It’s tough to find shojo manga that feels fresh and less predictable, like most media these days. I read a ton of shojo because I like the romance and art better than most shonen manga. I’m not saying there aren’t any good shonen manga out there, but shojo is what I’m more likely to buy.
One of my favorite mangakas is Matsuri Hino of Vampire Knight fame. I love her artwork and the Vampire Knight series, though it has been quite some time since I’ve continued reading it. Any of her work that has made its way to being translated for North American readers, I just about bought. This includes another series she did before Vampire Knight called MeruPuri: Marchen Prince.
The story centers around fifteen-year-old Airi Hoshina, who dreams of finding the perfect guy and getting married someday. Her high school has a silly superstition where if a girl continues to come to school on time, the better chances the girl has in finding a better boyfriend. When Airi loses the mirror that has been in her family for generations and she goes on a search for it, she finds her mirror along with a boy named Aram, who has emerged from her mirror.
Aram is the prince of Astale, a magical kingdom on the other side of the mirror. The mirror serves as Aram’s portal to escape his mischievous brother Jeile, who has cast a half-finished spell to turn Aram into an old man. Due to his quick escape from Jeile’s spell, the botched up spell ages Aram into a seventeen-year-old version of himself whenever he is plunged into dark rooms or places. The only way to change Aram back into his original seven-year-old self is to get a kiss from his chosen beloved. This is where the relationship between Airi and Aram gets complicated.
After spending some time with Airi before people from Astale go looking for him, Aram has decided to make Airi his chosen one and his betrothed. By doing this, it has binded them to each other for good. This betrothal not only comes with struggle for both Airi and Aram, but it also brings a whole slew of political and bad blood history to go with it.
When I decided to pick up this four volume manga series, I don’t think I quite knew what I was getting myself into. I read the summary at the back of the first volume and I knew it’d be a fantasy romance. What I didn’t realize was that this series would be pushing a romance between a teenager and a little boy. Creeped out yet? I know I was when I got further into reading the story.
There has been worst relationships portrayed in manga, such as the ever prevalent portrayal of incest relations in both manga and anime, which is the worst I can think of. Depending on how it’s shown in a series, I can get past it. Yuu Watase’s Ayashi no Ceres has some borderline incest going on in the series, but it’s treated in such a way that you know it’s wrong and it’s not meant for titillation. The relationship between Airi and Aram encourages their romance to the point it makes me ill to get behind it.
While the art style of Hino’s work is top notch as always, this is one series I’m having a hard time digesting. I really can’t do a full review of the series until I at least pick up the final volume and make up my mind about it then. From what I have seen and taken away from having recently finished reading Volume 3, my impressions aren’t particularly good. What I find hard to deal with about this series is the love story between a fifteen-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy. Obviously you know when Aram transforms into a seventeen-year-old guy, he’s going to be quite the hottie when he’s older! The key word here is older.
The reality is Aram is not a seventeen-year-old guy yet. He’s still a seven-year-old boy who is under a spell cast by his half-brother. When Aram is in his seventeen-year-old form, he still acts like the kid he really is. Airi reflects on how Aram loves a kids show in her world called Sparkle Rangers and he likes to eat her rice omelets. These observations also reminds the reader of how old Aram actually is. This isn’t the mind of a seventeen-year-old guy, but at times, Aram does take advantage of his older form to do some pretty steamy stuff with Airi.
Reading this manga makes it hard for me to find a lot of good qualities about it to outweigh the bad. It’s impossible to ignore the large age gap between the heroine and her love interest. I can’t in my right mind be on board with this romance when all I can think about is how unromantic this all is. If this romance were to occur in real life, Airi would be viewed as a pedophile and she’d be arrested and charged immediately.
I’m not sure if Aram turning into a hunky seventeen-year-old is supposed to somehow make the actual relationship between Airi and Aram seem less wrong, but no amount of hot guy transformations will be enough to suspend my disbelief in this case. This romance does not give me warm and fuzzy feelings. All I feel after finishing each volume is dirty and a compelling urge to want to vomit from disgust.
I doubt reading the last volume of this series will make me change my mind about how I feel about the story and the two main characters. For now, I’ll keep an open mind until I actually read the last volume. Don’t hold your breath though. I’m predicting no actual redemption for MeruPuri.
15 thoughts on “MeruPuri’s Airi & Aram – Making Romance Creepy And Uncomfortable”
And that’s the reason why I stopped reading this. The 8 year difference is bearable between , say, a 25 year old guy and 33 year old woman, but not a 7 year old boy and 15 year old girl. I don’t know why so many Japanese mangas have this kind of plotline. I read several where the girl is already a teacher, and the boy is , what, first year high school boy? It’s so cringe-worthy. But this type is more bearable than incest stories. I had read at least 3 where the couples are real blood siblings. And the way the authors tell the story is so casual,, heck, even fluffy and sugary, and commenters on the forum even kya kya kya about it. Huh?
It is a short series and I’m at the end anyway. I might as well finish the manga to see how it ends. As you pointed out, the age difference between Airi and Aram is hardly bearable, unless Aram is 25 and Airi is 33. This is not the case here. It is strange when Japanese mangakas seem to like to portray relationships where no one in their right mind would pursue in reality.
I can’t stomach incestuous story threads in manga either, especially if it’s a focal point for the entire series. I think the manga Angel Sanctuary revolves around a couple who are brother and sister, but pursue a forbidden love affair with each other. I never touched that series when I read about the plot. It made me cringe, but the series does have lovely artwork. That’s about all it has going for it.
Incest… I know, right ? I don’t know why mangakas even attempt to make stories like these sugary, like it’s a common thing. It gives a wrong message to young readers who are very impressionable.
This is what turned me away from MeruPuri. It’s just downright creepy when you think about it. From what I’ve heard, there’s a market for stories like this (pedophilia) but it doesn’t make it right. If it flashed forward to when he’s 18 and she’s 26 it would be ok.
Somehow I’m not surprised that there’s a market for pedophilia stories in Japan. I mean, there has been plenty of manga about incest. If there seems to be a creepy interest in incest, what’s to stop them from exploring pedophilia romances? I think the direction MeruPuri is heading, especially since I just need to get the last volume, Airi and Aram will get a “happy ending” but in the most nauseating way possible.
Oh my god! I was not expecting this from the first bit of your post. I was thinking ‘oh, sounds like a fairly normal for manga so far and- wait, WHAT? The guy’s actually 7?!’ Wow, that’s really really disturbing. Why would anyone have even think of making something like that? I can totally see why you would find that nauseating, I’m starting to feel that way myself just thinking about it. And yeah, there is some really messed up manga out there….
That’s exactly how I felt when I got deeper into the story. At first I thought Aram was a seventeen-year-old guy who transformed into a seven-year-old, but it turned out it’s the opposite. I really do wonder about the Japanese sometimes. Who thought it’d be great to have a romance between a teenager and a really young boy? It doesn’t make sense at all. Luckily, you won’t ever have to suffer through this manga since I’m doing it for you! You’re welcome! 😛
Wow. When I saw this series in the library, I actually thought the spell had turned a 17-year-old into a seven-year-old, not the other way around. While I’m sure I would feel a bit awkward about a romance depicting one of the love interests as a little kid, the fact that the romance really IS with a pre-pubescent boy, I just wouldn’t be able to stomach it. I was really creeped out when I saw the relationship in Cardcaptor Sakura between a ten-year-old and her teacher passed off as something cute and romantic and that wasn’t even the main focus of the series! I’m surprised anyone would think to present that type of relationship as cute.
Oddly enough, I managed to get past the ten-year-old girl having a relationship with her much older teacher in Cardcaptor Sakura. Don’t get me wrong, I was thoroughly creeped out when I saw it, but it didn’t bother me too much. I guess it’s because it wasn’t focused on too much that made me kind of put it at the back of my mind and concentrate on the wonderful story of Sakura and the cute romance between her and Syaoran in later volumes.
As for MeruPuri, this is one love story that’s impossible to read without feeling grossed out and thinking how wrong this relationship is. The love story is most certainly anything but cute.
That is the weirdest concept. It’s funny you’re posting this now actually, because I was JUST looking at this manga the other day. I think I downloaded a sample on my Kindle but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. Now I think I’ll try another series instead… I mean, I’m all for an unusual romance, but this is not right! It would be cute if it was about two kids falling in love… as kids… but this is weird.
Looks like my post came around just in time! 🙂 I wouldn’t recommend reading it. I really came in with some misconceptions of what I thought this series was going to be about. If you want to try out any of Matsuri Hino’s other work, you could give her one volume manga “Wanted” a try. I enjoyed that one. There’s also her other shorter series called, “Captive Hearts.” At least those romances have age appropriate people falling in love!
Oh, I’ve heard of Captive Hearts! Or I keep seeing it at the store… Maybe I’ll try that one sometime instead. Thanks for the suggestions! =)
Wikipedia says he’s 12 o-o and I’m pretty sure he is 😐
Actually, in the last chapter when they actually get married, he’s 17 and she is 25. AND then you find out that Aram’s parents actually have a 100 year age gap. Don’t get me wrong, Airi is definitely a paedophile, but their relationship in ment to be pure, true love. Aram does act grown up, and at times honestly just seems like a jealous 17 year old with childish interests. You would never see a real 7 year old act mature like Aram does. Even his childish moments are far more grown up compared to how real 7 year old are. While it would be very sick in real life, Aram does not represent a realistic seven year old boy. Also, he came from a magic kingdom with parents that have a huge age gap. It’s normal on his part. As for Airi? I can tell you now that there would be alot of teenagers that could easily fall for a young boy, if of course he came out of their hand mirror and turned into a sexy beast. Add in the maturity to match and the knowledge that he is a prince from a magical kingdom. I know I would, because the fact is that the story and Aram himself are not realistic and can’t even be compared to real life. You all know Snow White? She was 14, and I highly doubt her prince was in his mid teens. Like, he kissed a random dead girl in the woods, and parents still let their children base romantic dreams off that. Sleeping Beauty? At the start, Prince Philip was a young boy when Aurora was born. When she was 16, he had to be atleast in his 20’s. The romance with Airi and Aram isn’t that different to disney princesses and their princes. It’s a fairytale, what do you expect?
You make a lot of good points. While I haven’t gotten around to reading the final volume, and don’t worry about spoiling the ending because I figured it’d be the typical happy ending, I think my impression of shojo manga of this nature makes it hard for me to suspend my disbelief just for a few minutes of my time. Maybe if I was a teenager reading MeruPuri, I might be able to overlook it. Now that I’m an adult, I guess it’s not as easy for me to overlook it. I guess with age comes a mature outlook and possibly a tinge of cynicism. I still plan on reading the final volume at some point.