Friday, December 26, 2008

Private Prince by Enjouji Maki

It's fitting that my first post should be about manga. I tend to read a lot of it. It's even more fitting that the manga I'm going to talk about is a romance manga. My two secret reading loves, together at last! And yes, this manga is a romance, with all the bells and whistles -- including nudity and sex, although one never sees either a penis or a vagina.

In fact, if Private Prince were a Harlequin romance, it would be titled The Arrogant Prince's Studious Secret Lover or something equally burdensome.

Let me say first that I am not an expert on manga or Japan. I do really enjoy much of the manga and anime I have seen, and I will admit to being a bit of a Japanophile. I'm also not a romance expert -- I leave that sort of thing to the eminently intelligent ladies of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and Dear Author. When I'm making sweeping generalizations, these are generalizations of the manga and the romances that I've sampled and not intended to paint entire genres, and certainly not entire cultures.

All right, caveat aside...

My journey to this particular manga started with a link from SBTB, as is not unusual for me when I'm looking for a good romance to read. I started with Midnight Secretary by Tomu Ohmi, which is very much Twilight for adults. The parallels between the two are not insignificant, although the stories are quite different. Midnight Secretary is not for anyone who was made uncomfortable by Twilight's treatment of women, men and relationships -- but if you enjoy a good alpha male story, it's hot. I don't think I'll say more there.

I started looking at Private Prince because it was "scanslated" by the same group that does Midnight Secretary, Aerandria. I like the quality of both the translations and the images, and I like their particular bent towards romance. I'm disappointed that I can't seem to get a lot of the manga they scanslate in our area, and certainly not in English. With Private Prince you'll need to download the chapters if you want to read them; it's not available at the online manga sites I occasionally look at.

The story follows Miyako, a masters student at a Japanese university that is coincidentally attended by Wilfred (heh), an exchange student from the country of Estolia (also heh). Her thesis is on his great-grandmother, and so she approaches him for help. Turns out that although he's perfectly suave and classy in public, in private he's a horny playboy (surprise surprise) and is highly attracted to Miyako's noticeably large breasts.

Allow me to say that at this point, I wasn't particularly drawn in because Will is clearly an asshole and I'd had my fill of assholes with Kyouhi from Secretary, but there was just enough interest in the story for me to keep reading, and I liked Miyako (how could I not? she's a master's student! with glasses! and big breasts!). Or maybe I was just curious to see when they got nekkid. At any rate, I kept reading and I'm glad I did.

The really wonderful thing about this particular story is that it starts out with a conventional "bad boy" who gets the good girl to fall for him, which is a manga/anime convention that gets really tiresome sometimes -- but it turns out that Will is a character with a fair bit more depth and sensitivity than many of the bad boy heroes I'm used to. As a contrast, his cousin Chris shows up and is much more of a jackass than Will is. And Miyako is a sweetheart any way you slice it. The situations they were in were as believable as any situation in a Harlequin, and though they do run through the conventional misunderstandings and artificial obstacles of category romance, they actually hook up relatively early and many of the chapters are about them dealing with problems together. I like that. Miyako realizes she's in love relatively early on, and so does Will -- the trick is more whether or not theirs is an appropriate romance, given their respective positions in life. How they deal with that becomes the obstacle, and it doesn't end up being one of those romances where you can't understand HTH the hero and heroine plan to stay together. These two are well suited. And we also understand that everything isn't going to be absolutely perfect but we do end up feeling that these characters will figure it out.

It wasn't perfect, of course... the ending is very sudden and very pat, and there are some questionable choices as far as how Miyako's father suddenly shows up and we are given to understand that his absences are why her mother is such a bitch. But these are very minor quibbles.

Overall, it's a sweet story. The art is better than standard, and the story is a pleasant fairy-tale romance. It's not challenging or thought-provoking, which was exactly what I needed while trying to take a break from the Christmas frenzy.

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