Kaori Yuki: 4. A Blend of Liquid Crystals- a Perfume Master review

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What will you get, if you mix Perfume: A Story of a Murderer with Sherlock? But of course Perfume Master or Parfum Extrait 0 by Kaori Yuki. 

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In the concrete cities, full of exhaust fumes and rubbish or hyperbolic cleanliness, people have forgotten the joys of smells: it either stinks or there’s no odor; there’s also the case people have been desensitized to smells. Only some places remain filled with seductive odors; namely parfumeries. The perfume and cosmetic industries do care to raise their profits after all, so they try to protect and promote things that smell nice.

And this is a manga about perfumes combined with crime intrigue, so if you are allured by “the liquid crystals which bring happiness” and are fascinated by detective stories, you are at the right place.

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Kanade has an exceptionally acute sense of smell which allows him to detect even the faintest aromas in the air around him. Together with his French cousin Anais, he follows those scents all the way to the heart of the deepest and darkest mysteries. ~on manga baka-updates

This is one of the very few Kaori Yuki manga that doesn’t contain any fantasy element. It is a collection of three short stories, bundled in a single volume. It is my favorite of this mangaka’s short stories/series along with Ludwig Revolution. And although no one can speak of character development, Kanade and Anais as well as the ‘villains’ of each chapter aren’t card box characters, the stories are quite interesting, and the storytelling is smooth unlike some of sensei’s other manga which start with bizarre back and forths and weird panelling that throw the reader into confusion.

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Scent 1: A story of concealment. Kanade spots on a man the fragrance he had created for Tsubomi, a young lady of a well-off family, who for some time now has disappeared and whose mother can’t contact. Tsubomi’s mother had told him that her daughter was stalked, but Kanade has had his doubts of this version of the events. After he explains to Anais why he appears to frequent a particular cafeteria, she storms towards the directions where the suspect headed to, after passing them by. Kanade uses his refined sense of smell to unravel this mystery.

Scent 2: A fragrance as poison. Anais introduces a journalist-photographer to Kanade because the first needs to write an article for a niche magazine. The editor-in-chief soon enters the scene; an eccentric gothic-clad lady, who wants to research about the ‘death fragrance’ in order to boost the sales of the magazine. This ‘death fragrance’ is somehow related to Kanade’s past from back when he studied in France. In the meantime, that eccentric editor-in-chief made a subordinate of hers to buy a bottle of the said perfume which was auctioned online. The journalist dies in her apartment after opening the bottle, but except from its broken pieces, there isn’t any other lethal substance present in that room. Kanade needs to find the truth and clear his name of bad rumors.

Scent 3: A perfume as a trigger. Kanade demonstrates his skills in a perfumery, until Anais with her female friend arrive. Lila reacts very rude after being brought in such a place, because she hates perfumes. A drop falls on her and she faints. She’s brought to the hospital, where her father lies in coma. She decides to visit him along with her friends, but they are interrupted by her gaudy-dressed aunt. Kanade wants to bring the happiness of his art to Lila and suggests that they experiment with scents in order to reveal the reason why the little girl is scared of them.

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The characters are very likeable as I mentioned before and multi-faced. Kanade appears coward and clumsy, but when it comes to his art he isn’t hesitant one bit; not to mention that he has top martial skills, which he tossed away for the sake of his dream becoming a perfumist who would bring joy to people. He is called a ‘hikikomori’ at a point, yet his introvertness is related to his oversensitive nose, that makes it hard for him to walk through a crowd without a mask. And although Kanade used to be shy in the past, now he is very confident in how he mixes scents, his knowledge and his intelligence in general without bragging and looking down on others.

Anais is quite his opposite: she used to be fragile and have a very delicate skin. She trained though in their grandma’s dojo and got not only healthy but also strong. Being beautiful attracts a lot of unsolicited attention which she deals a tad violently. She isn’t scared of anyone easily and this might be the reason why she rushes with taking action. Anais is straightforward and doesn’t spare her cousin, yet she respects him both in his skills as a perfumist and as an opponent in martial arts -she once complained about how he let her win.  Anais also trusts him and can show kindness to him in her own way. She is outgoing, has an air of pride around her, and wears colorful clothes in contrast to the mostly white -extrait zero- imagery of Kanade.

The two of them make a good combination; nevertheless they aren’t involved romantically, Kaori Yuki states explicitly in her notes. Despite not really being linked by blood, they share a special kind of affinity for each other and are bound together by the promise of the creation of an exclusive perfume.

~.~.~.~.~

zero-kanadeCurious facts about perfumes

  • It is believed that perfumes have been in use since 5000 B.C., but we call France the birthplace of modern perfumes. There is one good reason for that. The French aristocracy used many animal products and toilets did not really exist, so in order to mask such smells, they had to use very large quantities of perfume…
  • The Proust effect: the impulses caused by the aromatic molecules are sent to the hypothalamus and the nerve centers that are responsible for emotions, and thus revive memories of the past buried inside the brain.
  • When you use perfume, you normally spray it once from the bottle towards the wrist -from a 10 to 20cms distance – and then rub your wrists together. The Achilles tendon, the inner side of the thigh, the sides of the ribs – all the places with strong pulse like the wrists and the inner side of the elbow are suitable. If you spray from too short a distance, it will drip, so don’t do it. If the scent fades quickly, just spray some again, but only after a few hours.
  • Using too much perfume that it makes people choke is clearly done on purpose to make others around that person feel bad. It means that unconsciously, (s)he is arming him/herself and trying to hide or suppress something inside him/her… It can also mean great emotional disturbance.

It’s a short manga worth-trying out! You can buy it in English from the publishing house Chuang Yi in French from Tonkam Editions and in German from Carlsen Manga.

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