by Rei Toma
published by Viz; $9.99 US
I will tell you the premise of this manga, and it will then become obvious to you why it was chosen to translate, because it’s got a ton of hooks that will be of interest to the target teen female reader.
The red-haired Princess Nakaba has been sent in marriage to Prince Caesar to promote peace between their kingdoms. Their lands also have a tribe of people called Ajin, who have animal ears and tails. Nakaba knows that Caesar doesn’t love her, and she may be in danger when he no longer has use for her, so her only friend is her companion Loki, a dog-like Ajin.
Here we have a beautiful (yet non-traditionally opinionated) royal girl, sacrificing her happiness for the good of others, tragic in her circumstances and living in danger, with only a faithful dog who can talk to protect and comfort her. Her husband despises her but is strangely drawn to her, forcing kisses upon her when the two aren’t threatening to kill each other. Doesn’t that sound like rich potential for emotional involvement from an adolescent reader?
There’s a joust, with Nakaba being tasked with congratulating the winner, an unforeseen forced alliance between Loki and Caesar, and an underlying battle for the throne between Caesar and his older brother (unsubtly named Cain). Nakaba is valued for her encouragement of others, while there’s jealousy among the men, who fight over her in non-obvious ways.
The art is clear and simple, focused on our heroine’s face, and detailed when it needs to be — usually in full-figure shots of costumes, to remind us we’re reading about a princess. She’s spunky and fearless, but also fatalistic and prone to fainting in times of over-excitement. Most young women can relate to the feeling of having to appear strong and unaffected in the face of hatred or insults. This version just dresses it up in fantasy trappings, where instead of cutting with words, someone might actually whip out a sword and stab you. (The publisher provided a review copy.)