Sakura Hime 2

August 7, 2011

Arina Tanemura – Viz – 2011 – 8+ volumes

Hmm… Tanemura promised last time that Aoba would be more likable. I don’t see how this is possible, seeing as how he shot her all the way through with an arrow and led a hunting party to kill her, shouting that he hated her all the while. But, you know. Arina Tanemura can sometimes surprise you like that.

Not yet, though. There are clearly still feelings of love between Aoba and Sakura, and Aoba keeps trying to do heroic things and gets jealous when Fujimurasaki begins hitting on Sakura. But all the same. He literally killed her. Completely and utterly betrayed her. It may take more than the power of shoujo manga to recover from that.

Annoyingly, the plot does a complete 180 here. After being hunted, Fujimurasaki shows up in Sakura’s hour of need and reveals that she can, indeed, stay in the kingdom if she agrees to fight yokai. I’m not sure why that wasn’t a condition to begin with. The plot then follows Fujimurasaki, Aoba, Sakura, and company as they venture into the mountains so that Sakura can prove herself by killing a particularly dangerous yokai. Along the way, Fujimurasaki begins making moves, Aoba is still clearly in love, and a new, demon-ish contender shows up at the end in the race for Sakura’s heart.

After being disappointed by some of the plot twists here, I still like this series quite a bit. There’s a ridiculous declaration at the beginning of the volume where Sakura decides to buck fate and do what she wants. It’s horribly cliche, but in the middle of a story by one of the girliest authors I can think of, it’s appropriate and extremely enjoyable. I also like the way Tanemura is developing the intrigue between the princes and the various royal personnel. There are issues later with one of the advisers, Sakura’s attendant still doesn’t trust her and a plotline follows that out to its conclusion, and Hayate the kunoichi is still hanging around being both helpful and goofy. I still don’t like Aoba, and I think Fujimurasaki is a creep for taking advantage of Sakura during her weak moments, but I like that both brothers are in the story. I like both of their roles, and I like the way they work as characters both together and with Sakura.

Plus, I’m just weak to super-girly series like this. A magical girl series with a strong heroine that slays demons in ancient Japan? Still a really fun concept as of volume two. The required romance is there, and all the action has a super-emotional spin on it that makes everything extra girly. The art helps, too, especially since Tanemura is one of the most ornate shoujo artists I can think of. Everything she draws is among the girliest manga I can think of, but she’s really trying hard to girl it up here.

I know calling something “girly” isn’t much of a critique, but I consider it a very positive trait in shoujo manga, especially one as good as this. I mean, I still like it even when I don’t like parts of the plot or characters. That’s strong stuff.

After the conclusion to the chase scene, the rest of this volume feels mostly like exposition. Tanemura mentions that we are still in the middle of the “Aoba arc,” and that it will likely finish by volume three. I’m looking forward to it, if only because she seems so sure that she can turn the reader around after what Aoba did.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

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