Manga-ka: Mikiyo Tsuda
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: April 2008
Synopsis: “Fujimori Academy students Kiriya Matsuoka and Tomoe Izumi have been chosen as this year’s princesses, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work to bring them up to speed. Enter former princesses Kouno, Shihoudani and Yutaka for a bit of princess training! Although Matsuoka and Izumi seem willing and able to take over the job of dressing up as girls and cheering at school events, they’re not exactly what you’d call “friends.” Can President Sakamoto and the ex-princesses convince Matsuoka and Izumi to bond for the sake of the school? Or will it take more than a common experience to bring two very different people together?”
A sequel to Mikiyo Tsuda’s series, Princess Princess, Princess Princess + introduces two new characters to the mix: kind and honest, plus financially well off, Tomoe Izumi, and the financially troubled and sensitive introvert, Kiriya Matsuoka. Entering their first year as students at the Fujimori Academy, the pair have accepted the positions of school Princesses for the year, hand-chosen as two who will dress up in girls’ clothes and provide moral support and shining smiles for all at the all-boys’ school.
Long have I waited for this one-shot sequel, as someone who enjoyed Princess Princess and adores Mikiyo Tsuda’s work in general. I was eager for more of what I enjoyed in Princess Princess but curious about what new twist this sequel would be given. Though generally pleased in both regards, I did find the book felt a little rushed. It tried to fit everything that fans such as myself enjoyed in the original, as well as giving it a different focus to avoid being just a rehash of old material.
As stated by the manga-ka themselves, the focus of this story shifts away from Princess duties and spends more time watching the evolving friendship between Tomoe and Kiriya. While Tomoe is open and eager to befriend his fellow Princess, Kiriya is off-put by Tomoe’s wealth and overly generous attitude. The two go through some familiar paces, from avoidance to acceptance, and have some trials that while predictable, worked to flesh them out emotionally. I generally liked them both as characters despite the fact I found them to feel a little shallow in the depth department despite a focus attempting the contrary. They fit a little too neatly in their own molds at times I suppose.
I was pleasantly surprised that all the main characters returned, in particular the previous three Princesses who took up the role of mentors to the newcomers. They playfully acted as spoofs to their own story and continued the tradition of Princess Princess being in many ways an intentional play on both shoujo and boys’ love genre stereotypes. The parts where the ex-Princess trio trained Tomoe and Kiriya on the proper ‘Princess smile’ or fretted over the pair not getting along (or getting along too well in contrast), were never short of entertaining.
Mikiyo Tsuda’s art is also up to all standards I’ve held her to with solid skills, pleasantly detailed backgrounds and characters, and all the shoujo trimmings without going overboard on the sparkle (unless the need arises). The characters are all easy to tell apart within the story despite the often-overused facial designs between her series and the whole thing is paced in a way that’s perfectly tailored to the humour, both in word and action. One of my favourite visual parts of the book was Kiriya’s hair, which I thought was strangely cut, but it ended up having a believable cause and actually made me think his choppy haircut was pretty cute afterall.
This book is also one of the first in Digital Manga’s new imprint, Doki Doki. Most noticeably at first is the cut size, which is the same as their 801Media books. While I’m fine with the size, it was a little odd suddenly reading a continuation done in a format much smaller than the first (Princess Princess was released under Digital Manga’s DMP line which has a larger book size). The overall quality of the book was spot on though, with high quality printing on both the interior and exterior, neat graphic work plus some nice binding that made it a pleasure to flip through. I expected a quality product from past experiences with the company but I think that though generally frill-free (no interior coloured pages), this book’s quality was immediately evident and it was love at first hold for me.
As a fan of Princess Princess, I had a lot of fun reading this one and enjoying the same charm from a different angle. It isn’t as smoothly paced as its predecessor due to its confined one-shot nature, but there’s still no shortage of eye candy and comedy, not to mention a healthy dose of boys’ love implications to keep current fans appeased and newcomers to the concept gently introduced (which is Doki Doki’s intent as an imprint so kudos on a premiere book that fits perfectly).
Ultimately, Princess Princess + is a book I’d recommend first and foremost to fans of the original series, though I can see it as a nice introduction to Mikiyo Tsuda’s work and a test drive for the five-part prequel.