Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Sep 6th 2005
Merupuri - The Marchen Prince
Airi Hoshina watches way too many daytime soap operas and has an impossible ideal in mind for her perfect man; nobody at school is good enough for her! When the young prince Aram pops out of her mirror pendant and tells her he's from a magic country, her life is turned upside down. To make matters worse, Aram isn't the only one using the locket as a dimensional gateway; his nefarious half-brother Jeile follows him through the portal... and demands to take Airi as his wife!
|Neither overtly offensive nor strikingly original, Matsuri Hino's MeruPuri is as predictable and manufactured as you can get for a girl's manga title. While you may not be able to appreciate the story for what it is, you have to give credit to Hino for knowing her audience a little too well and creating something that will make most fangirls – at least, the kind who spend a little too much time wrapped up in their own fantasy worlds – squeal with delight.
The story centers on the brash Airi Hoshina, a willowy blonde who watches too many soap operas and wants nothing more out of life than a husband who will build a family, construct a house and devote himself to her totally. Mocked by her peers for having ridiculously high standards (while never applying the same standards to herself), Airi seems doomed to wander the planet in a haze of her own histrionic nonsense, rejecting every suitor who comes to call for not being "perfect" enough for her. At least, it seems that way until a cute little magical boy named Aram pops out of her treasured heirloom locket and starts spouting some nonsense about how she's the descendant of a princess from a magical kingdom… you can see where this is going, right?
MeruPuri is, at its heart, a male harem story. Airi, who at nearly every turn shows herself to be mean, unwelcoming, reactionary, somewhat violent and narcissistic, is the center of attention for a swarm of magical pretty boys, all of whom carry a torch for her (including hunky Aram's dastardly and hunky brother Jeile, in addition to the hunky Committee Chairman who, in spite of having no magic powers to speak of, confesses love to her about halfway through the book). Now, these kinds of stories – whether they're aimed at men or women – are difficult to swallow, and that's where the problems come in. When you have a character like Airi (or like her predecessors, Miaka Yuuki, or even Keitaro Urashima from Love Hina) who is patently unlikable and then these impossibly beautiful people instantly fall in love with her, it's all a little difficult to believe. That's not to say this book has no audience; it most certainly does.
To be frank, teenage girls will eat this book alive, and with good reason. Frequently, adolescent females who aren't really ready for serious romance yet will attach themselves to fantasy characters in order to avoid having to deal with real boys; it's easier to say that John from homeroom isn't as perfect as, say, Sesshomaru, than it is to pursue a relationship with him. MeruPuri's main character is effectively one of these girls, and her wish basically comes true when a beautiful magical guy pops out of her locket and instantly professes his love for her. It's the ideal situation for a girl like Airi who just doesn't want to face the fact that she's either not ready for real love yet or hasn't come to grips with the notion that every man, no matter how perfect he might seem, is flawed. Hino's comments in the page margins suggest that this title was conceived in a manner of days between herself and her editor and it was basically manufactured to be as marketable as possible; some of her comments border on “Well, I know you kids eat this stuff up, so here you go!” It's surprising to see someone present their own work as being so shallow and callously commercial. Still, there's nothing wrong with a little escapist fantasy now and then, and for girls who can identify with Airi, MeruPuri should provide just that.
That's not to say the book doesn't have its high points. The art is clean and well-drawn (although not very distinctive; it's difficult to distinguish MeruPuri from the slew of other hot-guys-in-fantasyland shojo titles on the shelves right now). Surprisingly, it's easy to tell the male characters apart. Hino uses a different style for every character and (thankfully) a different haircut. The characters are very much dressed as their personalities. Action sequences – especially when someone's casting a spell – can be confusing, but the general flow of movement is portrayed very well. The story moves along at a decent clip and the dialogue, while sometimes a little awkward, is believable. In terms of production values, MeruPuri is a handsome title.
Overall, MeruPuri doesn't have a whole lot to say about anything and is purely escapist fantasy for adolescent girls, but there isn't anything wrong with that, although older readers (not to mention men) will probably see right through this title like saran wrap. The author knows who's going to read this book and has written it especially for them, and so the potential audience for this thing is very narrow. If you can tolerate a harem story and you're female and in high school, MeruPuri is right up your alley. Everyone else should probably just pretend it doesn't exist.
Story : C+
Art : B+
+ Gorgeous art, mostly unoffensive storyline
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