So most of the romance manga I tend to read tends to be Harlequin adaptations, which I love in all their loopiness because I am unfailingly amused by romance books with titles like “The Billionaire Cowboy’s Captive Virgin Secretary’s Secret Baby.” But with the recent wave of Ohzora titles being released on Jmanga, I was curious to check out some stand alone romance volumes from that publisher that are very similar to most Harlequin manga even if they aren’t quite as insane.
Schatzi works as a sous-chef at her father’s restaurant in New York City. She has a random encounter with a tall, dark, and handsome florist named Tom. Tom turns out to also be an acquaintance of her father’s and he often stops by the restaurant to comment on the dishes. Schatzi’s father values Tom’s discriminating comments on his food. Schatzi’s deadbeat boyfriend breaks up with her, but then things start looking up in the romance department when she accidentally spills a drink on a handsome businessman named Hanley. Schatzi’s best friends are a couple of harpies who seem to value men only for their money, so they push Schatzi to date Hanley. Wherever Schatzi seems to go, Tom seems to be there! He is truely a man with a million jobs and talents, as beside flower deliveries he also seems to work as a bartender and helicopter pilot, only taking time off to visit the gym that Schatzi also belongs to. Tom is a slightly sardonic and silently judgmental presence in Schatzi’s life. She keeps thinking of him when she’s out on dates with Hanley, it being rather difficult to ignore one’s helicopter pilot. When Schatzi’s father gets ill, Tom’s friendship with her father and his encouragement to do what makes her the most happy end up triggering a change in Schatzi’s life.
I tend to like romance manga with slightly retro art, and Takayama’s illustrations are pleasing. There’s a bit of a downturn to her character’s eyes that can make them look slightly melancholy, and Schatzi’s friends are portrayed with more cartoony facial expressions that suit their rapacious personalities. The character designs reminded me a tiny bit of From Eroica With Love, but that might just be due to Tom’s dark hair and his aviator sunglasses. Overall, this title was amusing, although I probably would have enjoyed it more if there were a few more scenes demonstrating Tom’s seemingly random jobs. The restaurant setting was a change from what you tend to get in most romance titles, although a little more detail about the food would have made the setting seem more authentic. Overall, Love Spice is a good title to pick up the next time Jmanga runs a romance sale.
Elizabeth has a fateful encounter with a rude horseman at her riding club, but she soon forgets him when she learns that she might have to endure an arranged marriage now that she’s graduated from college. Clearly her only option is to disguise herself as her best friend and take a temporary job in a tiny European country called Santa-Vannes that appears to only be hiring attractive women between the ages of 20 and 25. When Elizabeth shows up at her new workplace, she learns that she’s staying at the castle, and the prince of Santa-Vannes just happens to be an unmarried bachelor. The Crown Prince is considerate and friendly, but Elizabeth keeps hearing rumors of a mysterious general who is the power behind the throne and Santa-Vannes’ economic revival. She meets her arrogant horseman again in the garden of the palace. He comments on her reading habits and introduces himself as Tao Bianki. Elizabeth realizes that her job is a set up, and she isn’t really there to help the tourism office with promotion and translation. But she’s still interested in finding out more about the country and the mysterious Tao, who keeps appearing at random moments and giving her the third degree. Elizabeth finds out that Tao is the mysterious general who has helped revive the country, and he doesn’t seem to be happy about her friendship with the prince. The art for Queen’s Stairs was lush and detailed, with plenty of limpid eyes and flowing hair to go around for all the characters.
Overall, while these romance comics from Ohzora don’t have the extremes of plot and character that I enjoy in Harlequin Manga, the art as a whole was much better executed than some of the romance manga I’ve read in the past, which tends to sometimes suffer from rushed adaptation jobs. While the stories weren’t particularly original, they were perfectly fine examples of the genre, and I plan to check out some more Ohzora romance manga as it is released on Jmanga.com.