Nina the Starry Bride, Vols 1 and 2 by Rikachi

Nina the Starry Bride Volumes 1 and 2 by Rikachi

I’m really bad at buying digital volumes of manga and then totally forgetting to read them, but I got a new tablet recently so I’m hoping to start getting caught up on some digital series that have been out for awhile. Nina the Starry Bride is likely one of those series that I would have glommed onto immediately if it had a print release, but I’m coming to it a bit late.

Nina the Starry Bride Vol 1

Royal duplicate plots are fairly common in fantasy manga, but Nina the Starry Bride is a solid example of the genre, helped a great deal by charming and detailed art. Nina is an orphan with unusual blue eyes who has found a family of sorts with a couple brothers. They spend their days hiding out and stealing occasionally to support themselves. When they fall on hard times, Nina is betrayed and handed over to slavers and her unusual eye color leads to her being recruited to be a stand-in for a recently deceased princess by the amber-eyed Prince Azure.

After some initial resistance, Nina works hard to develop her knowledge of etiquette and ability to behave like a princess. As only Azure and a few trusted servants know her secret, Nina grows closer to the second prince as she learns more about the royal family. Azure has a younger brother who is the acknowledged heir, a snarky stepmother, and his mysterious father is king. Nina and Azure share a certain loneliness, and it is nice to see how they begin to open up to each other. This series is fairly fast-paced as by the second volume Nina has a strong grasp of geopolitics and decides to save Azure, even though he’s attempting to prevent Nina from being sent off to a neighboring kingdom as part of a political alliance.

Rikachi has attractive character designs, with Azure looking particularly cool with his standoffish manners and asymmetrical earrings. Nina shifts from orphan to princess, and the lush detail of her life in the palace contrasts with the sparseness of her previous life. While Nina might not have the royal background of the people surrounding her, she’s true to herself in a way that makes it easy for her to deal with the political and family issues that she she encounters. While the elements of Nina the Starry Bride aren’t used in a particularly novel way, it is overall a strong fantasy manga that should appeal to fans of Dawn of the Arcana

Knight of the Ice, Vol 7

Knight of the Ice Volume 7 by Yayoi Ogawa

We don’t get a ton of josei series translated, so I do cherish the ones that come out in print like Knight of the Ice which has a winning combination of figure skating drama combined with Ogawa’s quirky sense of humor. While many of the plot points of the series center around Kokoro’s difficulties training and winning competitions, this volume opens with Chitose dealing with her heart condition. Kokoro’s hard-nosed manager Moriyama visits Chitose in the hospital, and it is great to see how much she cares even though she goes to great lengths to hide her emotions. Chitose doesn’t want to derail Kokoro’s concentration by having him worry about her, so she decides to both postpone having surgery and wants to keep her condition a secret.

Knight of the Ice 7

For the rest of the volume, Kokoro is vaguely uneasy as he trains for his latest competitions, as he can tell that Chitose is hiding something but he isn’t sure what it is. He’s dealing with his ongoing issues of pushing his technical abilities but sometimes struggling to be artistic and expressive enough in his skating. “Yayoi Ogawa” shows up to dash off a sketch for an inspiring new costume. Ogawa’s dynamic and expressive art makes the skating competitions compelling, as all the skaters are dealing with their own struggles. Kokoro has some triumphs and setbacks, and has still not yet reached his full potential. I’m enjoying seeing the story in Knight of the Ice unfold.

An Incurable Case of Love, Vol 7

An Incurable Case of Love Volume 7 by Maki Enjoji

Especially in these pandemic times, sometimes I just want to read something light and fairly predictable. I don’t want surprise plot twists or social commentary, but seeing a couple work through and resolve all the impediments to their romance and end up with a happy ending is often just the diversion that I’m looking for. The Shojo Beat “stealth josei” titles like An Incurable Case of Love tend to be limited, with only one or two coming out at a time but I really enjoy them.

An Incurable Case of Love Volume 7

This is the final volume of An Incurable Case of Love! I’ve been feeling like the past couple volumes have been stretching out the story a little too much, this would probably have been a very tight 5 volume series as opposed to a slightly meandering 7 volume series, but I very much enjoyed it overall. I’m a sucker for repeated plot tropes and anything in shoujo manga that reminds me of a k-drama, so I was delighted when there was a time skip involved when Dr. Tendo had to study abroad for a number of years only to finally reunite with Nanase at the end. I do not feel like I’m even revealing any major spoilers as all of this has been telegraphed to the reader all along. Still, by the end of the manga the Dark Lord and the Valiant One have become an adorable couple and it is nice to see Nanase win in her steadfast goal of bagging the one doctor that she feel in love with at first sight so many years ago. For fans of predictable workplace romance, An Incurable Case of Love absolutely delivers. I’m hoping to get some more josei titles that are set in places beyond offices, because this series was amusing and the medical setting gave the author plenty of opportunities to explore extra drama.

An Incurable Case of Love, Vol 5

An Incurable Case of Love Volume 5 by Maki Enjoji

After four volumes with plenty of workplace hijinks now that Tendo and Nana have become an actual couple, there have to be some random external influences show up to test their relationship. In the fifth volume this takes the form of a forlorn young man who shows up and demands that Nana hide him from some people who are following him. This turns into an extremely odd impromptu date involving a bowling alley and a park. Nana humors him for awhile, because her nursing instincts are kicking in. When he has a seizure, Nana has him transported to her hospital.

An Incurable Case of Love Volume 5

The young man turns out to be Chikashi, the heir to a conglomerate. He refuses to be transported to a private hospital and demands that Nana be assigned as his personal nurse. Nana agrees after Chikashi makes it clear that he isn’t above a bit of blackmail, he also incorporates some threats to Tendo’s career. Nana and Tendo’s relationship is strained, and while Chikashi is clearly acting like an extremely bratty patient, he’s also doing this because he’s incredibly lonely. One of the best parts of this volume was Tendo’s aggravated faces as he attempts to deal with this situation semi-professionally. Nana lets her caring nature lead to her getting taken advantage of, but it seems like Chikashi ends up in a better place than he was before, so if her goal is to maintain being an excellent nurse, she’s still on track to achieve it. While there isn’t really a high amount of drama or complex story line in this volume, this workplace romance still manages to be diverting and seeing Nana and Tendo work through their issues with the core of their relationship strong is plenty heartwarming.

Knight of the Ice Vols 2 and 3

Knight of the Ice Volumes 2 and 3 by Yayoi Ogawa

This series is rapidly becoming one of my favorite pandemic distraction manga, and I started it fully enthusiastic for a new Ogawa manga. I haven’t felt disappointed so far! The first volume did a good job setting up tiny magazine editor Chitose’s secret relationship with her childhood friend renowned figure skater Kokoro. While this is certainly a josei series, Kokoro’s extreme shyness and sheltered secret otaku lifestyle makes the romance aspect of the manga as slowly developing as any series with high school protagonists. This is a comfortable pace for the reader, because after the first volume the series is able to settle in for a little bit and introduce more of the supporting cast and further explore the world of high-stakes international figure skating.

Given that Chitose’s boss Sawada seems to be taking an unusual interest in one of his junior employees, it isn’t too surprising that she gets caught sneaking off in order to cast her magical girl spell on Kokoro right before he competes. When a fan spots Chitose and Kokoro together and starts posting rumors online, Kokoro’s dynamic and scary manager Moriyama invents the cover story that Chitose is part of Kokoro’s coaching team. As Chitose spends more consistent time with Kokoro, she begins to be more aware of her feelings and it is clear that Kokoro is using his feelings for his oldest friend to motivate him to perform even better in his sport. At the same time Sawada has an uncanny knack for popping up whenever Chitose is experiencing a moment of extreme distress.

As the figure skating season unfolds, Kokoro is able to turn in some of his best performances thanks to some unorthodox motivation from Chitose, but he’s also plagued by a nagging injury. While the slowly developing romance between Chitose and Kokoro keeps moving forward (there are kisses on the cheek!), I found myself enjoying the quirky supporting cast in the series more and more. Moriyama’s blunt pronouncements about just how far Kokoro can go with his potential relationship certainly provide a contrast to the more innocent romance that’s happening. Kokoro’s twin sisters intervene when another skater is about to get taken advantage of, and if Kokoro doesn’t have enough pressure to deal with it becomes more clear that his career and public image is being controlled behind the scenes by his father. Chitose is starting to become more confident about advocating for herself and her own feelings. Between skating drama, romance, family issues, and Ogawa’s quirky humor there’s plenty to keep a reader entertained in Knight of the Ice.