Papillon Volume 1
Hana was raised in the city, and she’s pretty, popular, and outgoing. Her twin sister Ageha lived with their grandmother in the country, and she’s shy and plain … although, obviously, that’s more in her head, since they’re twins. She blames her upbringing and outside circumstances for her situation, dreaming of becoming a beautiful butterfly (thus the title) but either not knowing what to do or not sure she’s willing to take the steps to get there.
Ageha has a crush on Ryusei, a childhood friend who’s now a nice, handsome classmate. An even more handsome mysterious stranger encourages her to create the reality she dreams of (in a combination of wishful thinking, prayer, and magic spell), which leads to her becoming friends with Ryusei again. Then things get complicated in Papillon.
It’s a bit odd that two twins could be viewed so differently, but it’s an interesting turn on the Cinderella story (an allusion that’s made explicitly in the book). Miwa Ueda previously authored Peach Girl. That series was about a girl who was thought to be something she wasn’t because of her looks, complicated by jealousy from a classmate. Several of those themes return here, only the envy and competition to be most loved is within the family.
Like that series, this story has characters judged by their appearance, often wrongly. The idea that one’s behavior makes one attractive reappears, as does the concept that a shy girl who tries hard can become the popular girl she wants to be. Ueda knows how to create compelling high school drama. Her figures are also very attractive, and it’s believable that these two sisters look so different given their appearances and body language. There are also plenty of plot twists and surprises.
Hana sets out to capture Ryusei for herself, and she’s much more skilled in tactics and flattery than Ageha is. Ageha isn’t going to get what she dreams of without effort and standing up for herself. Ueda does a terrific job capturing the casual cruelty of kids, as well as their surprising generosity. They only think about what they want with little sympathy for anyone else, and those who seem to be friends may turn out to be otherwise. I like the message of optimism, that even if Ageha doesn’t get what she wants, she’s still a better person for trying, and failing isn’t the end of the world.
This is a great new series for the Gossip Girl audience or anyone wanting exciting soapy shojo. Papillon is due out in October 2008 and can be preordered from comic shops with Diamond code AUG08 3970. A preview copy was provided by the publisher.