Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Sugar Princess

Hana Kimi, a manga by the same author of Sugar Princess, is one of my favorite manga series of all time. I still have a tendency to reread the entire 23 volume series about once a year. So when I discovered that another series she had written was also available in English, I put it on my wish list immediately.

I was a little sad that it was only two volumes, but I was also glad because nearly every other manga I've collected has been 20+ so it was nice to be able to order two and be done. But I do think that in this case, the story really could have been a little longer.

It isn't that everything isn't wrapped up, or that it doesn't end on a good ending point. In fact it actually would be almost fine as a standalone story. But there are a few tiny plot threads that are planted that I desperately wanted to see explored and that weren't ever picked up again. I think it easily could have been expanded to 4 volumes and still been just as wonderful.

I should point out that it is very very rare for me to say I want more of something. I'm one of the only people that thinks that there shouldn't be a sequel to Dr. Horrible and that my favorite shows that have ended shouldn't be revived or revisited. But in this case, I think Hisaya Nakajo is just so talented and the story has so much promise that I'd love more.

It also would help my one problem with the story. The basic plot is that the main character, Maya, has never gone ice skating before, but she's a natural at it and does a difficult jump on her first trip to the rink (on a dare). A coach convinces her to train to skate in pairs with Shun, who actually wants to start skating singles instead of bringing in a new partner.

If you're reminded of The Cutting Edge, don't worry about it, the superficial similarities end there. But if you did love that movie as much as I did, then you'll probably really enjoy Sugar Princess. Additionally, the panels that illustrate the skating routines are downright gorgeous.

But here's the problem: in The Cutting Edge, the male lead is a hockey skater that has to learn figure skating. This is a bit of a leap but not too terrible. In Sugar Princess, she is below even a novice. I have more ice skating experience than she does at the start of the story. There are a few token problems that stand in her way, and Nakajo wisely makes the "finale" competition a very low level one. But no matter what happens, it's solved quickly and swept out of the way. With even just two more volumes, this could be avoided. The story really needed to be expanded so you could believe Maya's journey was even physically possible. It's easy to say she's a prodigy, but her ability is downright magical in the end (and not played as magical, even if it is manga).

Even with all that said, it's a beautiful manga and it's well worth it for anybody that enjoyed Hana Kimi or enjoys figure skating. I would actually encourage buying the two volumes for any little girls that are entranced with the sport or in training. It's exactly the kind of fun and innocent story that they would enjoy.