Harlequin Manga Quick Takes – Married by Mistake!, Caribbean Desire, and Marriage Wanted

All titles available on emanga.com.

Married by Mistake by Takako Hashimoto and Renee Roszel Wilson

I didn’t realize when I started this that it is a further book in a series with a harlequin manga I read earlier, To Marry a Stranger. In this book, the heroine of To Marry a Stranger has been impregnated by her husband with an eye patch. Helen starts having contractions near the infamous “Mansion of Love” so of course she and her sister Lucy are stuck with having to deal with a sudden home birth in the romantically cursed house. Lucy manages to assist her sister with having twins in the space of a panel. Let me tell you, I’ve had twins and it doesn’t happen that quickly! Lucy is exhausted after assisting her sister and thinks back about her fiance Stader, who kept postponing their marriage. This Stadler guy is no prize as in Lucy’s memory he appears with wavy hair and an odd sort of cravat. Do not trust a man wearing a cravat unless you live in the early 19th century, ladies. Lucy is woken by Jack, a man with intense eyebrows and a decent suit who is wearing a tie instead of a cravat. This looks promising.

Lucy mentions the legend that if a woman spends the night of her birthday at the mansion of love, the first man she sees the next day will be her destined love. It is the day after her birthday, and Jack looks both befuddled and horrified. He’s Lucy’s ex-stepbrother and he has loved her for a long time. It turns out that Lucy’s horrible cravat-wearing fiance has decided to get engaged to an actress and travel to Lucy’s hometown in a fit of cravat-inspired cruelty. Lucy’s family promptly decides that Lucy has to pretend to have a fiance for revenge and Jack is just the person for the job. The art in this adaptation is really much better than the typical Harlequin manga title. The backgrounds might be sparse, but the character designs are distinct and attractive. What I found most amusing was the wacky facial expressions of Lucy’s family as they cheer on her fake romance. I was especially amused by the antics of Lucy’s one-eyed brother-in-law Damian who was the tortured hero in To Marry a Stranger, as he keeps popping up in chibi form with a big grin to cheer on his sister-in-law. In conclusion, men with cravats are bad, but men with eye patches or suits are good. This is what I’m taking away from this Harlequin manga.

Caribbean Desire by Cathy Williams and Takane Yonetani

The cover for this looks good, because it appears that there are wind machines blowing the male and female leads’ hair in opposite directions. Unfortunately the inside of this manga doesn’t feature the goofy fun I tend to prefer in my Harlequin manga adaptations. Emma arrives on an island to interview the rich businessman Alastair for his biography. She develops an intense dislike for the Conrad, the man currently running Alastair’s company. Emma has a secret connection with Alastair’s family, but will she reveal her secret before it is too late? And what will she do with her growing attraction to Conrad? The storyline was as predictable as Harlequins usually are, but there wasn’t really any humor to lighten things up. The art and adaptation were pretty typical, with stiffly posed characters and sketchy backgrounds. This wasn’t a good title to read right after Married by Mistake!, because it really suffered in comparison.

Marriage Wanted by Debbie Macomber and Eve Takigawa

Savanna is a wedding coordinator with an injured leg. Dash is a divorce attorney who has given up on love. Together they find love through a marriage of convenience, as one always does in Harlequin romance world. I tend to enjoy Harlequin manga very much when the art has a vaguely 1980s aesthetic. Even though this adaptation was produced in 2005, I still see a bit of a retro feel to the art with Dash’s square jaw and Emma’s bright eyes. Savanna is convinced the she’ll never find love because her limp makes her unattractive to men. Dash comes into Savanna’s store and proceeds to lecture her about the meaninglessness of weddings when he finds out that she’s planning his little sister’s wedding. Dash and Savannah spend more time with each other and decide to enter into a marriage of convenience when he needs a wife to get a promotion and she needs a husband to get her parents to stop being so overprotective. There wasn’t much humor in this title, but the art was better than average and it was fun seeing Dash and Savanna argue with each other over the value of marriage.

Access to electronic copies provided by the publisher.

Harlequin Manga – Pregnant Women and Showbiz Babies

It has been far too long since I’ve read some harlequin manga! Much like the romance novels themselves, these manga are perfect to read when you want to switch your brain off for a little while. I’m coming down with a cold, so I relished the opportunity to read about pregnant women who somehow manage to attract the attention of millionaires. I think millionaires must really like motherly types, I have no other logical explanation. All of these books are available for rental at emanga.com.

Claiming his Pregnant Wife – Sometimes it can be tricky to adapt books, even formulaic ones like Harlequin novels. This is a middling example of Harlequin manga, just because there were so few transitions between scenes it felt more like an outline of a story than the story itself. Erin is a tourist in Italy when she becomes stranded and happens to meet a beautiful Italian man named Francesco. They start to date during her vacation and she discovers that he’s been hiding the fact that he’s an incredibly wealthy businessman. They quickly marry, but their new marriage starts to disintegrate when Erin suspects him of being a womanizer like her father. Some of the character motivations seemed to come out of left field – all of a sudden Erin starts not trusting Francesco due to her psychological issues with her parents’ marriage, but this isn’t really hinted at earlier in the manga. It generally had a very choppy feel, with characters suddenly introduced, and various reasons for the couple to be apart worked through. The art was a little static, and looked rushed, with the characters sometimes displaying awkward poses. Not the best example of a Harlequin manga.

The Millionaire’s Pregnant Mistress – This title had more of the loopy plot developments that I expect and enjoy in a good Harlequin manga. Tess is a hard-working chambermaid at a resort hotel who had a one night stand with a rich guest. He turns out to be Benjamin Adams, a millionaire movie producer who is haunted by the death of his wife and unborn son. He wasn’t haunted enough to stop himself from having a one-night stand with a maid though! He makes sure to tell Tess just how emotionally damaged he is after she tells him that she’s pregnant by saying “”Your existence itself will dig deeper into my wounds!” Benjamin decides that he doesn’t want a repeat of his past tragedy and will move her into his mansion to make sure she and the baby are safe during the pregnancy. While he’s planning on taking responsibility for the baby, he doesn’t plan to give Tess anything other than support payments after the baby is born. Tess has a hard time adjusting to the millionaire lifestyle and keeps trying to work at the hotel while she’s living at the mansion. Benjamin and Tess bond over their shared love for the movie Psycho (!) and begin to strike up a friendship. While the art in this title showed most people having problems with triangle-shaped chins, overall the art was a little more fluid and Tess’s glossy hair, limpid eyes, and devotion to her beater of a car made her an appealing heroine.

Marriage Scandal, Showbiz Baby!

I was happy when I started reading this volume and saw that instead of the rushed, less detailed art provided for many of these harlequin titles, it opened with a detailed scene of married but estranged actors confronting each other on the red carpet, complete with glossy hair and borders of floating flowers. If there aren’t flowers used as backgrounds in every few pages of a Harlequin manga I feel cheated. Jennifer is an actor and married to Italian superstar Matteo. They’re in the process of divorcing because Matteo romanced the actress that played the evil temptress in their most recent movie. Apparently she is also a temptress in real life. Temptress! There’s a series of flashbacks that show how they first fall in love, when Jennifer was appearing in a play and lured Matteo in because she didn’t care about his fame and wealth. Matteo liked a challenge! Now, as they split up Jennifer’s harpy of a mother keeps lecturing her about the evils of men, and Matteo’s trusty staff don’t put her phone calls through to him. Harpy! Betrayal! Jennifer gets cornered at a party by another womanizing actor named Jack, whose hairstyle, plucked eyebrows, and eyeliner somehow reminded me of John Taylor circa 1983. Duran Duran! Actually many of the fashions in this series ranging from Jennifer’s side-ponytail to the harpy mother’s blouse with attached bow evoked a certain over the top 1980s glamour, which I found amusing because this manga was produced in 2008. Matteo saves her, they get trapped in an elevator, and they make love. Love in an elevator! Jennifer finds herself pregnant, and she and Matteo begin to rebuild their relationship. Because if you need to trap a man, get pregnant! This was highly entertaining, and the lush art did a great job of evoking the fabulous lifestyles of the protagonists.

Two from emanga: The Cinderella Inheritance and The Cinderella Solution

Harelequin manga might be a little bit on the disposable side – I don’t know if I’ve read any that I know I’d want to reread but I’m just getting over a cold and there is really no better manga to read while you have a stuffy head. So here are quick takes on two Harlequin manga that have the word Cinderella in their titles. One manga was good, and one was not so good.

The Cinderella Inheritance by Carolyn Zane and Mon Ito

Cynthia has worked as the personal secretary to the patriarch of a rich family, Alfred Wingate. She’s engaged to his womanizing grandson Graham, but decides that she has to call the engagement off because Graham is a pathological cheater. Things get complicated when Alfred dies and leaves his mansion to Cynthia, along with the qualification that she can’t give the mansion back to the WIngate family. If she doesn’t take it, it has to go to charity. Graham’s long lost brother Rick shows up for the reading of the will, and promptly decides that Cynthia is a scheming woman who got close to his family in order to grab her share of the Wingate fortune.

The quality of these Harlequin manga can be erratic. Sometimes they are good in a brain candy type of way, but other times they really seem rushed. Some of the transitions between scenes in The Cinderella Inheritance seemed a little jerky and the plot elements were introduced randomly, without a real connection to the character’s emotions or backgrounds. I’m never entirely sure if these execution problems are due to issues with the adaptation or the source material because let’s face it, we’re talking about harlequin romance novels here. Of course, Rick and Cynthia fall in love with each other while she’s jugging the expectations of the Wingates that she marry Graham so the mansion will stay in the family. Of course she’s just a good girl who is working her way for college, and while Rick is initially suspicious he finds himself falling in love with her despite his better judgment. I didn’t find Ito’s character designs very appealing, and the art was static. The characters just seemed like paper dolls put through the paces to satisfy a fairly predictable plot.

This title is skipable, but I enjoyed the other Harlequin Manga with Cinderella in the title much much more.

The Cinderella Solution by Kyoko Sagara and Cathy Yardly

Charlotte and Gabe are best friends. She’s a bit of a tomboy and she goes along with Gabe to all of his typical guy-like activities like poker and football games. He even takes her out to a bachelor party right before she’s supposed to be the maid of honor at his sister’s wedding. They constantly compete with each other by making stupid bets. Charlotte has a bit of a psychological complex where she thinks of herself as unfeminine, which is absolutely ridiculous because Sagara draws her as a classic shoujo heroine with shining eyes and glossy hair. I guess the thing that signals that she isn’t very girly is the fact that she always has her hair pulled back in a ponytail.

I’ve decided that I enjoy these Harlequin manga the most when the art is extra super-girly and this manga didn’t disappoint in that category. Take a look at the cover where our cute couple is surrounded by both roses and weird blobby sparkly things. The character designs are cute, with bee-stung lips and perfect hair. The only odd thing is that Sagara tends to draw her men with extra long eyebrows, which sometimes gave Gabe a vaguely insectoid appearance. But, unlike the flat personalities in the previous manga, The Cinderella Solution really takes the time to establish the bickering relationship between Gabe and Charlotte. She’s in agony performing her bridesmaid duties at the wedding and Gabe is the master of casually cruel comments like “Do you think Charlotte is the wife type? She’ll be just fine single for the rest of her life.” Goaded beyond her limits, Charlotte bets Gabe $1000 that she’ll find someone to propose marriage to her in a month. She embarks on a makeover campaign, and soon finds a potential suitor when an eligible bachelor moves next door. Gabe is surprised by his growing feelings of jealousy as he sees other men notice his best friend. Charlotte uses the bet as a way of gaining more self confidence, and Gabe is soon confronted with the decision that he might have to give up platonic friendship for romance or lose her forever.

The Cinderella Solution was an enjoyable read simply because the characters were more fully developed, so I was interested in seeing the conclusion of their story. I tend to like romances more when some funny moments are incorporated, so I appreciated Charlotte inadvertently introducing herself to her neighbor while wearing a mud pack on her face and Gabe’s unique approach to formal wear when he goes to spy on Charlotte and her wanna-be boyfriend at a party. This was definitely a better than average Harlequin manga title.

Access to electronic copies provided by the publisher

Online Manga

Note: this piece originally appeared on The Bureau Chiefs as part of my Anna Reads Manga feature.

Online manga can be a little difficult to track down if you are trying to avoid the many sites that exist to host scanlations (fan translations), or in the most egregious cases, hosting scans of the American manga editions. Fortunately in recent months more American publishers are putting manga online for free sampling or to make it easy to subscribe for electronic access. I’ll give an overview of some of the places you can go to read manga online legally.


Viz Media caused a stir when it started serializing manga chapters on its sites Shonen Sunday and Sigikki. This is the place to go if you are looking for quirky seinen manga, as the parent Japanese magazine Ikki tends to specialize in the obscure. There’s a wide variety of stories and art styles on display. Chapters gradually rotate off the site as the print volumes are published.

Here are capsule reviews of my three favorite Sigikki series:

Afterschool Charisma – This series takes place in a school filled with clones of famous people from history. Napolean seems to be in the middle of a growth spurt, Mozart is an arrogant jerk, Marie Curie wants to play the piano instead of studying radium, and Freud is a creepy teen with a pageboy haircut. The ordinary boy Shiro Kamiya, whose father is in charge of the school and the cloning project, attends school along with the clones. Shiro innocently asks his father to help Marie with her musical ambitions, but what happens to her is not what Shiro intended. Will Shiro find out the truth behind the school? The art in Afterschool Charisma looked the most shoujoish to me out of all the Siggiki series. Sometimes it was difficult to tell apart the female characters, but the male characters were a bit more individual and had more personality. Teen-clone-Freud is hilarious.

House of Five Leaves – Masanosuke is a poor masterless samurai with a personality defect: He falls apart when he attracts attention. Thus he does a poor job of acting intimidating and keeps getting fired from his bodyguard jobs. Yaichi hires him for a day’ work. Masanosuke is struck by Yaichi’s confident air. But it turns out that Yaichi is a member of the criminal group the House of Five Leaves. Will Masanosuke continue to work for kidnappers in the hopes that Yaichi’s calm demeanor will wear off on him? I enjoyed the art of this series, as Ono has a loose and fluid style of drawing which serves to highlight Masanosuke’s defeated body language and his eyes, which look hollow eyes of someone who isn’t eating very well. Most samurai stories feature a main character who is more of a traditional bad-ass type, so I thought this twist on the genre was interesting.

Children of the Sea
Children of the Sea is as beautiful, deep, and mysterious as the ocean that the characters inhabit. Ruka is a young girl who gets in trouble at school for violently retaliating against a teammate at sports practice. She decides not to go home and goes on a quest to see the ocean. She travels to Tokyo at night and reaches an ocean view. A mysterious boy makes the pronouncement “The sea in Tokyo is kinda like a broken toy” and leaps over her into the sea. Ruka runs down to rescue him. Umi was raised in the ocean along with another boy named Sora by dugongs. They maintain their connection to the sea, and their skin becomes unbearably dry if they aren’t submerged in water very long.

Mysterious ocean animal disappearances have started to plague scientists. Animals seem to become spotted with light before they vanish like ghosts. Ruka’s father works in an aquarium where Umi often hangs out. As Ruka tries to escape her troubles in school she spends more and more time in the aquarium, meeting Umi and Sora’s foster father Jim. He’s a foreigner with mystical tattoos who loves to surf. Sora is sickly and spends a lot of time in the hospital. He’s suspicious of Ruka even though Umi says that she “smells like them.” Ruka sees Umi and Sora occasionally glowing with the unearthly light that the ocean ghosts emit. Are they going to be the next to disappear?

Shonen Sunday is a companion online manga site aimed at the younger set. Viz uses it to serialize new series like Rumiko Takahashi’s Rin-Ne and Yuu Watase’s Arata, but it also serves as a way to sample some of Viz’s lesser known backlist titles like the excellent monster hunting series Kekkaishi.

– The hero of the story is Yoshimori. He’s young and weak and struggles with his training to become the successor to his family’s long-standing demon hunting tradition. His secret friend is the older girl next door Tokine, who belongs to a rival demon-hunting clan. Both Yoshimori and Tokine are aided in their demon hunts by demon dog sidekicks, who provide comic relief and guidance. Yoshimori isn’t very savvy about hunting demons. Tokine saves him and is injured in the process.

The story picks up again when Yoshimori is 14 and Tokine is 16. She criticizes his lack of refinement when demon hunting and counsels him to save his power. He doesn’t want to see anyone get hurt in front of him anymore and is determined to become a better fighter. Their school is conveniently located above a reservoir of power and at night they pursue the hunt. The manga blends action and humor as Yoshimori tries to fulfill his cherished ambition of making the perfect cake and dodges his grandfather’s training attempts. There are darker forces at work behind the sacred site that Yoshimori is sworn to protect. The story lines and character development are more complex than a typical fighting manga, which makes for a rewarding reading experience for those who like manga with a little bit of monster fighting and slapstick comedy.

Other major manga publishers like Tokyopop and CMX do tend to put up sample chapters of their manga, but I think Viz’s decision to set up separate online magazine sites with highlighted content gives their content greater prominence. I wish that in addition to the shonen and seinen sites Viz would put up an online magazine where readers could sample shoujo manga, especially after the demise of Shojo Beat magazine. Shonen Jump will soon be the only manga anthology magazine on the newsstands in the US. Yen Plus recently announced plans to discontinue their print magazine in favor of going digital instead. I think the next few years will hopefully give publishers a chance to experiment with digital manga magazines.


This is an area where some of the smaller, more experimental publishers have more developed sites.


This is the online publishing arm of Digital Manga Publishing, which is probably best known for their yaoi titles, although back in the day they put out editions of some wonderfully weird stuff like Bambi and Her Pink Gun and Project X – Nissin Cup Noodle, a manga about the invention of noodles in a cup. While a casual reader might expect the titles on eManga to be only yaoi, there’s actually more variety there, with plenty of manga adaptations of harlequin romances and the shoujo classic Itazura Na Kiss. Reading manga there operates on a points system, where $10 will get you 1000 points, and online access to selected volumes may be priced anywhere between 200-400 points. If you follow digitalmanga on twitter, they’ll often give away free online access to selected volumes.


Netcomics is mainly a specialty publisher of Korean comics, or manhwa. They’ve used their online platform to publish American manga style comics and Japanese manga as well. Paying for manga on this site works on a chapter by chapter basis, with each chapter costing 25 cents. Single chapters from most titles are available for preview as well. Titles are sorted by genre, so it is easy to find series that might fit your mood, if you are looking for romance, comedy, or science fiction manhwa. Some of Netcomics’ titles that had print editions for the first few volumes have the later volumes only available online. I hate it when series are dropped, so while someone wanting to collect print copies of an entire series might be disappointed, it does seem like a good way of making slow-selling titles available to readers.

I can’t say that we’ve reached a level of mature development with the legal manga that’s available for readers. It would be nice if other publishers also followed Viz’s Sigikki model. But at least a handful of sites is available for fans who want to do the right thing and avoid scanlations. Hopefully the next few years will have more manga publishers experimenting with their online presence.

PR: Blumanga available on emanga.com

Gardena, CA (October 14, 2010) – Digital Manga, one of the manga industry’s most unique and creative publishers, is proud to announce an online collaboration with TOKYOPOP, a leading manga publisher and pop-culture digital entertainment company. The partnership will launch with the addition of twelve new titles from TOKYOPOP’s BLU Manga yaoi imprint to eManga’s online library.

The BLU Manga yaoi will be available for purchase through eManga’s online manga service, emanga.com, which streams content through an Adobe Flash player, allowing readers to access their library wherever they have an internet connection. Originally sold for $14.99 in print, the BLU volumes will be available on eManga.com for $5.99, making it more affordable than ever to read old and new favorites.

The first twelve BLU titles will include: Liberty Liberty! by Hinako Takanaga, Calling by Miu Otsuki, Croquis by Hinako Takanaga, Cute Devil by Hiro Madarame, Isle of Forbidden Love by Duo Brand, Blood Honey by Sakyou Yozakura, Love Knot by Lemon Ichijo, Madness volumes 1 & 2 by Kairi Shimotsuki, Scarlet by Hiro Madarame, Secretary’s Love by Tohko Akiba and Stray Cat by Halco.

For more information about our eManga system and to begin reading right away, visit www.emanga.com and click on the TOKYOPOP tab under “publishers”.