August 24th, 2014

crazy eyes.

Review: Sakuran: Blossoms Wild by Moyoco Anno

Sakuran: Blossoms Wild
by Moyoco Anno

In the pleasure quarter Yoshiwara, during the Edo period, a child is sold into a brothel by a pimp and forced to work as a maid. The girl is clever and spirited, and she is apprenticed to one of the courtesans of the house, beginning her rise toward becoming an oiran, a top-ranking courtesan. Strong-willed but emotionally broken, Kiyoha is forced to endure one trial after another as she dreams of one day leaving Yoshiwara behind.

Originally projected as a two-part series, Sakuran ended up as only a single volume. Thus, it feels rather truncated – the book opens with a chapter in which Kiyoha’s house loses its top courtesan, and the business owners beg Kiyoha to step up and become their new star. Suddenly, jarringly, the story jumps back in time to Kiyoha’s childhood, and from their proceeds from her early years until the last chapter more or less catches up to the opening story. I assume that the abandoned second volume would have looked Kiyoha’s life as the highest-ranking courtesan in Yoshiwara, a story I am sorry we won’t get to see.

The story that we have here is chaotic, at times confusing. The main character’s name changes several times throughout her life, and her fellow courtesans are not always clearly distinguishable. The chapters are very episodic, and sometimes sizable chunks of time slip by between them, and it can be difficult to reorient yourself in Kiyoha’s world.

The artwork is either beautiful or terrible, depending on your opinion of Anno’s work. Personally, I love her fashion figure-inspired women, who wear their beautifully patterned kimono equally well in elegant dignity or sloppy disarray. Her attention to detail makes the elaborate hairstyles appear almost architectural in construction. But I know many manga fans who find her egg-eyed, anorexic characters too off-putting and strange to be enjoyed.

One thing I really appreciated about this book is that the characters speak in blunt, modern day language. It emphasizes both the unsavory aspects of their jobs (they’re whores, after all!) and makes them much easier to understand than the faux-Shakespearean dialogue created for other historical Edo era manga.

3 out of 5 stars

To read more about Sakuran: Blossoms Wild, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

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2012: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks
2011: Photos: 20 Celebrites with Stunning Home Libraries
2010: News: Press “Pause” on the Piranha
2009: Giveaway #9: Three Chinese Stories WINNER!
2008: Women of the Bible: Abigail's Story by Ann Burton