Meteor Prince Vol. 2

Meteor Prince Volume 2 by Meca Tanaka

I enjoyed the first volume of Meteor Prince very much, and after reading the second, I’ve found it to be a great, self-contained two volume series. Sometimes shorter series suffer a bit from having an unfinished feeling, with an abrupt final chapter, but Meteor Prince pulls off the trick of telling a short, self-contained story with a satisfying conclusion. After the perpetually enthusiastic alien prince Io and earth girl with bad luck Hako got together in the first volume, it is time for some additional obstacles to be thrown in their path.

Io’s intended alien fiancee abruptly appears on earth to claim her man, and she is not happy that Io has pledged himself to a human. Tania’s flowing hair and imperious attitude, combined with her tendencies to transform into a giant ape-like creature makes her a formidable opponent. Tania’s relentless approach to winning Io back doesn’t fare well when faced with the strength of the couple’s bond, and she ends up reduced to lurking in the background and plotting slightly more quietly.

The next trial for Io and Hako is when he meets her parents and her extremely protective younger brother. There’s plenty of cuteness and comedy when Io makes some over the top attempts to be extremely polite to his future wife’s parents. The family issues don’t stop there, as Io’s younger brother Yuro decides that the best way of getting his older brother back is to come to earth and disintegrate everything.

Tanaka’s facility with art portraying both wacky alien landscapes and blushing high school students in the first stages of romance ensures that Meteor Prince is whimsical without being overly wacky or too sweet. She balances heartwarming moments with humor, making this a great feel-good short series. I would have been happy to read several more volumes of Io and Hako’s adventures, but the last volume wrap up the storyline nicely. Highly recommended for people who enjoy their shoujo with a bit of humor.

So Cute it Hurts! Vol. 1

So Cute it Hurts! Volume 1 by Go Ikeyamada

There has been a gap in cross-dressing shoujo series in the current shoujo beat line up recently, so I was intrigued by this series, which features both cross-dressing twins and juvenile delinquents.

The twins in this series are a pair of fraternal twins named Megumu and Mitsuru. Megumu is devoted to history simulation games featuring historical figures with eye patches, and has found a small group of kindred otaku spirits at her all-girls school. Mitsuru has a much more casual approach to studies, a bit of a womanizing personality, and a penchant for fighting thanks to his attendance at an all-male school crawling with juvenile delinquents. Megumu and Mitsuru are an odd kind of opposite gender fraternal twins that might only exist in manga or k-dramas due to their identical appearance that allows them to swap identities. Mitsuru is struggling with make up work in history and proposes a week long switch to Megumu so she can take his tests for him. Megumu is not thrilled with this idea, but she finds herself going along with it when she wakes up one day to find that Mitsuru has stolen her uniform and left his clothes behind.

This volume focuses a bit more on Mitsuru’s undercover operation at Megumu’s school. He is taken aback when he realizes that the girls he usually relates to in superficial ways actually have personalities, and is particularly surprised when he sees the most beautiful girl in the school bullying a deaf student. He has a blunt way of relating to girlish clique problems, and promptly develops a crush on Shino Takenaka, actually deciding to study sign language on his own so he can communicate with her. The bullying plot is a bit standard for a shoujo manga, but it was nice to see Mitsuru deal with mean girl antics with refreshing directness, and when his enemy attempts to shun him, all the otaku girls band together and are not particularly concerned at any loss of social status.

Megumu’s storyline is a bit less dynamic, and more reliant on shoujo plot cliches where she accidentally stumbles into the embrace of Aoi Sanada, the eyepatch-wearing top delinquent at her brother’s school. Aoi is a bit annoyed and bemused at the sudden appearance of an underclassman who seems to not follow the usual social conventions at their school. Her habit of tripping does actually come in handy when she finds herself in the middle of a schoolyard brawl. So far, Megumu and Aoi aren’t given as much page time or character development as Mitsuru and his new friends, and I hope this gets balanced out a little bit in future volumes.

I found it amusing that towards the end of the chapters, there were over-the-top summations of love standing in stark contrast to the gender-bending comedic hijinks in the rest of the manga. Ikeyamada’s art is attractive, if a bit generic, but she portrays the action scenes and the highs and lows of teenage emotions with ease. I found this volume amusing, and there were some interesting hints of a love quadrangle developing that I’m guessing will be explored more in the next volume. So Cute it Hurts! might not have very much depth so far, but the first volume seems like a nice comedic addition to a summer manga reading list.

Spell of Desire Vol. 4

Spell of Desire Volume 4 by Tomu Ohmi

This volume does feel very much like the next to the last volume in a series, which it is. Kaoruko continues to struggle with lessons and integration into witch society, and while her relationship with Kaname continues to develop, they are still held back by his position as her mother’s knight.

The first story (and the reason why this volume is rated mature and shrink-wrapped) shows Kaoruko investigating the sensual based powers of the black witch, by helping out the black witch Isandra. One of the more hilarious aspects of this book is the fact that one has to wear revealing clothing to channel black witch powers. Kaname decides to foil anyone else’s plans for inappropriate attire for Kaoruko by ensuring that her skin has tiny marks in strategic places. Isandra the Black Witch is (no surprise!) evil, and she attempts to steal away the power of the Witch Queen from Kaoruko. Kaoruko and Kaname manage to fend off the attack, and the coven decides that it is better for Kaoruko to return home and train quietly, since it doesn’t seem to be safe for her to train among the other witches. Kaoruko and Kaname have a few days of almost normalcy back at home, and they grow more closer emotionally. Kaoruko makes Kaname a special charm to keep him safe, knowing that he’s often placed in danger due to all the issues with her powers.

As I was reading this series, I expected Kaoruko’s mother to show up as a complicating factor before the final volume, but I guess that’s being saved for the final volume. I have to say, I enjoyed the first couple volumes a little more than the middle ones, just because I was more amused by the premise of the series. After settling in to the middle volumes Spell of Desire started to remind me a bit too much of Midnight Secretary, in that both series tend to use supernatural societal issues as complicating factors in their heroine’s paranormal romance. Ohmi’s art makes up for any quibbles I have with the plot in a large way though, as her fluid and detailed style continues to deftly portray Kaoruko’s magical problems. I’m looking forward to the conclusion of the series, and it is still a fun josei title.

Harlequin Manga: His Virgin Mistress and Night of Love

I recently read several Harlequin manga, and there was not a single kidnapping, secret baby, or case of amnesia in any of the titles! Despite my disappointment, there were a few manga in this batch that were entertaining. I’ll have another Harlequin manga post soon!

His Virgin Mistress by Anne Mather and Kazuko Fujita

This title seems very logistically complicated, or perhaps not very useful, because it seems like having a virgin mistress would be counter to the purpose of having a mistress in the first place. In this case, Joanna has agreed to pretend to be the mistress of a Greek tycoon who is struggling with a horrible illness. He’s returning home for his daughter’s wedding and doesn’t want his family distracted with the knowledge that he’s suffering from an incurable disease, so he decides to distract them with a beautiful young fake English mistress instead. Does he have a handsome son? If you have to ask you have never read a Harlequin romance! Demitri is incredibly perplexed when he meets Joanna, because she seems far too serious and intelligent to be a mistress. He’s instantly attracted to her, and horribly conflicted because he doesn’t approve of his father having a mistress.

The art in this title was a few steps above what I come to expect from a Harlequin manga. The character designs are attractive and distinctive, and Fujita illustrates the interactions between the characters with great fluidity. Demitri stomps around in the throws of angst, and Johanna is much more disposed to dealing with her turmoil inwardly. I’d recommend this title if you enjoy romances with a Mediterranean setting or virgin mistresses.

Night of Love by Diana Palmer and Harumo Sanazaki

I bought this title because the cover made me think that it would be a good example of the 80s manga style Harlequin manga adaption that I find particularly delightful. However, when I started reading I was a bit distracted because all the male characters were strongly afflicted with a case of triangle face. Most of the illustrations of men in this book basically gave them the facial structure of a guitar pick, with insect-like eyebrows. I did find this title entertaining because the heroine Meg was a prima ballerina with an injury who is forced to return home to recuperate. She’s spunky and still carries a torch for Steven, a businessman who she used to be engaged to. Their families conspired to break off the engagement for both of them. There is much emotional trauma when Meg and Steven meet again and their attraction to each other is immediately rekindled. There are many panels of sad people with flowing hair with roses in the background, which always adds that special touch to any Harlequin manga adaptation. There’s a lot of “I hate you but I love you!” in the relationship between Meg and Steven, and they gradually realize that they’ve both been making incorrect assumptions about each other’s feelings. There’s a random prince from the Middle East and a spy-related subplot to add additional suspense to the story. I have to say that I found the ending of this book a bit disappointing, because Meg demonstrates plenty of spunkiness throughout the book, yet towards the end of the book she just decides to give up so many of the things she’s been invested of for so long. This isn’t uncommon in Harlequin titles, but it is a little too old fashioned for my taste.

Kiss of the Rose Princess Vol. 4

Kiss of the Rose Princess Volume 4 by Aya Shouto

This series continues to be a ridiculous fantasy reverse harem manga, and I enjoyed this volume mostly because it features evil idol singers.

The first half of this story delved more into the very Cardcaptor Sakura-like plot where Anise and her Rose Knights have to capture Arcana cards in order to reinforce the seal to the underworld and defeat the demon lord, as you do. Of course, the only way to do this is to enter an all boys idol competition at school, where Anise ends up cross-dressing as a boy, because the arcana card is second prize and their group is in danger of winning it all if the cutest Rose Knight Seiran enters the contest. In keeping with the long-cherished shoujo tradition of male models or idols being secretly evil, the duo Rhodecia are revealed to be artificial Rose Knights created by Anise’s evil (but HOW evil?) father. The battle for school supremacy involves magic tricks, even more cross dressing, and a horribly awkward comedy act.

While all of this is going on, the Black Rose Mutsuki is struggling with some dark emotions stirred up by a mysterious outside influence. Anise makes a new acquaintance at school named Mikage who asks Anise to set up a date between her and Kaede, which Anise does because she is an idiot who is absolutely unaware that Kaede is in love with her. The date ends up taking place at a Gothic carnival, where Anise and the other Rose Knights tag along in order to sleuth out the location of another arcana card.

Kiss of the Rose Princess is a super silly shoujo manga, but it is really just the thing if you happen to be in the mood for light entertainment. The art continues to be attractive, with all the cool poses one would expect from a reverse harem manga. I’m intrigued by the hints of psychological struggle that Mutsuki is starting to exhibit, which does create a bit more interest than the more typical “gotta catch them all” arcana card collecting plot that is currently developing.