Manga-ka: Naduki Koujima
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: November 2009
Synopsis: “During a trip following a devastating heartbreak, Raoul meets the handsome Arabian prince, Asif! The prince is more radiant than the sun and Raoul finds himself captivated by Asif’s beauty. Despite Raoul’s vow never to let himself suffer heartbreak again, he wonders if this love is worth breaking his vow over. Filled with an endless supply of beautiful princes and valets, the popular Our Kingdom series brings you a delicious tale of exotic love!”
A spin-off of the multi-volume series, Our Kingdom, Arabian Nights follows the series’ antagonist-esque character, Raoul. Remaining envious of his same-age uncle, with whom he’s felt a lifetime of rivalry towards, the young man travels to Arabia to find solace away from his broken heart and spoiled little sisters. But love and trouble follows a boys’ love character everywhere so it doesn’t take long for him to become prisoner of the country’s attractive young prince, Ashif.
This book succeeds well where Our Kingdom began to falter – it knows when to quit. At one volume, this story is well contained. It has enough development, fluff and fun to be entertaining but stops on a high note of readers’ attention spans instead of wearing itself out by trying to keep going too long.
Inner-monologues and brief flashes to characters of Our Kingdom make up the bulk of the book’s emotional focus. Despite this, there isn’t a real need to have read Our Kingdom to enjoy it, or understand it for that matter. Who the referenced characters are isn’t near as important as how they make Raoul feel and his dwelling makes that clear. Raoul is battling with his own inner-demons, namely the resentment he holds over the feeling of repeatedly losing to his family member, Rei. This also includes losing the battle for the affections of another young man. Quick to the rebound however, he finds himself enamored with the nostalgically upfront Ashif and sees the young prince as an integral part of his own evolution towards becoming a better person.
As for the prince himself, Ashif has never left his country before and sports as his character-entourage an attractive older sister, dedicated bodyguard and obligatorily over-protective brother. Though not completely naïve, he’s certainly his own level of dense, allowing the somewhat-sadistic Raoul to enjoy toying with him. Originally Ashif takes Raoul captive to instill a needed sense of urgency for the relationship between his bodyguard and sister, but quickly it turns more personal when he and Raoul become interested in each other.
Through the book Raoul and Ashif don’t really form a solid relationship, per say. It’s more about seeing them enjoy each other’s company with some mildly inappropriate touching at random intervals when it suits Raoul. Their relationship may feel a tad shallow, a little too ‘because-its-a-yaoi-and’, but their interactions are still too sweet, and at many times amusing, to dismiss.
I really liked Ashif’s manner of speech in this translation, which is clear but notably stilted as if not his first language. Not only does it play off his already pretty cute demeanor but it also helps bolster the cultural connection and having never left Arabia before. Digital Manga’s design work on the title is also well handled such as the rich colours used on the cover.
Also in pleasant-tandem with the story’s Arabian culture is Naduki Koujima’s artwork. Her character designs still look far too similar to one another across story’s (though the unmistakable resemblance between Ashif and Our Kingdom’s Akira could be intentional), but there’s still something to say about its charms in the context of a single publication. I enjoy how emotive her characters are and the roundness her art style has, as well as her interesting choice of panel placement. Sometimes it’s a little cluttered but it all ultimately delivers a sense of pacing suitable to what’s happening at the time. Backgrounds and clothing are especially notable in this volume, further driving home the locale.
Arabian Nights may end the story of Raoul and Ashif’s relationship a little sooner than some readers may be happy with but it still reads like an overall satisfying piece. A fun and attractive one-shot, this is a must-have for any fans of Our Kingdom while still being worth a flip through for those new to the series since this book stands so well on its own.