by Nari Kusakawa; adapted by Sheldon Drzka
published by DC/CMX Manga; $9.99 US
Nari Kusakawa previously created The Palette of 12 Secret Colors and The Recipe for Gertrude. Like those titles, this book is an overstuffed combination of fantasy, romance, magical creatures, battles, and a quest.
Shakuya is heir to the Dragon Clan, so her marriage is of political importance. She’s had a fiance since she was born, but he went missing and was presumed dead. So she got another one, an eyepatched police officer. Now the first one has returned with amnesia.
Her magic dragon blood gives her tattoos that show how she feels about the guys — the markings grow as her feelings do. Her clan is willing to let her decide which one to pick, sort of: at the end of a year, whichever hand tattoo is larger determines which guy she winds up with. Along the way, Shakuya changes into a dragon whenever she gets over-emotional, and just for cuteness value, two tiger cubs join the gang.
The premise is amusingly crazy, but the book feels like it was written both by and for those with short attention spans, with lots going on, maybe too much. The art’s a mishmash as well. I was glad the text often explained what we’re seeing, since in several of the plot-driving scenes, I wouldn’t have otherwise known. Shakuya is shallow and yet plays superhero with her magic powers, saving the day for random villagers. There’s no deep characterization here, no examination of Shakuya’s feelings, just “which cute guy should I wind up with?” She’s not even really given a choice, since her tattoos set up the common manga result of “I guess I really did love him more after all, even if I didn’t realize it.”
Now, that said, those aren’t necessarily flaws if you’re looking for a light romantic comedy and you just want to follow along with the twists and turns. Shakuya’s a youngster, and being swept away due to being pursued by two men would be likely to drive all other thoughts out of her head. At least the guys have different personalities, with small revelations that appear at surprising moments.
A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher. In Book 2, due out in August, a snake charmer uses his power to kidnap her, and the fiances have to work together for the rescue.