Viz Media’s new manga magazine Shojo Beat features titles marketed primarily towards girls. One of the titles being serialized in the magazine is Matsuri Hino’s MeruPuri. For those of us who don’t subscribe to Shojo Beat, the first volume of this series is now available.
The heroine of MeruPuri: Märchen Prince is Airi Hoshina, a strong-willed teenage girl who longs for a modest, stable family life when she gets older. While on her way to school, she encounters a mysterious little boy. She later finds out that the boy, named Aram, is a prince from a magical kingdom who entered into her world via Airi’s star-shaped mirror, a trusted family keepsake. Aram escaped through the mirror to get away from his half-brother Jeile. Jeile cast a spell on Aram and Aram is forced to stay with Airi because he cannot get home. However, the spell has another surprising effect on Aram. When he is put into darkness, Aram ages dramatically.
Aram’s transformation from little boy to hunky teenager leaves Airi scrambling as she tries to hide him from her friends (who mistake him for her new boyfriend) and deal with the unique problems of a little boy in a teenager’s body. One hilarious situation has Airi trying to control Aram while at a “Sparkle Rangers” live show. However, with the transformation comes the revelation that the only way to break the spell is with a kiss from “one’s beloved maiden.” To Aram, Airi is his “beloved maiden” and only her kiss can break the spell and return Aram to his normal age.
MeruPuri is a title that balances humor and romance very well. The first chapter of the manga is cute as Airi, who lives alone, enjoys the company of the young Aram. However, things change one the transformation comes into play. Gradually, Airi finds herself developing romantic feelings for Aram even though she knows that he’s really a boy underneath the exterior. It seems that for Aram, Airi is his first love, even if he doesn’t really realize it yet. There are also other possible suitors for Airi. Nakaouji works with Airi in school on the Class Committee and represents the ideal that Airi is supposedly looking for. Also, after a violent encounter with Airi, Aram’s half-brother Jeile declares his love for Airi even though he has multiple wives.
The artwork in MeruPuri is very appealing. It is easy to distinguish between characters and the art isn’t as soft and flowery as other titles. In fact, the author’s notes that appear throughout the volume give a great insight into why each character looks the way he/she does.
For the most part, Viz did a good job translating and editing the manga. Unlike TOKYOPOP, Viz translates and replaces the sound effects in their manga titles. There seemed to be no grammatical errors, empty text bubbles, or anything like that. The original orientation of the manga is kept, meaning that it is read from right-to-left.
Matsuri Hino’s Merupuri is a great title and one that should do well in Shojo Beat magazine. It’s not groundbreaking or angst-ridden. It’s just a fun, light fairy tale-esque story that will appeal to fans of romantic comedy, shoujo manga, or those who enjoy great artwork and a good story. I’m definitely looking forward to Volume 2, scheduled for October 2005.