Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura Volume 6 by Arina Tanemura
I’ve missed a bunch of volumes of this series (must go back and get them) and an extensive supporting cast now surrounds the protagonist moon princess Sakura and her fiancenemy Aoba. The lines are now drawn between the humans and the moon people led by Sakura’s older brother Enju. Sakura is trapped in the middle, faced with the fact that she’s going to cause the destruction of the side she chooses not to ally herself with. While I’ve missed a bunch of backstory, it wasn’t hard for me to pick up and enjoy this volume, because Tanemura excels at creating pretty manga. The main story here focused on the relationship of Asagiri and Ukyo and their distant history in a matriarchal village filled with snow spirit maidens.
Asagiri’s village has plenty of women and very few men. While Ukyo goes out of his way to be nice to her, she doesn’t have much use for him. All the other women keep trying to pursue him. The snow village has a legend which demands that a maiden sacrifice herself to ensure the safety of all the inhabitants. There are creepy snow hags in the mountains, and they seem to be increasing in number! I have to take a moment to note that the snow hags look like demons out of a horror manga, with wrinkly faces, empty eye sockets, and mouths of broken teeth. The snow hag images are quite disconcerting and effective when compared with Tanemura’s usual ornately pretty style. Asagiri and Ukyo end up developing a tentative romance, and this ensures Asagiri’s doom as jealous females in the village manipulate the sacrifice selection process to ensure that Asagiri is going to be the one chosen for this year. Asagiri and Ukyo’s story had a folktale feel to it, and Tanemura is always great at portraying the scorn and anger that result in love gone horribly wrong. Asagiri has a revelation about the true nature of the legend behind her village, and the effects of her new knowledge and subsequent loss of faith are profound.
There was an almost shocking shift of tone between Asagiri’s fate and the back-up stories that concluded this volume. The Angelic Gold Coin of Maple Rose is an entirely too sweet story about an angel who becomes human for a day. I was more amused by Mascot Sports Festival, which features all the sidekick characters from Tanemura’s other series fighting it out to see who is the cutest. Most of my amusement was centered around seeing all the characters line up with Finn, the angel from Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne drawn as so infinitesimally small that she needs her own arrow and name label. There’s an additional bonus story from Gentlemen’s Alliance Cross, which fans of that series should also find amusing.
Overall this manga reminded me of what Tanemura does best, and the character designs for the snow hags were a real surprise. I need to fill in the gaps in my manga collection!
Review copy provided by the publisher