Harlequin Violet Vol. #01 - Blind Date (Mania.com)

By:Ariadne Roberts
Review Date: Friday, June 29, 2007
Release Date: Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Emma Darcy / Mihoko Hirose
Translated by:Ikoi Hiroe
Adapted by:Ikoi Hiroe

What They Say
Catherine never expected to win the top prize on Blind Date. In fact, it was the second prize she was after! But sometimes when you least expect it, what you win is what you want.

The Review
A starburst on the back proudly advertises how it's "printed in hot violet ink!" and the violent violet infects the whole book, not just the artwork inside. Everything imaginable is so purple that you'll flinch. The cover follows the homogeneous style of the Harlequin manga line, with a cheaply colored image that looks like it belongs next to Archie and Veronica. To top it off, the plot description on the back gets the protagonist's name wrong! Worse still, all the summaries available " even the one on Dark Horse's website -- screws it up even more, getting the plot and character names incorrect. Even to the casual reader, this is inexcusably shoddy work.

Given that the original book was published nearly twenty years ago, the old fashioned artwork in this 2003 adaptation seems like a perfect fit. The backgrounds look empty, and overall there is very little going on in each panel which gives off a very cheap feel. Hirose clearly tried to draw more realistic eyes to match the American story, but they just look stiff and soulless. All the guys, particularly John, have glittery eyes with long eyelashes, and when the guys smile, the eyes scrunch up into shiny caterpillars. In today's manga aimed at women, effeminate men are very popular, but the combination of John's big shoulders and masculine face with those wispy eyes looks laughably mismatched.

A split speech bubble had the text in the opposite of the correct order, but other than that, no errors were noticed. The original Japanese sound effects were still in place with the English equivalents at the side. The script was an easy, smooth read with clear sentences.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Top college student Peggy Dean is delighted when she gets to compete with two other girls to win a date with John Gale, a handsome singer/actor, on the Ross Elliot show. Many other girls would swoon at just the thought, but for Peggy, she just wants to get in and lose intentionally so she can get the loser's prize: a brand new stereo.

In a Dating Game-style setup, the three girls answer questions asked by John Gale himself. Just as she planned, Peggy gives horrible answers, but somehow her plan backfires, and John picks her as his date. She actually cries when she realizes she won't be getting the stereo, and even says on TV that she's disappointed she won. Afterwards, John whisks her away to lunch, and after a brief fight, she's relieved to find what a down-to-earth guy John really is. He, on the other hand, is relieved to have found a woman who doesn't just want to swindle him.

What follows is a whirlwind of events that tear them apart and throw them back together again and again. 'Tumultuous' doesn't even begin to describe it.

The less-than-classy packaging (purple ink?!) and very unsophisticated story make me wonder who this is really aimed at. All the cues in the packaging indicate preteen readers, yet this is in the special 'violet' line which Dark Horse says has "sexy and sophisticated romance for readers 16 and up"! To be honest, it feels like a story conceived by a preteen girl who got inspired by her mom's nightgown novels. The 16-and-up rating doesn't make any sense, considering the lack of nipples and the extremely brief, non-graphic sex scene. It's cleaner than an after school special!

Rating nitpicking aside, it's very juvenile. The dialogue is corny, the characters are caricatures, and the paper-thin plot is formed around lame attempts at romantic situations. The ending was so badly thrown together that I had to check that pages weren't missing! Pick it up if you want to laugh so hard you'll cry, but don't bother if you're expecting some fun, trashy romance in manga form.

Mania Grade: D
Art Rating: C-
Packaging Rating: D-
Text/Translatin Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Dark Horse
MSRP: 9.95
Pages: 200
ISBN: 978-1593075378
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Harlequin Violet