Mangaka: Meca Tanaka
Status: Complete (2 volumes)
My rating: 2.5 of 5
Hako has the worst of luck–pencils breaking, things falling on her, rain beginning just as she goes outside, you name it. So why should it be any surprise when an experiment by her friends in the Occult Research Club leads to a naked alien prince falling on her, claiming she is his soulmate, and demanding she mate with him? Fortunately for Hako, she has awesome friends who manage to convince said prince, Io of the planet Yupita, that he has to win Hako’s love first. Meanwhile, they also convince Hako to try to make him fall in love with her and then make him leave. Of course, with her luck, what are the chances they’ll actually both fall in love for real?
Meteor Prince is not a bad read, but it’s certainly not Tanaka’s best by any means. It’s cute and goofy and hopelessly romantic in a sweet, innocent way (ignore all the nudity and talk of mating; it’s actually pretty clean). But it’s also kind of predictable and tropey. Like, down to the amnesia getting in the way of their love kind of tropey. Io is very reminiscent of Tamaki Suoh is oh so many ways, only with a dark past that never really gets developed much, with less social awareness (le gasp! Is this possible?), and with cool alien shape-shifting abilities. And aside from her bad luck, Hako is a pretty predictable shoujo heroine–innocent, girly, a bit too sweet, but relatively lacking in outstanding characteristics. On the other hand, Hako has a pretty awesome baby brother whose background and character I would have loved to see developed more; we didn’t even get to meet him until partway through the second volume! Probably the biggest pro for this series is actually Hako’s friends in the Occult Research Club–both because they have interesting personalities and because they’re just good friends, which is important. As for the art, it’s cute, pretty typical in style for the author. So yeah, for a cute, short shoujo manga, Meteor Prince will do quite nicely, but it’s not particularly memorable or outstanding.
Mangaka: Meca Tanaka
Alternative Title: Sara no Ue no Kanojo
My rating: 3.5 of 5
On a mountain overlooking a remote village, a dragon god lives in human form, eking out an existence on the small birds his toad-spirit servants can bring to him. Every fifty years, the village sends a human sacrifice up the mountain for him to eat, allowing him the energy to take true dragon form and theoretically bringing prosperity to the village. But this time, the village’s offering is entirely unacceptable–not a plump, properly terrified citizen. No, they send a scrawny, blank-faced orphan girl who’s spent her entire nameless life knowing she would end her life as dragon food. Completely dissatisfied with this turn of events, the dragon refuses to eat her and even allows her to stay with him, naming her Tsubame (“swallow,” hmm?) and choosing to continue living off of the mountain birds. But the foolish villagers are, of course, unwilling to leave matters as they stand. . . .
Meca Tanaka’s manga are usually super cute and sweet shoujo stories. Girl on a Platter is a very interesting–and very short–one shot manga, and yes, in a way it is cute and sweet. But it’s also immensely more dark and disturbing than her usual. And, while many of her stories involve a fantasy element, this is the first that I’ve seen that’s completely removed from normal life, choosing rather to delve into more traditional Asian mythology. It’s interesting, for sure. I actually like the characters–they’re somewhat enigmatic and complex, but they don’t have outstandingly annoying traits and the mystery adds to the intrigue. They’re really pretty too; well, Tanaka-sensei’s art is always gorgeous. I think the biggest negative for this story is just that it’s so short. The ending is extremely open, to the point that it can be confusing, and in general there’s just not enough time to really develop the story. But for all of that, I think it was enjoyable. If you’re interested in a slightly darker shoujo fantasy, and especially if you’re also short on time to read, I think Girl on a Platter would be a good choice to try.
Note: As is sadly the case with many (most) one-shots, this manga does not have an official English translation. However, there are some quite decent fan translations available if you look.
Mangaka: Meca Tanaka
Kanji Inui’s already busy life at the family-run talent agency, Dog Run, becomes even more chaotic when an old acquaintance Tamako Momono comes rocketing back into his life. This impetuous, headstrong girl is the secret child of a much-loved actress–who happens to be Dog Run’s client and an old friend of the manager, Kanji’s dad. So naturally, to make Kanji’s life even more complicated, Tamako comes to stay at the Inui home so that her mom’s secret isn’t leaked . . . which is just fine with Tamako, who is holding on to Kanji’s childhood promise (completely forgotten by him, of course) to marry her. It doesn’t hurt that Kanji is also a great cook, housekeeper, and agent, although Tamako is determined to become a better woman and be worthy of him. Thus, along with her friends the boy-band Rain, she strives to make her debut, both in the entertainment industry and in Kanji’s heart. And well, this is a shoujo manga. . . .
Pearl Pink is a fun, sweet, and amusing story by the author of such classics as Faster than a Kiss and Sailor Fuku ni Onegai!. As I said before, it’s definitely shoujo, with all that entails (including a pleasantly happy ending), but it’s also full of interesting twists, randomnesses, and humor. Tanaka claims not to have developed the characters particularly thoroughly, but I actually find them delightful: quirky, unique, and unexpected. For instance, Tamako is quite the monkey-girl–impetuous, stubborn, and something of a natural idiot, talented in unexpected areas (like athletics, martial arts, and acting), yet impossible at basic skills like cooking (her onigiri crack me up!). Kanji also is interesting–serious and skillful in many areas (in this way, he makes me think of Otomen a bit), but a little dense at times also . . . and let’s not forget his scary/hilarious got-to-make-girls-pretty complex. I think Raizo’s my favorite character though–you’ll have to read the manga to find out why. Really, in spite of being Tanaka’s first serialized manga, and thus a bit cobbled together, I think Pearl Pink flows well and is quite enjoyable; I would definitely recommend it to those who enjoy shoujo manga, or cute love stories in general.
Mangaka: Meca Tanaka
When Hina’s baseball goes wild, she–being the responsible girl that she is–goes to investigate the damages. As she approaches the little-used, rundown mountain shrine that she had the wonderful luck of hitting, she reaches out to touch the shrine object, a mirror. Turns out, this mirror is all that’s left of the shrine god, and when this becomes absorbed into her (don’t ask me how), Hina becomes the substitute “god” for the area. Whereupon, the two dog-guardians of the shrine–friendly, easygoing Koma and cold, tsundere Shishi–show up, determined to protect her and help her do her new job however ill-equipped she may be. Add to the mix the fact that Koma and Shishi can appear in human form, decide to move in with Hina, have a dark past, and might be possible love interests, and you’ve got a crazy, sweet, poignant story, for sure.
Another treasure from the author of the lovely Faster than a Kiss, Sailor Fuku ni Onegai is a lovely, sweet shoujo manga. The art is lovely–one of the author’s strongest points in my opinion. The characters are well done also: Hina fits the role of slightly ditzy but responsible heroine to perfection, Shishi is just tsundere enough and just dark enough without being a total turnoff. And of course Koma, who is my personal favorite for this manga–he’s supposed to be a warm, supportive, canine sort of presence, which he pulls off wonderfully. The one thing I regret is that this wasn’t longer–there’s so much back story that could have been developed more, and the romance could have stood a bit more development as well. Still, for such a short manga, I think Tanaka did a good job selecting what served the story’s purposes best and she kept it sufficiently tight. So for those who enjoy shoujo manga, Sailor Fuku ni Onegai is definitely on my recommended list (although do be aware that it’s not been published in the states–why not?!).
Mangaka: Meca Tanaka
After their parents’ death, Fumino Kaji and her little brother Teppei spend nearly a year being shuffled between various relatives who don’t want them. Finally, Fumino gets fed up with it all and, collecting Teppei, runs away. When her teacher Kazuma (the only person who actually came looking for them) finds them and tries to get them to go home(?), Fumino blows up in his face and dares him to marry her and take them in. Shockingly, Kazuma agrees. Now they face the challenge of keeping their relationship a secret (since they’re still teacher and student) on top of the trials of any growing romance. Furthermore, for all that he’s lovey-dovey acting with her, Kazuma still keeps his distance and won’t touch Fumino. Will he ever really treat her as his wife?
Faster than a Kiss is one of those manga that sounds kind of sketch but is actually sweet and adorable. (Why is it anyhow that so many shoujo manga deal with so-called forbidden relationships?) In any case, this is one of the most sweet, straightforward, lovey-dovey, and cute manga I’ve read. The characters are wonderful: Kazuma’s blend of teacherly responsibility, bad-boy past, and hidden sadism is highly appealing–plus he’s a very cute/cool megane guy. Fumino is not your typical shoujo heroine either; she’s brash, sometimes childish, but gutsy as can be and always striving to grow up and improve herself. Teppei is, or course, just plain adorable. Multiple well-developed side characters add a lot to the story as well. The art is also quite nice; nothing overdone, just a pretty, clean, expressive shoujo style that works well with the story. Recommended for those with a taste for innocent romance.
Note: As far as I can find, this is not currently available in the States. (Lobby the publishers; it needs to be published!) However, there are some quite decent fan translations available online if you look.