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.