During the Meiji era, the three brothers of the Kumo family have found work helping recapture escaped criminals. These criminals are then taken to an inescapable prison: Gokumonjo, a fortress built inside of a giant tree in the middle of a large lake. The eldest son is very strong, and the two younger ones train hard to make him proud. Soramaru, the middle son, wants to prove to his brother that he is strong enough to handle jobs, but he gets into a bit of trouble going after a former samurai who is now a criminal. The second half of the book contains the side story “Fleeting Laugher,” which takes place 600 years before. One of the Kumo’s ancestors is present. The story follows Hirari of the Abe clan, who is trying to win the heart of Botan, a shikigami who has been summoned to help seal away the powerful demon dragon, Orochi. Hirari doesn’t want take up the family charge and fight Orochi, but he finds himself in the middle of the fight between Orochi and humanity anyway.
The first half of this story focusing on the Kumo brothers was pretty intriguing, but it was way too short. The second half with its necessary historical context was very well done and almost better than the first half. It had wonderful pacing and some more complex characters. We don't fully discover why Hirari doesn't want to fight Orochi, but it makes him lots more interesting than brothers trying to make their elder brother proud. It might have been better to put "Fleeting Laughter" as a zero volume and put more chapters on the Kumo brothers in volume one. Hopefully, volume two will establish more intrigue with the brothers. It's clear KaraKaraKemuri knows how to tell a story and develop characters in a short amount of time, so I'm optimistic that the storyline with the Kumo brothers will get more interesting.
KaraKaraKemuri's illustrations are elaborate and beautiful. The characters in both storylines have beautiful historical Japanese dress - lots of kimonos with beautiful patterns, interesting hair styles with intricate pinnings in them. But, this is also an action manga, so I applaud the skill it took to draw these detailed characters in fight scenes.
TokyoPop rates this for Teen, and that seems reasonable. There is violence and a more serious romance in "Fleeting Laughter," and a few scary shots of Orochi, so this would be best for middle school and above.
Suitability Level: Grades 7-12
Publication Date: April 20, 2021
ISBN: 9781427867698 (Paperback)
Tags: Rating: 8/10, Suitability: Middle School, Suitability: High School, Manga, Action Adventure, Magic, Family, Romance, TokyoPop
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I've been reading manga and comicbooks for years. Now, I write reviews and other helpful things for School Librarians, teachers, parents, and students.
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