Sakura Hime 5

January 19, 2012

Arina Tanemura – Viz – 2011 – 9+ volumes

Bah, I did it again. Volume 5 disappeared from my to-read stack, so when 6 came in this week, I wound up reading that one first. Sadly, I didn’t realize I had skipped a volume. To be fair, I was puzzled by the fact I didn’t remember Kohaku being in the middle of a fight, and I thought it was odd that the backstory about the ninja village would be skipped. But I still didn’t realize I missed a volume until I went to mark this off my to-read list at Librarything.

But anyway. I still love this series dearly, and I like volume five just as much as I did volume 6. It had the missing Kohaku fight, as well as all the ninja backstory you could want. Bizarrely, there is a fight with Byakuya and Maimai that is just glossed over when Byakuya uses a strange power and grows younger. But, you know, whatever. The story will probably go back to that later.

One thing that did disappoint me a little was when the realization hit that… well, we are simply working our way systematically through the backstory of all the characters as they fight while working their way up to Sakura. Knowing there’s a formula to it isn’t that fun, nor is the fact that the main story is on hold while we learn all about the bad guys and… well, why they aren’t bad guys, I guess? One of my other pet peeves is when characters are blaming themselves (and others blame them) for some catastrophic event, usually a death or the deaths of many, that turns out to not be their fault at all. And after everything is explained, and it’s clearly not the character’s fault, everyone continues on as if it is. This happens to one character each in this volume and the next. The character in this volume does appear to be forgiven as of volume six, but he still hasn’t explained himself, nor does anyone else know he’s not guilty. Whatever.

After having said that, though, I still enjoy this series immensely. I love to nitpick, but really, this is continuing to deliver some fairly solid shoujo action/fantasy, and I’m a sucker for these stories when they’re this good. The ninja fights here are interspersed with flashbacks to the days at the ninja village. We see young Hayate, Kohaku, and Shuri train with Aoba, and we also learn about their various love triangles, how Hayate was turned into a frog, and the mission that drove Shuri into the arms of Sakura’s brother. As you can imagine, tempers run high through this, since it was a childhood friend that betrayed Kohaku, and with the barest hint of romance scattered through everything… well, that makes it exciting in a way that only a shoujo manga can deliver.

There’s a 50-page bonus story in the back of the volume, called “White Rose Academy: Vampire Rose.” It’s… about what you’d expect from a shoujo one-shot, but I really loved it. Tanemura has a knack for telling this kind of girly story, and even the shameless vampire element wasn’t enough to deter me. It has an unusually passionate climax, something you wouldn’t normally see in one of her stories since she tends to write for a younger audience. That was a little different. It wasn’t anything too terribly shocking, but it was satisfying enough. And what can I say? Vampires, vampire hunters, and the supernatural are pretty safe subjects for me.

But really, the thing that got me most excited was the intro to this story, where Tanemura reveals the fact she loves reading about out-of-place artifacts. I want to read a story by her with that theme SO BADLY now.

I imagine I’ll probably write up volume 6 in the next couple days. I didn’t gush as much as I should about this volume, but really. It’s great shoujo fantasy. You usually can’t go wrong with Tanemura’s longer series, and this one is the best yet.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

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