I love, love, love Nari Kusakawa. She has a unique art style, and she is able to blend fantasy elements, humor, and romance into an absolute bundle of joy. She pushes all of the right buttons for me with her quirky characters, clever dialog, and fun stories. CMX, the shuttered manga arm of DC Comics, published a few of her series before their untimely demise, and I enjoyed all of them. I am still a tiny bit bitter that the end of Two Flowers For the Dragon never saw store shelves, because I loved that series as well. While it is difficult to find new copies of The Palette of Twelve Secret Colors to purchase, it looks like they are available used if you look around.
1. What’s the series about?
On the magical island of Opal, the plumage of vividly colored birds gives colors to many beautiful items. Only Palettes can extract the colors from the birds’ feathers and transfer them to cloth and other items. Cello is studying to become a Palette, but she is a bit clumsy and struggles with even the most simple of spells. With the help of her bird Yoyo, her friends, and handsome Dr Guell, Cello works hard to achieve her dream of becoming a Palette.
2. Why are you pushing this series?
The above description doesn’t do this series justice, so I will try to convince you to track the books down and share the wonder that is The Palette of Twelve Secret Colors. This series is presented in slice of life chapters which tie the characters and their actions together into a larger, more sweeping story. The action follows Cello as she bumbles her way through her studies. Though she is incredibly gifted, she lacks confidence in herself, so she constantly has to fight with her self-doubts. When her magic goes awry, and it often does, with humorous results, she has to visit Dr Guell so he can undo her spells. I loved their relationship, and how it slowly blossomed from a reluctant attraction into something deeper and more meaningful. They both try to fight their feelings for each other, but because they are made for each other, their struggles are in vain. They are polar opposites, and every time they interacted, I couldn’t help laughing at the dialog. Nari Kusakawa also puts them both into ridiculous situations, and they often have to work together to get out of them.
When I first discovered Nara Kusakawa, I did not like her art work. Not one bit. Her drawings are very whimsical, and I didn’t like that. But as I read more of her work, I began to see the humor and the attention to detail that she inserted into her illustrations. Her characters are expressive and give a great deal of depth to her stories. The cast is kept small, so that the focus can remain firmly set on Cello, Dr Guell, and both of their birds. Yes, Yoyo and Olga, Dr Guell’s bird, make this story special. They interfere with the deeper emotions that are growing between Cello and Dr Guell. Olga is insanely jealous of Cello, and her single-minded attempts to keep the two humans apart always made me smile. I came to love the birds as much as I loved Cello and Dr Guell.
3. Who would like this series?
Anyone who enjoys humorous stories with light fantasy and romance elements would like The Palette of 12 Secret Colors. Weighing in at six volumes, it isn’t a long series, so it won’t leave a huge dent in your wallet. If you are interested in graphic novels but not sure where to start reading them, this is a very good introduction to the world of comics. The tone of the story is light, it’s easy to follow, and the characters and the situations they find themselves in are fun and endearing. Go on! Give this series a try!