aaaAesthetic minimalism, a predilection for darkness, an infatuation with androgyny and a preference for the vague over the distinct: These tendencies are inherent in most Japanese art-forms. And manga are no exception. Maki Kusumotos strange comic-books reflect these trends perfectly. Although she has long had a cult following as a manga-ka (a manga artist) in Japan, she doesnt really like to be classified as one. Her distinctly original drawing ability eminently suits characters struggling with inner demons in a world of deceptive placidity. Her university background in philosophy perhaps underlies the feel for existential unease; either way there is depth here that really has nothing in common with the manga norm.
Makis people are elegant and willowy, stretching their long limbs in sinuous poses; they caress each other with long-tapering fingers. She is to manga as Aubrey Beardsley was to mainstream illustration. Intense, sexy and slightly sinister.
aaaOn hearing this, one might be forgiven for assuming that Makis work is pretty Gothic. It is. Yet short of the beautiful darkness and jagged typefaces of plenty of her cover designs, Makis gothicism materialises from a very different palette. Splashes of red for lips and blood, but not always; Maki works mainly in muted colours. No candy colours, these. There is nothing reassuring about them they enhance the pallor of the protagonists with poisonous pastel greens and autumnal browns. Like the self-destructive Dolis or the bizarre Egg Man, these people are almost all young and beautiful -- but their haunted faces hint at inner turmoil and dangerous delusions.
aaaAt first sight, the plots of Makis tales seem uneventful. Yet the page and panel design combines with the twisted forms to define the nature of the protagonists, which is usually complex. The route is meandering and oblique. One is dragged inexorably along through hints, shadows and subtle details. Gleaming shards of broken mirror, they come together into a dramatic conclusion. Not tales with ordinary beginnings and endings, Maki Kusumotos manga follow the logic and development of dreams. They dont make ordinary sense. Maki has an unusual imagination. She wants to share it with us. Pulling the reader into a parallel universe, they leave a lingering impression. Once youve been there, youll want to go again.
Nick Bornoff is the author of "Pink Samurai" and he edited the English-language version of Maki Kusumoto's "eggnog".
Born in 1967.
Studied philosophy at the Ochanomizu University in Tokyo.
At the age of 16, made a precocious debut as a manga artist at "Weekly Margaret", which is one of the most significant comic magazines in Japan.
1988 "Ao no kaihou" (published by Shueisha)
1989 "HOT HOT HOT" (published by Shueisha)
1989-1991 "Kissxxxx" vol.1-5(published by Shueisha)
1993 "T.V. eye" (published by Shueisha)
1994-1995 "K no souretsu -The funeral procession of K-" vol.1-2 (published by Shueisha)
1997 "Hikarabita taiji -Embryons desséchés-" (published by Shinshokan)
1998 "Ikasamaumigame no soup Å]Mock turtle soupÅ]"(published by Shinshokan)
1998 "Die tödliche Dolis" (published by Shodensha)
1999 "The complete reprinted issue of KISSxxxx" (published by Magazine House)
2000 "Tanbiseikatsu hyakka" (published by Shueisha)
2001 "RENAITAN" (published by PARCO)
2002 "Love, egg and catastrophe" (published by Shodensha)
2003 "Two decades" (published by Shinshokan)
2004 "eggnog" (published by Shodensha)
2006 "Dolis" English edition (published in US, Canada and Europe by TOKYOPOP)
2006 "D is for Dolly" (published by Shinshokan)
2006-2007 "maki kusumoto anthology" vol.1-5 (published by Shodensha)
2008 "LONDON Ato Z" (published by Shodensha)
2009 "Kissxxxx" pocket edition vol.1-3 (published by Shueisha)
2009 "Dolis" French edition (published in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Québec by Dargaud)
2009-2010 "maki kusumoto anthology" vol.1-5 Korean edition (Published in South Korea by Sigongsa)
1998 "ikasama umigame no soup ten" at Gallery FAIRY, Aoyama Tokyo
2002 "love, egg and catastrophe" at Gallery ROCKET, Harajuku Tokyo
2003 "Two decades" at LOGOS gallery, Shibuya Tokyo
Other works (a selection):
1997 Illustration and words in the Japanese edited pamphlet for the film "Wilde" (1997, UK, dir: Brian Gilbert)
1998 Illustration and words in the pamphlet for the film "Beautiful Sunday" (1998, Japan, dir: Tetsuya Nakashima)
2001 Book design of "Images à la sauvette: Henri Cartier-Bresson" written by Aki Kusumoto, published by Skydoor
1998 "Hikarabita taiji -Embryons desséchés" is nominated for the 2nd Osamu Tezuka Prize (sponsored by Asahi Shimbun).
1999 "Ikasamaumigame no soup -Mock turtle soup-" won a prize at 33rd Japan Book Design Concours/Exhibition.
1999 "Die tödliche Dolis" is nominated for the 3rd Osamu Tezuka Prize (sponsored by Asahi Shimbun).