by Asuka Izumi; adapted by Sheldon Drzka
published by DC/CMX Manga; $9.99 US
This manga, a romance in a magical fantasy setting, has enough humor to make it an enjoyable read for the young and young-thinking.
As explained in the author’s notes, this book is Asuka Izumi’s first collection, so it follows a typical pattern: The first chapter works as a stand-alone story establishing the premise. That’s so if the concept isn’t popular or picked up, then there’s still a satisfactory ending. But this series was popular enough to get four more chapters (and a second book, which concludes the short series). There’s also an early, different story by the same author included in this volume. (The author later created Ballad of a Shinigami, already published in the US.)
The premise here is daffy. Tomboy Princess Canary has an arranged marriage with neighboring Prince Heath, who’s an indulged dolt of a playboy. Heath has a talking lizard who magically switches bodies with him to meet Canary, after which the two fall in love. Turns out, after various twists and turns, that the lizard is really Heath’s long-lost brother Sienna. (All the characters are named after colors, with eyes the same shade as their names. And I hate to spoil the twist, except I can’t talk about the rest of the book without doing so, and it’s revealed on the back cover.)
The characters are classically attractive, except for the lizard, who is little more than a doodle, a Pac-Man head on a tail. The rest of the cast is beautifully drawn for denizens of some faraway kingdom who act surprisingly modern. And I like Canary’s personality, even if her name is dippy. She’s strong, she does what she thinks is right regardless of what other think, and she’s observant and insightful — a true princess. Sienna, on the other hand, is a bit more goofy and insecure, which is part of his charm. Together, they’re a great pair.
In the following stories, the author takes on several different genres, so there’s always something new to explore. Chapter 2 is a slapstick comedy, with Sienna’s lizard form sending people screaming as he tries to do good deeds. It also extends the lizard-boy concept into something that works for a series.
The third chapter is a mistaken identity mystery, with an impostor pretending to be Prince Sienna who has to be investigated and unmasked. Next, the two go to a South Seas island where they visit a haunted house and resolve a ghost’s trauma. Of course, there’s the mandatory “possession that reveals emotion” scene as well. The last chapter is the weirdest of all — the two characters are given a baby to take care of for five days as a way to practice parenting. The baby’s adorable to watch, though.
The variety may seem scattered to some, but I liked the way the characters worked together in different situations. It became more like a supernatural TV series, with a different premise every episode, than a fantasy romance. What really won me over was the opening to chapter four. Like every chapter, the premise is briefly explained, but this time, the captions get a little snarky, to which the lizard responds, “oh, leave me alone.” Poor little guy.
(The publisher provided a review copy.)