Princess Ai Vol. #02 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, June 25, 2005
Release Date: Friday, July 15, 2005
Writer/Artist:Misaho Kujiradou, Courtney Love, & DJ Milky
Translated by:Kimiko Fujikawa and Yuki N. Johnson
What They Say
As Ai becomes more and more involved in the entertainment industry, she learns that there is always a price to pay for fame. When a scandal surfaces involving a love triangle among Ai, Kent and Hikaru, the media attention seems like it will be the perfect boost for her new album release. Ai loves Kent, but will this scandal put their love to the ultimate test?
Ai desperately tries to get back with Kent and find her book, but growing frustrations with H.T.A. and the pursuit of the Furies are really starting to get on her nerves!
The cover features a wonderfully colored illustration of Ai, with sharp vibrant colors, in front of a plain black background. The logo is along with top in a gothic font and an creative use of the word 'Ai' and has a gloss finish. The volume title is displayed in the gothic font done the left side in purple. Outlining the cover is a texture of stars and dots, adding more to the overall gothic style. It is a very appropriate cover for this series and looks great.
Inside the book there are 4 color pages at the front. There is a great 3 page story summary, which I found quite helpful and I'm sure others will as well since it has been a year since the last volume was released. Chapter headers and dividers are present, which are done quite nicely and fit the overall packaging look perfectly. At the back are a lot of extras, including: lyrics for 4 songs by DJ Milky, 4 pages explaining how the manga was put together from concept to production phases, and 4 pages of how the dolls were created by Bleeding Edge. At the back of the book are profiles for the three creators. Overall the packaging is quite solid.
Character designs are done by Ai Yazawa (Paradise Kiss, NANA) and illustrated by Misaho Kujiradou. Ai is without a doubt the best looking character in the book, with her lavish gothic outfits, swirling hair, and wide eyes with long lashes. The gothic costumes of Ai and the other Ai-Land inhabitants are quite creative and fantastic. Most of the male characters have bishounen designs, whispy hair and thin, lanky frames with feminine facial features.
The backgrounds are kept quite simple and are mostly non-existant, leaving a lot of white space in its place. The line work is really clean and thin. There is not a lot of varying tones, keeping to a couple styles, so it sort of lacks that depth. Secondary or background characters tend to be incomplete with blank faces.
SFX are left untouched and are not translated. Being a co-production I expected the translation to be very well done and it did not disappoint. Ai's irritable and diva-like personality comes across perfectly. Honorifics are not common, but there was at least one instance where -chan was used that definitely was appropriate. The song lyrics used in the panels are also very clear in meaning and fit the scenes in which they appear.
Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
One year after the successful release of the first volume comes the next installment in this 3-volume manga, co-produced by TOKYOPOP and Shinshokan, serialized monthly in Japan in WINGS, and all based off an idea from and the persona of Courtney Love, who is a manga fan herself after living and performing in Japan. I admit that I have not yet read the first volume, but seeing the names Courtney Love, DJ Milky, and Ai Yazawa attached to this project definitely had me interested in checking out this volume. Thankfully, the thorough and exhaustive story summary at the beginning of the book got me all caught up so I could hit the ground running.
The story picks up with Ai being practically imprisoned in a luxurious condo by her talent agency, H.T.A. Due to the recent attacks on her by the Furie Tess, H.T.A decided that she should be kept safe so that she could finish her recordings and complete her music contract. This imprisonment drives Ai crazy, as all she can think about is being with Kent, the hot young stud from Shinjuku University Library, which also holds a mysterious book that seems to awaken memories from her past about her origins and life in Ai-Land. Frustrated and extremely irritable, Ai gives H.T.A hell during her recordings, video shoots, live performances, and press appearances. She is tired of being everyone's pawn and really just wants to get back to Kent and that book, where she will realize what she must do in order to save her kingdom in Ai-Land as well as the human race. Meanwhile, while at the library, Kent comes across said book and begins to understand just who Ai is. Now involved in her world, Kent goes out and tries to get past H.T.A. to deliver the book to Ai, which is no easy task seeing how he is not allowed to see her.
The most interesting part of this story for me are the parallels between Courtney Love's life, from what I remember, and the character Ai. Not just their personalities, but also how they are treated and presented by the music industry and media. Ai is seen as being very independent, outspoken, and definitely a bit stubborn, very much like her real life counterpart in Love. Ai really just wants to be with this man Kent, whom has touched her emotionally, as well as discover more of herself by finding this book. However, it is the pressures and constrictions from the music industry that are keeping her from doing either of these. I think DJ Milky has done a great job at understanding how Love felt during her time at the top of the music industry, and conveying all those feelings and emotions here in this story.
So far I really am not getting into the whole gothic fantasy element that is the other side of this story. I am really interested in the character Ai the musician, but not so much Ai the winged creature from Ai-Land. There is enough conflict, manipulation, and plot twisting going on within the music world that I feel the fantasy part of the story sort of gets in the way of really achieving the potential I'd like to see. I also am having a bit of hard time with the relationship between Ai and Kent, possibly because I have missed the first volume, but I just don't quite feel the strong bond between their characters that supposedly they feel for each other.
The parallels between Ai and Courtney Love are done very well here, creating a fictional biography of sorts about Love's experiences and struggles in the music business. In the music business you are someone's pawn, and they will use and abuse you as much as they can in order to get as much profit as possible. I definitely remember the loud and independent Love as portrayed by the media, but it is interesting to see the parallels of her character from behind the scenes. While the gothic fantasy aspect of the storyline hasn't quite grabbed my interest, and the romance is not very strong, there is definitely a good little story here with Ai the musician.
After reading this volume and doing some research on how this book was created, I admit that I have become quite fascinated with how this has all come together. Albeit a bit short in length, this is an interesting co-production that I think opens up some interesting and different avenues for future products. It is also very cool seeing all the marketing surrounding a manga title in the US, including dolls and an anime trailer. You don't see manga titles too often get this level of advertisement and merchandising, so I hope it pays off well and it becomes more commonplace.
Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Orientation: Right to Left