Kiyoha may wear the similar fancy kimono-dresses but she is not your everyday geisha. The hairstyle may be the same and she may have some of the finest clientele comparable to those of the most refined women in all of Kyoto, but she is not in the home of geisha and their maiko assistants. Instead, Kiyoha is in Yoshiwara, the infamous red-light district located in northeast Tokyo. And instead of being a respected geisha artisan, she is an oiran, a courtesan.
Kiyoha didn't choose this life. She was forced into this world at an early age for one reason...she had spunk. A fire burned within her as a child. She would rather fight than cry, and she would always fight if ever put at risk. She caused her caretakers so much grief their best solution was to give her a purpose to be strong and maybe a chance to develop a life on her own. But getting to that point would take years of heartache and misery. Kiyoha's entire life has been in chaos, and she has blossomed in it.
Anno's unique style, with its huge eyes (even for manga) and fashion-influenced design, and her off-kilter female personalities are put into a Japanese period piece. Although perhaps best known here for the children's series Sugar Sugar Rune, her josei work, Happy Mania, is closer in tone to this stand-alone volume. Kiyoha is sold to a brothel as a child maid, but eventually becomes a powerful courtesan. Although described as her story, this book is more a collection of incidents that reveal Kiyoha's prickly personality (understandable, given her history). A handful of color pages scattered through the book show off the elaborate costumes. However, given the historical setting in the Edo period and foreign culture, the book would have been greatly improved with substantial end notes instead of the six word translations we get. Readers who might be intrigued by the concept and setting risk finding themselves lost by the dense styling, crowded pages, and unfamiliar society, particularly since the characters go by different names/titles as they change hierarchical position. The demanding book rewards attention and is not for new manga readers; best for those experienced with the format seeking something a bit out of the ordinary for adults.