written by Penny Jordan; art by Takako Hashimoto; adapted by Ikoi Hiroe
published by Dark Horse; $9.95 US
Response is a faithful adaptation of a Harlequin romance novel by Penny Jordan.
It was one of the first releases in the Ginger Blossom line published by Dark Horse. Purple means that it’s aimed older, with “more sophisticated” content. The pink books were geared younger (no sex), and both were printed in ink colors that matched their name. (The purple’s not bad to read, if a tad unusual, but I found the hot pink headache-inducing.) Both imprints released three titles before Harlequin ended the Dark Horse deal to take their manga publishing back in-house.
The story was originally published as a novel in 1984, and both the content and the art are dated. Hashimoto’s art is in the lush, traditional shojo style from that era, which I find pretty to look at but some might consider old-fashioned.
As I said, it’s true to its genre. That means a young woman, newly out on her own (with help from an older brother), meets a stunningly handsome, fabulously wealthy young man when she’s assigned as his temporary secretary. His touch awakens desire in her for the first time. He seduces her (all done very tastefully, with nothing visible but bubble-like starbursts and roses), but he has a secret motivation. He wants revenge on her brother, but she’s faithful to her sibling.
Events happen rapidly, and emotions change quickly, probably because the material had to be abridged to fit in the illustrated format. Some of it’s rather unbelievable, but given the genre’s dictates that the couple must be forced together, using their sexual attraction as the only bond they have, until they both admit to their love, again, it’s faithful.
Typically, he refuses to acknowledge his feelings, and he must learn that admitting love is not a weakness. She resists because “how could such an amazing man truly feel anything for me?” and she will only settle for true, mutual love. Plus, he must be convinced of his mistaken impression of her brother, caused by his pride and unwillingness to admit he could be wrong. She stands up for herself, demonstrating her individual strength, but ends up being the one to bring them back together by nursing him back to health when he collapses.
It’s a good read for those who enjoy romance novels, especially if they also enjoy manga or are interested in trying it. There are preview pages at the publisher’s website, and a review comparing the story to more traditional shojo manga at Animefringe.
SPOILER! The unbelievable part, for those of you who will never read the book, is that a woman, facing emotional truths she doesn’t like, would run out in front of a car, get hit, get amnesia, and then a judge would marry her to someone in that state. The husband thought it would be a good thing because he took her virginity out of mistaken revenge. This way, he could take care of her until she recovered and make up for his error. And it fits his tendency to treat women as possessions, providing the kind of faux evidence of strong masculinity common to the publisher.