Earlier this summer I started reading one of Kusakawa's other works, Two Flowers for the Dragon, and heard that her other works weren't too bad either. I actually remember shelving this title when I worked at one of the branch libraries a few summers back* and when I checked the catalog I discovered that sadly that volume (number two) hadn't been returned to the library after it was checked out last October^ but the system did have volumes one and three and I was able to find scans for volume two online (literal scans, someone took the CMX copy and didn't even bother to clean up/separate the spreads into individual pages). The series is more than three volumes long (6 total) but again these were the only volumes my library had, I've heard that the rest of the series isn't terribly expensive online as well.
Palette of 12 Secret Colors by Nari Kusakawa
Summary: Cello lives on the island of Opal where some of it's inhabitants have the magical ablilty to move color from one object to another, called palettes. They are paired with the island's native birds to train to use this ablitly but poor Cello has trouble controlling hers, will she ever become a full palette?
The Good: It's a cute little story without anything offensive in it with a laid back pace, I almost wish this was in the children's section in the library instead of the teens since I could see myself recommending it to girls in late elementary school/early middle school who want to try reading manga but aren't sure where to start. Cute really is the best word to describe the story, it's light-hearted, the problems aren't dark and gritty (there still is conflict, it wouldn't be a story without a conflict of some sorts) and it works well as lazy summer afternoon reading.
The Bad: Is there a rule that all shojo manga must include a completely different one-shot manga in nearly every volume? The one included in volume three was a whopping 30 pages long, longer than some of the chapters, and this trend just really bothers me. The story doesn't have much of a central plot so this isn't as big a deal as it could be but it does feel a bit disrespectful, as if the manga-ka/editor/publisher didn't care enough about the story to give it more time to make things work. Not that every chapter in this story is good, some are certainly weaker than others and it could use a bit more continuity between chapters as well, it just feels a little too disconnected at this point.
The Art: From the author notes in the back, it sounds like Kusakawa was drawing this manga at the same time she was drawing Two Flowers for the Dragon so the art from both series looks very similar. Her characters don't look very different from each other and the adult characters all look rather young (Dr. Guell looks incredibly young in his first appearance, more like he's Cello's classmate than a teacher at her school). Personally I would have loved to see this comic in full color instead of just black and white since it's a story that's all about color and the covers are really pretty to look at. I can't think of any manga that are in full color (I have heard of a few but only in passing) so this might be an unreasonable request but I honestly do think that having the manga in color would have given it a little more charm.
So, the manga isn't bad but it felt a little young to me and I just like Two Flowers better, I want to post a review of that soon but I'm going to try a little harder to see if I can find a summary for what happened in the final volume first. As mentioned earlier, Palette was published by CMX so it is out of print now but the prices are still fairly reasonable online (except for the last volume which is sadly the case with out of print series).
*specifically, I remember that about once a week I would have to pull out all the manga in the teen section and reshelve them since they would get so out of order.
^I personally believe there is a special place in whatever afterlife you believe in for people who don't return library books, especially out of print ones.