Reviewby Theron Martin, Jul 23rd 2008
Time Stranger Kyoko
In the 30th century Earth has united into one nation. Kyoko Suomi, princess of Earth Nation, will soon celebrate her 16th birthday and first public appearance, but she would much rather continue incognito in her regular school amongst the normal friends she's made, with only her two Dragon Tribe bodyguards (also incognito as a teacher and fellow student) along for protection. When told that she can relinquish her princess duties if she can find a way to wake up her twin sister Ui, who has been asleep since birth, she resolves to do whatever it takes to wake her, even if that means a quest across time and the planet to collect the twelve God Stones and twelve telepaths in order to activate the clock that should awaken Ui. But first she must learn to master the sentient Space-Time Stone and deal with a troublesome (if handsome) thief and his gang.
Time Stranger Kyoko is the second of the four multivolume manga series created to date by prolific manga-ka Arina Tanemura, immediately following Kamikaze Kaitō Jeanne and preceding her best-known (to American fans) work, Full Moon O Sagashite. Given that the title dates back to 2000-2001 and ran for only three volumes, one has to think that its licensure is primarily due to the popularity of the latter title, as on its own the content here struggles to prove itself worthy of attention. It does show some promise, as in its pages can be seen the potential that would eventually become Full Moon, but its uneven construction and flaky sense of set-up and setting ultimately limit its achievement. Even so, those looking for a light, silly shojo series should find this to be a pleasant, if forgettable, read.
“Scatterbrained” might be another way to describe this manga, and it certainly applies to Tanemura's plentiful sidebar comments. She may have had a plan for where she wanted to take the series plot-wise, but the four chapters in this volume give the distinct impression that she was feeling out the tone as she went along. That results in the content being predominately goofy and light-hearted but with scattered spots of semi-serious and even completely serious content, such as Kyoko reconciling her selfish motivations for waking Ui with her very earnest desire to actually talk to and know the sister she has only ever seen as a literal sleeping beauty. This would not be a shojo series without some kind of potential romantic intrigue involving her bishonen bodyguards, but readers expecting a full meal will instead find only the lightest of tastes.
Kyoko's feelings about Ui show the most potential, but the series also offers some decent characters, too. Kyoko at least holds interest as a thoroughly selfish girl who must learn to become not so selfish in order to achieve her goals, and does have her comedic moments. Sakataki, the Dragon Tribe bodyguard nearly her own age, comes across straight-laced, serious, and occasionally intense, while his elder brother Hizuka seems more laid-back but can show tremendous resolve when the situation demands. The malcontent Witzig, by comparison, falls into the “lovable idiot” mold, while Kyoko's father utterly fails to be convincing as a monarch (which may be part of the joke). The story also has its obligatory cutesy character in the form of Chocola, a doll-sized catgirl android powered by consuming chocolate. (Um, yeah. . .)
The setting is more of an issue. Tanemura has a few decent ideas here, but world-building is clearly not her strong suit. Although she explains some of her reasons in the side comments, her choice of setting the story in the far future is a questionable one, as the nature of the setting she has created would be more conducive to a fantasy or alternate-world environment. A sci-fi setting does allow the use of genetic engineering to explain the existence of Kirito (essentially humans implanted with animal or plant DNA), but that could have been accomplished just as well with magic, and the existence of “God Stones” certainly lends itself more to a magical setting. Even the desire to have Kyoko attending a normal Japanese school incognito could still be managed in a fantasy setting. Really, only the genetic engineering angle, the existence of Chocola, and a holographic display in a classroom give any evidence that this is supposed to be set nearly a millennium into the future. Tanemura admits in her side comments that a “retro” feel was intentional, but appropriate? That's another story.
Although Tanemura's artistry does show a decided shojo influence, it is not as much a slave to common shojo style points as many other titles in the genre. Her designs (especially for Kyoko) and the overall look of her artistry have distinctive styles which are cutesy without being saccharine and are plenty enough to set her artistry apart from the norm while still unmistakably marking it as a shojo work. Nice background artwork, sometimes-intricate costume designs, and elaborate chapter-heading pictures, along with effective use of shading, combine to form an enjoyable visual experience. It may not be a top-notch effort but should draw few complaints.
Viz Media's release of this volume carries an Older Teens rating despite a notable lack of graphic content or fan service. The volume ends with a page of translation notes and a bio blurb, and Tanemura's innumerable side comments, crude 4-panel strips, and chapter-heading commentary are strewn throughout the normal content. Following up the four regular chapters is a bonus story explaining how Hizuki and Sakataki came to be Kyoko's bodyguards, which may be the most entertaining read in the whole volume. Viz Media also offers the volume up for a mere $8.99.
If you have liked Arina Tanemura's other works then you will likely find this one to your taste, too. It may not be her best effort but is funny enough and sweet enough to be worth checking out for those who are already fans of shojo manga. Others will likely find the series to be of little interest.
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B
+ “Little Princess” side story, sometimes rather good.
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