My dreams aren’t any stranger than anyone else’s, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t strange. I know that time will jump, there will be celebrity cameos and that it will end before I’m read for it to. Everything will be tinted sepia or Gap blue, I’ll feel disconnected, and there’s no guarantee that I’ll even be in the dream. They really only make sense to me, but these are my dreams, in my head, so that’s to be expected. However, experiencing the dream in your head, in your sleep, is completely different than reading it or watching it. Now, I’ve never dreamt about floor models or fires, but the three slice of life stories that comprise Chayamachi Suguro’s Kaoru Kun gave me the unmistakable feeling of being in a dream.
Yuni-san, Froggie, and Shuu (pt.1 & pt.2): Kaoru-kun grows from a timid child struggling in an abusive environment, to a straightforward and inquisitive teenager. His outlook and perceptions show evidence of his ill-nurtured childhood, but even as he continues to witness and experience various forms of cruelty and kindness, Chayamachi-sensei keeps him grounded by not forcing him to become a figure of neither tragedy nor triumph. That both poster boy positions are right under the surface is what keeps it a touch from reality or rather what is assumed to be reality. The stories jump from one to the next without giving you a solid sense of the amount of time that has passed and they all end mid-thought. Not literally, but I did get the feeling that there was more to say. I suppose, since the point was made, Chayamachi-sensei decided to move on to the next vignette. And while this sort of trailing off usually drives me nuts, each slice was so perfect, that I could not find fault with it.
Smoke and Clouds: Though they may look sweet and innocent or timid and helpless, don’t be fooled; kids are vicious and conniving creatures. Having been one of those kids myself, I know this as fact. They are even more so than adults because they only really see the end and are without the experience to fully grasp the weight of their actions. They understand cause and effect, but not repercussions or collateral damage. This anchorless ambition allows them to be as devious, as subtle, and as creative as they are capable of being. While reading this I felt useless and maybe a little sad that I couldn’t do anything to stop what was happening. Nothing tragic, well actually, it could easily go that way… but being only a spectator, I knew my words of caution would not penetrate that dream world, so I just bit my lip as it happened.
Plastic Human: This was the most dream-like story in the whole dream-like volume. Again, just watching what seems like normal exchanges, but having that voice within say that something’s just off, just a bit. The end left me speechless; not due to shock or awe, but because my brain had to rewind and catch up to it. This was by far my favorite.
Great detail. A very stark world. The pages filled predominantly with line art and the only-when-necessary patches of black work well with the tone of the stories and, for me, only enhance the airy, spacey feeling the stories evoke.
The effort was top notch and I would buy from them again… No, seriously, I was pleased with Classmate by Ueda Kiyo which is the first title I read that was localized by Kaedama (who along with DMG, I have to thank for granting the opportunity for me to enjoy this for free via eManga). I appreciate the effort they took to put out a quality product.
All in All
The writing style and floaty feeling reminds me of Yumeka Sumomo (The Day I Became a Butterfly, Single Cell Organism), I always felt like I was drifting through her stories as well. The ends just sort of fade away and before you know it, you’re back on the ground. Just as with Yumeka-sensei’s, Chayamachi-sensei’s themes are like unsuspecting secrets in a well-lit corner and just as troubling, but in a different way.
I think Kaoru Kun is definitely worth a gander and whatever time you have available to give over to it. I was already interested in BLANC and NOIR, Chayamachi-sensei’s other titles released by DMG, but reading this has pushed me to go beyond admiring them for their interesting covers to making the decision to buy them.
Notes: I never did buy BLANC or NOIR.