Manga-ka: Natsumi Matsumoto
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: September 2010
Synopsis: “Mio has severed the red string of fate between Ryuga and Momoka that destines them to be soul mates. Momoka wants to tell Ryuga she loves him, but he has fallen victim to Mio’s magic spell. Will Momoka be able to repair her and Ryuga’s destiny?”
St.Dragon Girl’s charming mixture of fantasy, martial arts and flowery shojo visuals comes to a sugary end as Natsumi Matsumoto closes the chapter on Momoka and Ryuga’s youth. The gleeful combination of Chinese and Japanese mythology and adorable details common to Ribon magazine manga leaves a warm impression on its readers, leading one hopeful that VIZ will see fit to import the sequel series promised in the concluding notes.
Matsumoto kicks off the volume by concluding the cliff-hanger from the previous volume, wherein Mao’s sister Mio had severed the red string of fate tying Momoka to Ryuga. As the cast meets up at an amusement park to foil Mio’s plans, we’re treated to them taking on goofy demons haunting a thinly veiled version of Cinderella’s Castle from Disney World, right down to the goofy costumed castle stage show, as a large elaborately costumed bunny counts down to the new year of 2002. This chapter highlighted the chummy nature of the supporting cast, as they find ways to support Momoka in her fight to save Ryuga from Mio’s clutches.
The monthly format of most shojo magazines really lends itself well to chapters centered around holidays, and the New Years chapter is followed by a chocolate filled Valentines Day segment. Closing the primary storyline, it focused on Ryuga’s return from training, at once a family tradition, but also an attempt to balance himself and Momoka. Closing out the primary romance plotline, this chapter ends on an overly saccharine note, but how else could it end? The use of Momoka’s dragon in the closing scenes adds an extra quirkiness to it all.
With these two chapters ending the primary storyline, the volume is rounded out by follow-up chapters that finish off some unresolved plotlines, as Akira attempts to resolve her crush on Ryuga and her rivalry/friendship with Momoka before both leave for China. More silly spirits and kung fu action occur as a peach tree’s spirit attacks our heroes. The subsequent chapters continue the series themes of friendship, romance and supernatural hijinx, balanced out with discussions on the characters future- though primarily a children’s series, the characters are in their later years of high school, so while slightly out of place, it foreshadows Matsumoto’s future plans, allowing her characters to grow beyond their school comedy manga setting for a brief moment as the series concludes.
By this volume, her artwork as become more consistent given the years it took to serialize the work, yet remains fresh with a touching nod to her assistants in the extra pages. Slightly less cluttered than the more well-known Arina Tanemura (whose shojo manga I’ve also enjoyed and would recommend to fans of this series looking for a similar fix), Matsumoto brings us the polished charm of a professional having fun with her work, as her cast jump, laugh and sparkle across the series. I found it refreshing that something that is in many ways extremely formulaic nevertheless shows a lot of joy in cartooning, translating into a fun reading experience as good cartooning should.
Matsumoto’s series ends with fairly solid closing notes, but also a look towards the future. She makes note in her author‘s commentary that she‘d soon be publishing St.Dragon Miracle, following the next generation of her cast with a focus on Momoka‘s daughter. This is also something she looks to be doing with her recently announced current series, a sequel to Yumeiro Patisserie that’s set 10 years from that series respective conclusion. Comics, especially those aimed at younger readers, often shy away from aging their main characters, so it’s refreshing to know we’ll get to see the adventures of a slightly older Momoka and her daughter in this sequel series, passing to the torch to the next generation like in Marvel’s long running Spidergirl franchise. Here’s hoping VIZ will bring us more of Matsumoto’s works so we can continue to follow these characters and the next generation.