The Palette of 12 Secret Colors, Volume 1
by Nari Kusakawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a shoujo (for girls) story about Cello who lives on the tropical Island of Opal. Opal is known for its palettes, or people who have the magical ability to extract colour from objects and use the colour to paint other objects: like brocade, and precious jewels. Each palette is paired with a bird which are seen as the treasures of the Island. Cello, by sheer luck, has been given a chance to become a palette and is currently enrolled in the training school. She has been paired with the bird “Yoyo” [Do you get the joke? Cello, and Yoyo!] , but is unfortunately a bit of a screw-up and can’t seem to master the 12 secret colours. She is a frequent visitor and “friend” of the school doctor “Dr. Guell” who can remove any spilled colour from his students.
The art is typical of Nari Kusakawa work, somewhat simple with rigid pen/ink drawn lines and obnoxiously large eyes. Her art is easily distinguishable among the noise of shoujo manga. She’s refreshingly unique.
This story too, is very much something she would write. A slightly fantastic story with magical elements in a world that is easy to imagine, but hard to believe in. They always feel a bit like folk or fairy tales. The romance element, and character development take a back-seat to the fun and adventurous stories.
I’m usually a big advocate for heavy character-development stories. But in Kusakawa’s worlds her characters are already finished “baking”; they’re fully formed. They know who they are, they just need to play out the situations they are given as best as they can.
The characterization of the birds adds element that would have otherwise been lacking from a strictly plot-based story such as this. Dr. Guell’s bird Olga acts like a hauty girlfriend, and Cello’s bird Yoyo acts like her father. It adds that bit of needed warmth and humour.
Of the handful of Kusakawa’s stories I’ve read, I like this one the best. I think this is mainly due to the fact that the main character falls in love with a “somewhat” adult. Sometimes as an adult I get tired of emotionally angsty romance between pre-teens. This is a relatively angst free adventure about a girl who is a free spirited screw up — but she tries her best… and is rewarded with a happy life.
All-in-all a delightful and refreshing story that is worth reading…and then reading over again.