Duck Prince Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B-

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  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: CPM Press
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 170
  • ISBN: 1-58664-931-0
  • Size: Tall B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Duck Prince Vol. #01

By Eduardo M. Chavez     June 19, 2004
Release Date: April 01, 2004

Duck Prince Vol.#01
© CPM Press

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Morinaga Ai
Translated by:Laura Jackson and Yoko Kobayashi
Adapted by:

What They Say
Reiichi is the quintessential nerd: thick glasses, coarse and unkempt hair, short, fat and ugly. His classmates constantly make fun of him, and he gets no respect from his family. After a freak car accident, Reiichi finds himself changed. He is no longer an "ugly duckling"... he has transformed into a tall handsome young man! His miraculous metamorphosis is a dream come true... or is it?

The Review
Similar to the original cover by Kadokawa Shoten CPM Press uses an image of the new Reiichi Swan deep in a tub filled with rubber duckies. Bishonen alert! On the opposite side, there is a close up of flower loving Reiichi in his original form and his new "improved" form on a yellow background.

Logo Check!! (2003 Megs).... similar to the Kadakawa Shoten version, CPM has used a duck silhouette to frame the title.
Inside the printing does not look too bad. Morinaga's inking is so strong that I really did not have any issues with some of the slight tone problems. I do not like the random art on the insides of the covers. They tend to often by random action pieces that do nothing for the overall presentation of the GN.

CPM includes a character intro at the start of the GN, an ato-gaki (afterword) at the end and ads for: World of Narue, Alien Nine, Comic Party and Taniguchi Tomoko works.

Morinaga-sensei's art is all over the place. Basically, it is as hyperactive as potentially possible. Her character designs range from long-haired bishies (with strong lines, subtle yet expressive eyes and are almost always to scale), to funky shojo (with thin light lines, huge detailed eyes and variety in regards to fashion) to finally comical freak (with spiral eyes and super-deformed bodies drawn with lines as thick as the main character's glasses). Moreover, even with that variety, she can make them all prettier or super-deformed (SD bishojo or bishonen must be seen to believe). Fortunately, with this being a take on the ugly duckling this contrast is not as shocking as it might be in other titles, but it sure gives another layer of comedy to an already funny story.
Her backgrounds are pretty bad. While Morinaga does use them a bit, if you look closely one might notice the sloppy crocked lines and complete lack of detail to anything that is not human (or was human). Similar to Anno Moyoko, Morinaga's layout is practically as active as her writing in telling her story. It is very hyper with kakimoji (SFX) and manpu (visual effects expressing mood and emotion) all over the place, often interacting with characters. In a comical story like this that can be fun, but if the tone were more serious I might find it a bit frustrating.

Duck Prince is presented right-to-left in a tall B6.
SFX are all subbed with translations that can be just as large as the originals. As helpful as these are they are a tad large for my taste, as they often take up too much space in already very cramped/hyper panels.

For the most part the translation looks pretty good. Not having read this title before I cannot say for sure, but Kobayashi and Jackson's translation sounds fine. Unfortunately, they do not use honorifics for this title. With personal interactions being such a vital focus of this title, I am sure honorifics would have added another level of humor to this story. I was also disappointed that they translated the main character's last name. I do not know which way the kanji for his name is read (either: hakuchou, shirotori or shiratori) but it was translated literally to "Swan." I wish they could have just made a note of that in the character intro instead of changing it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Reiichi Swan is an ugly duckling. When we first meet him, he is a short, freckly, stumpy nerd with thick glasses and a bowl haircut that makes his hair appear like a helmet. In the nerd/geek/dweeb caste system, Reiichi is as close to untouchable as there possibly could be. Therefore, he gets abuse from the beautiful people as well as other geeks. Reiichi's curse is much worse than that, as the abuse does not end at school but it continues at home where his sisters and mother pick on his looks and his lack of self-esteem (which is caused in part by the abuse he gets from his family).
Like in a fairy tale when Reiichi's life appears to have hit its lowest, his life changes forever... well, kind of. While helping the girl he has a secretly likes on the day she moves to America, Reiichi is hit by a car sacrificing himself for someone his friend cares for (her dog) sending him to the hospital for a year. However, when tragedy struck, Reiichi was changed from ugly duckling to beautiful swan.

The process was really eight parts luck and two parts medical science. A cursed prince (Yumiko's dog) magically got the wheels turning by granting Reiichi's wish to be beautiful. Eventually, with a broken and bruised child in the hospital, the Swans used their finances to make sure their son would be beautiful (he might not have ever awakened from his coma but at least he would have looked good). A growth spurt later and a year in bed resulted in a bishonen - a tall, longhaired, handsome nerd. And do not think his family will not work on his personality now that he has gotten this far. Beauty is not only skin-deep.

This fairy tale does not end here. Luck appears to be on Reiichi's side when he goes back to school. After months of training his social skills, Reiichi was finally ready to go to school. Because of his accident he was now a year behind, but he was still able to pass his exams and make it to a school of his choice. When he finally got to school, who was there to meet him but... Yumiko, the girl that moved to the US a year earlier. The very same girl that he wanted to confess his feelings for a year ago. The same girl that actually appeared to like him as an ugly duckling. She also happens to be a girl who has confessed to not like people who have gone through plastic surgery. Nevertheless, Reiichi's wishes have come true. However, can he tell her who he is? Will she accept him?

Every fairy tale has a plot twist. Things have to go wrong before the happy ending, with or without a moral. Reiichi will be haunted by his past in the worst possible way. Every time he gets physically close to Yumiko his body changes back to its old form. That is something Reiichi would least like to experience after all he has gone through. Thus begins his search for a cure. If Yumiko were back in Japan that would mean her magical dog would be as well. Alas, Mister the dog (aka: Prince Edward of the Highlands) cannot do anything about his own magic. Only an apprentice, Mister was lucky that his magic spell did not turn Reiichi into some toad or something, so he was expecting a few side effects. To make things worse the only other person who could help is Reiichi's rival at school who happens to be the wizard that cursed Mister. There is no way he would help Reiichi, god knows he would possibly tell Yumiko about the plastic surgery before that. With his magical resources tapped without producing results where does an ugly duckling turned swan go for help. Reiichi cannot go on like this forever, can he?

Morinaga-sensei's take on a well-known fairy tale makes for as twisted and funny a manga I have read in recent memory. If her character designs for Reiichi and Mister were not funny enough, her personalities are completely off center. There is really nothing normal here at all. Therefore, without a fantastic setting the characters are completely out of this world.

Let's take the Swan family, for starters. A family with three evil sisters obsessed with personal appearances and without much of a care for anything that is emotional. Their basic instincts control them and they rarely bother to communicate before making some dramatic assumptions about Reiichi's life. In the end, they are completely one-dimensional but serve a purpose as a primary cause for Reiichi's insecurities. On the other hand, there is Itoh Yumiko. She is your ideal princess - beautiful, charming and caring. It is tough to tell whether she has bad taste or she tends to see the beauty of personality over style and bone structure. So you see her going ga-ga over characters with spiral eyes, stumpy legs, and coarse gangly hair would be out of the norm for a cute character like her, but that keeps up with the fairy tale theme (but with Reiichi and Mister's looks her personality seems so strange it?s humorous). Even a character like Mr. Takamura (aka: the evil sorcerer Arias), who does not have too many lines, is presented with sharp wit and a total lack of morals. So even supporting characters do their part in this madness. With a cast like that, this old story appears to have been given a new life filled with laughs and new twists.

Going through this first volume, I wondered how well this outrageous comedy with a male lead would work as a shojo title. Nevertheless, after reading it again, these universal themes could be enjoyed by any audience. Gals could see some of themselves in Reiichi, whether it is his appearance or maybe his family issues. They could also see the humor in Yumiko's personality. At the same time, male readers can easily get into this because of the slapstick and cute bishojo designs. Either way Duck Prince has started out pretty ugly but with a little magic and some crazy characters there may be something beautiful here. Something that is much more than what we can see on the surface. I can see this being a sleeper hit.


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jnager 3/13/2012 1:07:01 PM

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