Vol: 1; Ch: 13
2001 - 2003
3.246 out of 5 from 137 votes
Rank #16,822

Young Tomeki is a poor orphan girl that is sold to a brothel in the Red Light District. In a world of courtesans and nameless men, she grows from an awkward, petulant child into Kyoha, one of the most prized Oiran in the entire district. But trouble arises when Kyoha falls in love with a handsome young man. Forbidden to love, will Kyoha find a way to be with the man who is constantly lingering within her thoughts?

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Sakuran is the sort of manga that holds nothing back. It is the brutally straightforward tale of an oiran (high-ranking courtesan) in the red-light district of Yoshiwara during the Edo period. After an introductory character which shows the daily life of the main character, Kiyoha, we dive deep into her backstory: how she was sold to a Yoshiwara teahouse at a young age and raised to be a glamorous prostitute. She hates this life with a passion-- and seeing what abuses she goes through, the reader can hardly blame her-- but haves an especially hard time when she falls in love with a local florist. Although this is all makes for an interesting story and tragic tone, I have some issues with the way this tale is structured. First off, the cast of characters is constantly in flux. Though there are a few that remain consistent throughout the volume, new maids, courtesans, and customers pop up all the time. With the maids and courtesans, it can be particularly hard to tell them apart, since so many of them have similar faces and hair styles. One can't rely on the kimono patterns to do this, since those constantly change as well. Compounding this are the word balloons, which don't always have "stems" pointing to who said what. This is a problem I've noticed in Kou Yoneda's works as well, where it can be hard to follow the flow of a conversation if you aren't sure who is speaking. Sometimes confusing character designs mixed with sometimes confusing word balloons makes for some unsatisfactory reading. To the story's credit, the timeskips between chapters (after the first) are fairly short and well-paced, and the core plot is strong. The most frustrating plot point is a part where a certain character's betrayal is rendered pretty vaguely (thanks in part to the issues I named above) which weakens that aspect of the story. The art and composition is well done, aside from it being hard to tell certain characters apart. I wanted to like this manga more, as both the story and the characters are fascinating, but certain technical issues hold it back. If you're a fan of the mangaka and/or stories about oiran, Yoshiwara, and/or the Edo period, it's worth a look. However, it's a safe pass for anyone else, especially given the aftermarket price for Vertical's English-language print edition.

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