Reviewby Justin Freeman,
Manga volume 1
Himeno was happy living alone with her scruffy father Kaoru, who's salary as a washed-up romance novelist was never enough to much more than get by. Happy until Kaoru marries the ultra rich Natsue of course, and Himeno is transported to a world of wealth and snobby step-sisters. At the same time, a mysterious red snow is killing plants and generally making Himeno feel bad, prompting a visit from the elemental Leafe Knights, guardians of a magical world on the brink of chaos. Will Himeno leverage her gift for healing and become the legendary Pretear? Can she save the magical land from the Princess of Disaster? Will her step-mom disapprove of her hanging around all these boys?
I don't get why some things exist. Yogurt-in-a-tube, junk mail, non-alcoholic beer, Republicans, the New York Yankees—these are things I simply cannot understand. I kid with those last two (maybe), but honestly, when was the last time anyone on this planet opened up their mail boxes, virtual or no, and exclaimed “say, I really would like a free vacation! Where do I sign up?” What compels a man to click on an unsolicited link in his inbox?
Nothing, I'm sure.
Pretear is sort of like that. It's the junk mail of shoujo fluff, going through the motions, painfully aware no one's buying. Everyone is either dreamy or, like, soooo mean, except the protagonist Himeno, who simply always looks like she's about to cry, usually because someone is either dreamy or soooo mean. Maybe some plants are dying. I don't know. Let's just say there are a lot of bad things happening in Pretear and it is up to Himeno to stop them from being bad. I'll get to all of that in a minute. First, I want to talk about the specifics of the writing. That's what's really important.
If you're paying enough attention, it won't take much more than ten pages to understand that Pretear won't be going anywhere interesting. Right off the bat every other word is bolded just to make sure we know something is important. That is poor writing. As an aside, I'm not entirely sure if the blantant emphasis was present in the original work or if it was added by ADV for the English release. Either way, the end result is the same, and the reader is worse off for it. The bolding does eventually stop, but the idea behind it remains a problem for the entire volume. Namely, manga-ka Kaori Naruse seems very intent to impress the reader with her notion that everything is dramatic. This is all well and good for her, I suppose—she clearly thinks the ominous turns of phrase and fifteen characters introduced are all special, but no one else is in on it. We aren't ever given a reason to be. The first page features seven characters and two phrases supposedly integral to the story, all of which vanish a page later. That's not only jarring, but cheap. When these people show up later (calling themselves the Leafe Knights), we're supposed to feel the weight of their magnitude. Their plight. Himeno's confusion. We don't feel any of these things. All we think about is what we ought to be thinking about, given the presence of these people on the first page. We recognize what ought to be happening and fill in the blanks ourselves, aware that Pretear doesn't even have the decency to meet it's unimaginative conventions half-way. It exists as meta-shoujo.
The plan going into this series must have been to hit upon every shoujo cliché and archetype possible. And that's fine. It's not noble, but it's fine. Convention can breed inspiration in the right hands. These hands, however, manage little more than a checklist. We've got both a normal-girl-must-save-magical-land plot and a bonus normal-girl-must-get-through-everyday-life-without-crying one, with a healthy dose of normal-girl-surrounded-by-hunks and normal-poor-girl-must-deal-with-rich-snobs on the side. Every character introduced is presented as little more than a cog to fit into one of these narrative arcs. There are so many of them, and so little done with each that I am hard pressed to remember a single name outside of Himeno without some assistance. The central crux of this volume is supposed to be Himeno's decision to become the Pretear, but after reading it I can't even tell you what the Pretear is, or anything about the world she's supposed to save. Himeno herself can't even be bothered to ask any questions, probably because she is responding to and dealing with situations that exist more in the head of Naruse than the page of Pretear. Again, convention as a crutch rather than a canvas.
If the story is composed to get the most out of shoujo cliches, it should come as no surprise that the art is the same way. As mentioned, Himeno always manages to look helpless and on the verge of tears. She of course wears a mini skirt that some how comes off looking tasteful despite covering absolutely nothing. All the boys are slender and confident, looking for all the world as if they maneuver through their lives by way of a series of dramatic poses. Glitter floats in the wind. You know how it is.
The hope here is that Pretear might eventually settle down in later volumes; that this intro comes off uninspired and incompetent only because so much must be set up to have any pay off at the end. There is a chance this is true, but too often a narrative eager to tell so much at the beginning is a sign of a writer that simply doesn't have much to give. Naruse seems so excited and impressed by the idea of writing a shoujo epic that she forgot to actually think of one first. Better luck next time.
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