Review by: Sophie Stevens
Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Arina Tanemura
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shojo Beat)
MSRP: $9.99 US
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Available Now
The legend begins and it’s not a bad start at all.
Arina Tanemura is a master of her craft as we can see from her list of shoujo titles that include the fan-favorite Full Moon O Sagashite and I.O.N to the enjoyable Gentleman’s Alliance Cross and Time Stranger Kyoko. We can now add another title to her impressive body of work as Volume 1 of Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura starts off predictably enough until the story takes a very interesting turn to make this fantasy Heian Era story quite enticing.
We are introduced to the beautiful 14-year old Princess Sakura, a girl who lost her family early in her life but – because she’s betrothed to a Prince – she lives in comfort thanks to his financial help. Unfortunately for her, Sakura finds that she is to finally meet and marry the young Prince Oura. The Prince event sent a handsome young emissary who has come to escort her to the palace. Comically, Sakura climbs up a tree to avoid being dragged away but when she falls, it is the rude and outspoken emissary who calls himself Aoba.
Following the advice of the wiser and older Byakuya as well as Sakura’s handmaiden Oumi, she decides to go with her escort to the palace. Aoba discovers that the lovely Princess is very different from other girls. For one thing, she talks to a cute female Mononoke (a tiny spirit) named Asagiri who she once saved from a life of slavery. Secondly, it is rumored that Princess Sakura cannot look up at the full moon.
When they are attacked my a Youko – a flesh-eating demon – attacks them, Sakura shows them that she can call up a power and a sword called Chizakura that Sakura can’t really control. She even has a cute outfit to go with said power. After vanquishing the demon, Sakura finds out that she is the granddaughter of the legendary Moon Princess Kaguya. She was born to destroy Youko and, interestingly enough, the word “destroy” is actually her Soul Symbol (a symbol each person possesses that best represents his or her true nature).
There’s a cute twist after Sakura’s first battle with a Youko and it concerns the emissary Aoba. As it turns out, he’s not what he initially said he was and it surprises Sakura as well as compels the girl to reveal her true feeling about Prince Oura. You see, she always hated him for not having visited her throughout the years when she felt the loneliest. At the same time, she always wondered what he would be like and if he too felt lonely.
The Prince seems to be the perfect match for Sakura. He’s young, handsome, educated and even beloved by the people who see him as the better choice for Emperor than Oura’s older brother. On the evening before their arranged marriage would finally be consummated, Sakura tries to run away. How could she marry somebody she doesn’t have feelings for or even know at all? The young Prince does catch up to her and all seems well for the young couple. Maybe love can grow from this marriage.
This is when Arina Tanemura pulls the rug from right under our feet and makes what would have been a predictable romance into something else. After defeating another Youko in the palace grounds, Prince Oura reveals the truth about his feelings for her. He even shows how he really feels by striking her down with an arrow!
Just barely escaping with her life, Sakura meets a cute and sassy young ninja named Kohaku and her friend that use to be human but was turned into a frog. These people keep Sakura alive as the girl tries to put together the pieces of this troublesome puzzle. Does the Prince really mean what he said to her and continue hunting her down until she’s dead? Who was that girl she saw in her dream when she passed out from her wound? Why did said would heal so quickly without even leaving a scar?
These are questions that make Volume 1 of Sakura Hime a promising series that may have started off as another typical shoujo period fantasy but – thanks to solid writing, a pleasant sense of humor and surprising twists – this is starting to shape out to be an interesting and fun read already. Arina Tanemura fans should definitely check this out and if you’re new to her work you might just want to check it out as well.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
In the Heian Era, there lived the beautiful Princess Sakura who, at 14-years old, is betrothed to the handsome young Prince Oura who has taken care of Sakura financially. When the Prince sends an emissary to take her to her husband-to-be, Sakura discovers that her escort is not who he seems and that she’s the granddaughter of the Moon Princess who battles demons with a mystical sword. Then, on the day of her wedding, Sakura’s life takes a most interesting and dangerous turn.
Arina Tanemura’s art is still quite lovely with some nicely detailed backgrounds and a cute fashion sense that makes all the characters in this series really stand out. We’ve seen big-eyed characters like this before but Tanemura’s style is still easy on the eyes (no pun intended).
While it may seem like a by-the-numbers fantasy period piece, Volume 1 of Sakura Hime has a surprising twist that makes this a worthwhile read even if you’re not a big fan of Arina Tanemura. If you are a fan, Sakura Hime may definitely be a series you should consider picking up because, judging by this first volume, there are some intriguing possibilities that make it worth picking up.
Review copy provided by VIZ Media