By Leroy Douresseaux
March 23, 2007 - 00:27
BACKSTAGE PRINCE, VOL. 1
CARTOONIST: Kanoko Sakurakoji
TRANSLATION & ADAPTATION: Mai Ihara
ISBN: 978-1-4215-1172-6; soft cover; Rated "T" for Teen
192 pp., B&W, 8.99
A chance encounter introduces lovelorn teen Akari to a cute boy named Ryusei Horiuchi. Later, another chance encounter, this time with a black cat, brings Akari back to Ryusei, who turns out to also be the internationally famous kabuki actor Shonosuke Ichimura. While these early encounters go badly, with the help of the cat, Mr. Ken, Akari and the seemingly silent and sullen Ryusei form a pair. Although Akari is clueless about kabuki, she becomes the backstage assistant to the notoriously shy Ryusei. Akari is insecure and Ryusei is struggling to break free of his family obligations. Let the drama begin.
The creation of Manga-ka, Kanoko Sakurakoji, Backstage Prince made its American debut in the pages of Viz Media's anthology Shojo Beat. Vol. 1 seems to be an introduction to the characters that will play the key roles over the long haul in this romantic drama. Backstage Prince is certainly shojo (comics for teenaged girls) with its over-reaching emphasis on Akari's endless yearning for the talented pretty boy, Ryusei.
The art is very pretty, but the narrative is sickly sweet. Akari is almost a parody of 1950 and 60's romance comics and comic strips, in which the female characters pined their aching hearts away for the man of the dreams - a man who somehow failed to notice their desperate longings. Still, this Manga might be just right for teenaged girl readers who nurse secret crushes, and maybe they have the same body image issues Akari does. This may be their cup of tea, and though I like shojo, I don't like this beautifully drawn series.
Thanks to barnesandnoble.com for the images.