority, of Kusunoki’s output consists of short stories, one shots, and shorter, 2 or 3 volume series. However, she has had a few longer running series, which are, for some reason, mostly seinen or shounen. Here are some of the longest:
Ogre Slayer (Onikirimaru) – 20 volumes.
Yamagi’s Family Matters (Yagami-kun no katei no jijou) – 7 volume comedy about a high school boy in love with his own mother, who looks like she’s 16.
Girls Saurus DX – 7 volumes (but still going on?).
Jinrou Zoushi – 7 volumes

My first exposure to Kusunoki’s works was by buying a bundle of four random volumes of her manga at Book-Off in New York (awesome store, by the way) because they were A) cheap (in the clearance section for what came out to be 50 cents a piece) and B) serialized in Ribon. They later on (when I figured out the titles, which took some time because I knew next to no Japanese back then) turned out to be Gomen Nasai Power, Koishite Frozen, Momotaro Mairu, and Circus Wonder (which will be the focus of my next entry). They’re all from 1988 to 1991. They’re far from profound, but they’re silly and/or entertaining and I like them for what they are.

Sadly, none of these series have been translated, aside from a few scanlations. In fact, her only manga that have been translated to English are shounen or seinen: Ogre Slayer, Innocent W, and Sengoku Nights. Not that I care much, since I own the Japanese versions, but I do think it’s a pity that her romantic comedies seem to be completely ignored. Horror is not all she does, after all, but that’s what it must seem like to people only familiar with the works that have been translated.

Links:
ANN
MangaUpdates
Wikipedia
MangaGuide
MangaNews

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