Reviewby Theron Martin, Feb 20th 2008
King of the Lamp
Once upon a time, a king of a distant land hoarded a thousand of the most beautiful girls in his land into his harem, for which he was punished by being sealed within a magic lamp. He may only earn his freedom (and thus start work on his new harem!) by granting the wishes of a thousand girls who are looking for love. His magical service does not come without a price, as Ryoko, Hinata, and Mayu all learn; even his most minimal service requires a kiss, and he demands more for more potent magic. With his help, though, each of the young women is able to resolve a troubling issue of romance.
In the first kicker story “I'll Kill You with a Kiss,” teenage Riko has been raised since a little girl by studmuffins Yuu and Kai, who work as male escorts and whom she regards as older brothers despite developing a crush on one of them. She soon learns that romance with them is more complicated than she ever suspected. In the third story “Chicken That Flies in the Sky,” Haraguchi is a 17-year-old girl who is such a potent spirit medium that her guardian spirit can be clearly seen by everyone, which makes it tough for her to find a boyfriend until an apparent spirit otaku comes along.
Calling this one-shot manga release King of the Lamp is actually something of a misnomer, since only the first three of the five chapters actually involve the title storyline. However, the notion of a sexy, irrepressibly frisky genie giving varying degrees of magical help to girls' relationships in exchange for varying degrees of required intimacy does give this collection by manga-ka Takako Shigematsu (perhaps better-known as the creator of I'm no Angel!!/Tenshi Ja Nai!!) a strong selling point and means for the title to at least slightly stand out in a crowded field of shojo manga. It also may entice potential readers to check it out long enough to discover a couple of good romantic stories amidst the more ordinary ones.
Although the exact circumstances vary dramatically, the basic formula for each of the three “King of the Lamp” chapters is the same: while pining over a relationship with a handsome guy that she is having trouble realizing, the heroine encounters a street vendor who sells her a supposedly magic lamp. Though dubious at first, the heroine uses the lamp, which summons the horny King, who grants the girl three wishes to help her with her relationship in exchange for kisses. In one case this involves making the heroine seem more attractive to the guy, in a second case this involves turning the heroine into a little kid so she can more readily approach the guy, and in the third case it involves a younger sister being able to mimic the voice of her older sister, who is the girlfriend of the guy she loves but who neglects him when an accident temporarily costs him his sight.
Yeah, a lot of this has the taste and execution of standard shojo hijinks, but “Hinata's Situation” steps above the shallowness of the others by actually developing some true heart and a genuinely sympathetic female lead. (Be sure to read the Translator's Note for one crucial scene in that one, as the subtlety of the naming convention involved is absolutely crucial to full appreciation of the content.) The “I'll Kill You with a Kiss” chapter, which does not involve the King, also follows a fairly formulaic path but still manages a more warm-hearted feel without wallowing in it. “Chicken That Flies in the Sky” is suggested to be Shigumatsu's earliest work, and shows it in its decidedly less skilled execution of a rather weird concept.
The sexual content present in this collection also give it at least some separation from the shojo pack. Its 16+ rating is well-deserved, as all but the “Chicken” chapter involve at least brief nudity and come down to the heroine eventually having sex with her guy as an affirmation of their love. This content never goes beyond what could be seen in an R-rated movie in the States but is more than just suggested. Shigematsu also shows a penchant both for having her heroines get treated roughly by guys and for guys sometimes making overly strong advances on the girls, which may titillate some readers but will not set well with others.
Although Shigematsu uses common shojo artistic styling in her drawings, she does not take it to the extremes many other shojo manga-ka do. She also shows a greater than-normal degree of actual artistic talent, as her character designs look a little prettier and more refined than the norm for the genre; the King in particular is a handsome devil. Her light touch results in thin, deft lines and highly conservative use of shading beyond the King's dusky skin, which combines with minimally detailed background art and the occasionally silly behavior of the King to create a light but not comical mood. The “Chicken” chapter displays a lower, but still not bad, level of artistic achievement which shows that Shigematsu's artistic skills advanced considerably between the creation of that work and her later ones.
Go! Comi's late 2007 release of the manga opens with a page explaining Japanese honorifics and closes with a brief Afterword by Shigematsu and a page of translation notes, some of which will be invaluable even to highly knowledgeable anime/manga fans. The break between the “I'll Kill” and “Chicken” chapters contains two pages of four-panel strips and various author comments. The front cover offers nice but also typically shojo-styled color art. The vast majority of the time the sound effects are outright translated, but in a few cases a small translation accompanies the original sound effect, with little logic to how and when this is done. (Assumptions that it is only done when space allows it stand on shaky ground.)
King of the Lamp has enough good content to merit a look by older fans of shojo anime who are not bothered by the inclusion of sexual situations or heroines who get treated roughly at times. It offers respectable artistry and a couple of strong stories amidst more mediocre ones.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ “Hinata's Situation,” “I'll Kill You with a Kiss.”
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