Pride was a series I snapped up immediately when I saw it show up as a new shojo title on Jmanga.com. This manga details the story of two competing opera singers, one from an elite background and one trying to struggle her way up from poverty. In a twist from what one might expect, the rich girl is sympathetic if reserved while the poor girl exhibits lying psychopath tendencies. I do enjoy manga stories set with show business as a background, as they tend to be a great shoujo or josei variation on the type of striving and competition that I usually expect from sports manga. Pride would appeal to fans of dramatic, slightly retro shojo stories like the Glass Mask anime or my beloved ballet classic Swan.
The first two volumes of Pride are available at a bargain price as part of Jmanga’s Shojo from Shueisha sale.
Pride Volume 1 by Yukari Ichijo
Shio Asami is a poor little rich girl opera diva in training when she has an odd encounter with another high school girl, Moe Midorikawa who is working for a housecleaning service. Shio finds out that her father isn’t going to attend the opera with her so she gives her extra ticket to Moe. The girls go to the opera, where Shio is greeted warmly by opera society since she’s the daughter of a famous dead opera singer. Two people take notice of both Shio and Moe. Natsuko runs a club in the Ginza, and thinks that Shio looks just like her mother. Record company executive Mr. Jinno thinks that it has been a long time since he’s met “such an upstanding mademoiselle” when he looks at Shio, but gives Moe the advice that if she wants to get to the top it “doesn’t matter what shameless tricks you have to play.” Moe makes a bunch of comments about about Shio’s privileged lifestyle, but Shio is bored with it all saying, “I’m not the type to gloat over other people’s jealously. Rather I find it unpleasant.”
When Shio gets home she abruptly finds out that her life is going to change when her father confesses to her that his company is bankrupt and he’s about to move to New Zealand to work on a friend’s sheep farm. Rather than cause a scene, Moe looks shocked, thinks a bit, tosses back a glass of champagne, and asks about her father’s plans. This was the moment where I decided I was on Team Shio for the rest of the manga! Shio has a little bit of money in savings which will allow her to get a job in Japan, but she’s going to have to go to work instead of continuing her music studies in college. Moe and Shio then meet again when they are both entered in the same singing competition. Moe wins due to some careful costume selection, acting ability, and her making a horrible reference to the death of Shio’s mother right before Shio goes onstage to sing her final song. Then after the competition there’s a DIVAFIGHT!
Ichijo’s art is clear and easy to follow, with a bit of an old-fashioned style. I wasn’t surprised to see that she’s been working in manga since the 1970s, with Pride originally coming out in Japan in the early 2000s. Pride seems a bit more josei than shojo, with both the girls out of school and facing difficulties as they enter adult life. Shio’s pride prevents her from asking anyone for help as she settles in to an apartment on her own. She goes out of her way to maintain a happy facade for her father so he will continue with his own plans to move away. Shio finds some unexpected support from Ran, a composer in the piano division at her school whose mother Natsuko wants Shio to work in her club. Shio ends up stumbling into an unlikely friendship with Ran and is relieved at the idea that she might actually have a job singing, even if she has to learn a repertoire of non-opera songs.
The slightly slimy Jinno ends up influencing the lives of both Moe and Natsuko. Moe’s relentless drive to exploit her one contact in the music industry has her working as Jinno’s maid, and later prostrating herself and asking for his help after a confrontation with her deranged mother. Moe’s behavior is a contrast to Shio’s inability to ask anyone for a favor. Jinno provides Moe with advice and music lessons, and Moe is determined to learn how to act like a more mature woman in order to attract him. She also gets a job at Natsuko’s club after demonstrating her ability to charm elderly men. By the end of the second volume a long-term rivalry between Shio and Moe is established, as Moe’s untrained and more expressive voice attracts Ran’s interest as the vehicle to express his original compositions. Jinno wants Shio to be his perfect society companion since she has no difficulty moving in music industry circles. Moe and Shio both have what the other most desperately wants, and it will be interesting to see if Shio is able to toughen up and become more streetwise in order to deal with her unscrupulous rival. While I have a clear favorite character to follow in this series in Shio, Moe’s background is filled in a bit and it is clear that she acts desperate because she comes from desperate circumstances. It’ll be interesting to see how everything plays out in future volumes.
My one criticism of the series is that with such a clear focus on the lives of the heroines, a chance to drop in some extra knowledge of opera and music got passed up. While it is true that sometimes I put down a volume of Swan with a feeling that I’d just read an encyclopedia article about the development of Russian Ballet, I enjoyed getting some random factoids to balance out the angst. I would have liked Pride even more if there were a few more details about vocal training or more background information about opera. There was plenty of drama packed into the first two volumes, and I am definitely on board with this series. As long as there’s a DIVAFIGHT every couple of issues I suspect that I will continue to be very entertained.
Electronic access provided by the publisher.