Writer/Artist: Miwa Ueda
Translated by: Elina Ishikawa
Adapted by: Elina Ishikawa
What They Say
It's no fun being a high school outcast. It's even harder when your older sister is the most popular girl in school! The ultra-glam Hana is the ultimate teen queen, but her little sister, Ageha, is just a shy tomboy. Hana loves being the center of attention so much she'll do anything to keep her little sister in her shadow. But Ageha has a plan that will change her life. Because no one, not even Hana, can hold Ageha back forever.
Papillon is the usual solid release that is expected from DelRey, just... pinker. The overwhelming pastel-pink cover does feature a very pretty picture of Ageha, but DelRey's use of a sparkly pale blue for the logo, volume number, and author's name don't help much. Then again, this title is aimed at hard-core shoujo fans, so the choice is appropriate, if somewhat overwhelming. The back cover is similarly girly, featuring a sparkly light purple color at the bottom that fades up to white. A picture of Ageha that isn't as pretty as the cover illustration is featured next to the summary, and framed by a light blue border featuring pale blue swirls and butterflies. DelRey's usual translation notes are present, along with a six-page untranslated preview of the second volume and advertisements for other Del Rey manga series.
Attractive character designs are the first thing one notices when flipping through Papillon, and are arguably the best part of the artist‘s style. Everyone, both male and female, is given large, expressive eyes and a variety of expressions. Well, everyone except Ageha’s overweight, backstabbing “friend” (who we all know doesn’t count anyways). With only two main male characters having been introduced, they are easy to tell apart with nicely varied designs. The female cast is a little bit more difficult to distinguish, even when you’re not considering the fact that Ageha and Hana are twins.
Backgrounds fall into the traditional shoujo category. Enough detail is given that you have some sense of place, but Ueda relies more on screen tones for backgrounds than anything else. The pattern placement is never distracting, and effectively places your attention exactly where the artist wants it to be.
Sound effects have their English equivalent printed alongside, as is the case with most of Del Rey’s releases. The translation reads fairly well, even if there were a smattering of grammatical mistakes. Some were more glaring than others, but I imagine they will be fixed by the time that the book is actually released.
Ageha has a harder life than most high school students. Not only is she plain and unable to speak her mind, but she has a beautiful twin sister and a crush on a childhood friend who doesn’t even recognize her. She’s even left to clean up the student café her class ran for the school festival while everyone else goes to a concert when an attractive young man wearing a horse mask comes barging in. He encourages wallflower Ageha to go after what she wants--that is, her popular childhood friend, Ryusei.
Things go well for a short while, as Ryusei and Ageha rekindle their old friendship and even plan to visit her grandmother together. Their outing is interrupted when Hana shows up and drags Ryusei away, wearing a cuter version of the clothes she had lent Ageha. The next day at school, things get even worse when the entire school discovers her crush on Ryusei, who admits to Ageha that he’s already dating her sister.
Ageha, convinced that no one would miss her, plans to jump off the school roof when she is stopped by none other than the dark-haired young man who showed up in a horse mask days before. He introduces himself as Hayato Ichijiku, the guidance counselor, and continues to encourage her to pursue her feelings and not give up. Moved by his words, Ageha stands up to one of the bullies in her class and impresses her pretty classmate, Meiji. Meiji and her friends provide their own forms of encouragement, such as giving their newfound comrade a makeover and swapping class seats so that Ageha and Ryusei end up sitting next to each other. Yet while Ageha is becoming more confident, Hana is becoming less so, and is determined to keep Ryusei away from her sister.
Even with my high school years behind me, I find myself irresistibly drawn to drama-filled teen shojo such as Papillon. There’s something addicting about love polygons made complicated by the idiocy of those involved, even if the outcome of those love triangles is usually apparent from the start. Going against that usual set-up is what puts the first volume of Papillon a step above where it would otherwise be. In just a few chapters, the artist has given us four people with conflicting romantic agendas and also provided a laundry list of reasons why each couple should and should not end up together. Sure, Hayato’s handsome and understands Ageha better than her crush does, but he’s also twenty-four years old and likes to flirt with the underage girls he is surrounded by far too much.
So far, Papillon feels a lot like a guilty pleasure. I find it hard to take manga this full of over-wrought high school angst seriously, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it more than I should. Ageha’s growing self-assurance is charming, and I have high hopes that this series will only continue to flesh out its characters as it goes along. Fans of Ueda’s previous work, “Peach Girl” will want to give this series a look, as will those who prefer their shojo filled to the brim with high school drama.