|See? Really nice art!|
Before I wax eloquent on what a great mangaka Sahara Mizu is, first I should explain why she has numerous pen names. Sahara Mizu is the name she uses to pen her josei works, Sumomo Yumeka is the name used for shounen ai/yaoi works, and Sahara Keita is used for shoujo works. I've only encountered Sahara Mizu and Sumomo Yumeka as I don't believe there are any scanlated Sahara Keita works floating out in the online manga community. Also, she uses Sahara Mizu and Sumomo Yumeka interchangeably - she's written shounen ai/yaoi as well as josei under both names, so it's not necessarily consistent.
To quickly explain the italicized terms, josei translates to "woman" and refers to a genre of manga that targets older women (20+). The plots and themes are more mature and the characters and romance are more realistic and developed than shojo manga. Shounen ai/yaoi translates to "boy love" and features homosexual romance. Shounen ai is less explicit than yaoi and focuses more on the characters and relationship rather than the sexual aspect.
Anyway, what first attracted me to Sahara Mizu was her art. I randomly saw that there was a manga adaptation of "Voices From a Distant Star" and was really impressed by the cover. Sahara's art is clean and detailed and she has the ability to make her characters look very fluid and natural. Her art definitely lies on the realistic end of the manga art spectrum and it comes off as very elegant and refined. What I also like about her manga is that she chooses interesting layouts for her pages and draws her characters from unconventional perspectives and angles. It's definitely got a different feel from your typical shoujo manga and it's a difference that I enjoy.
But the best thing about Sahara Mizu is that she can also deliver a compelling story. These are not necessarily life-changing - a lot of them tend to be oneshots, so the plots are simple and focus only on a few characters. However, they are introspective and thoughtful and often have a twist that sets them apart from the horde of regular oneshots. Her characters and stories tend toward inward musings and philosophical observations, and some of her works require careful reading to understand what she's trying to convey. Like her art style, Sahara's stories are sort of minimalist, so for those of you who want a lot of action and crazy characters, this might not be for you. What I like most about her work is how pure and sweet the character relationships are. The romance is always slightly humorous, but serious, and it is a refreshing change from how most romantic relationships are portrayed and developed in manga.
|One of many heartwarming moments|
|"Same Cell Organism", one of her shounen-ai works|
In conclusion, I highly recommend Sahara Mizu (as well as Sumomo Yumeka and Sahara Keita) for those of you who are looking for something more meaningful in your manga. She is one of the rare mangaka who puts a lot of thought and effort into crafting an interesting story and has the artistic and storytelling chops to execute her vision. If you're looking for something with more action or in the typical shoujo style, however, I advise you to look elsewhere as Sahara's works inspire contemplation and introspection rather than squeals and giggles.
PS: Here is a list of a few of my favorite works by her. Click on the titles to go to their scanlations on Mangafox.com and Mangareader.net!
Kon no Ki Konoha
PPS: I couldn't find a picture of Sahara Mizu, but here is how she represents herself in her manga - as a cute stick figure.