Writer/Artist: Courtney Love and D.J. Milky
Translated by: Christine Schilling and Hyun-Joo Kim
Adapted by: N/A
What They Say
This anthology includes four new manga stories, 30 pages from the upcoming novel, and a sneak peak from the upcoming Princess Ai manga series: The Prism of Midnight Dawn! Each story is bookended by fan and professional art as well as poetry from original Princess Ai author D.J Milky.
Standard TOKYOPOP packaging. The most notable thing about the way this is put together is that it reads both left to right and right to left. About two-thirds of the book is printed left to right, with the rest of it being right to left. Just to break it down, that's 10 stories left to right and two stories right to left. Another interesting note, though not one of any real consequence, is that since the book is pretty much advertising that you paid for, there aren't any ads in the book other than the one printed on the inside cover showing what Princess Ai material is already available and what will be coming soon. Other than that and the two tables of contents (one for each direction), this book is wall-to-wall content.
Since there are twelve stories in this compilation, there are twelve artists. That pretty much means that the art is an incredibly mixed bag. Misaho Kujiradou is back for one of the stories, which is the only canon continuation of what happened after the third volume of the series, and her work is better than ever. This is also the first glimpse of Pauro Izaki's work, who is doing the Princess Ai of Ai-Land comic strip collection, which isn't bad, but is decidedly more comical to match the tone of the work.
As for everyone else, well, some are good and some are bad. No one, I think, is terrible, but there are a couple that are a little surprising. I'd rather not be rude and say, “out of all twelve stories, X, Y, and Z were the worst!” so let's focus on the one's that do work. After all, the point of this book it to drum up interest in the new Princess Ai things coming out and hopefully get you interested in the OEL manga that the individual contributers work on. On a strictly artistic level, I'd say that two stories were successful in that regard: “A Little L-Ai” by Kim Mi-Kyung and “Zoroa the Martyr” by Hans Steinbach. They, along with Kujiradou, are what put the art into the “A” category. Each of those three use their art to truly enhance their story. They are cute, gritty, and whimsical, respectively. Most others reside in the “decent” and “not bad” range, while a couple seem like they would be more at home in the wilds of the untamed web-comic jungle.
Not much to say here. Perhaps just a confirmation: yes, there is text in this book! What, really, is there to say for something that is OEL? A large majority of this was written by native English speakers who have editors, so it all makes sense and is not an affront to the English language as we know it. The parts that are translated are translated well and read smoothly. Just as with the other Princess Ai manga, there aren't Japanese sound effects that need to be either translated or overlaid, so that's just not an issue.
Princess Ai: Rumors from the Other Side is a collection of twelve short stories that are supposed to be rumors and heresay about Princess Ai as well as side stories of other minor characters. One story is an official continuation of the Princess Ai canon and another is an official comedy 'slice of life' strip from the creator that is working on the upcoming Princess Ai of Ai-Land comic strip collection.
Just as with the art, the stories themselves are a mixed bag. The content, though, has a narrower range in quality as the stories are better on average. Since all of these tales are pretty short, there is a somewhat level playing field in that none of them can be all that in-depth or involved. Also, by the very nature of this book – being rumors and stories similar to those one would find in a tabloid – none of these shorts can be anything more than innocent diversion: non-canonical fanfiction to help re-vitalize interest. Kujiradou's story has an unfair advantage in that regard since it is the only one that legitimately has the ability to build on the goings on of Princess Ai and Kent and offer up any real meat. While it does do that, it only takes the story one step further and shows what Kent and Ai are doing shortly after the end of the third manga. It's no real surprise to say that they are still separated, they are still in love, and think about each other often.
The other stories are more or less filler. They cover a lot of different topics and range from funny to dramatic. Again, most are alright and some really stand out. Using the same criterion for success as the art (doing a good enough job that you may become interested in the creator's OEL manga), the most successful story in the collection is probably “The Legend of the Hawk-Ai” by Steve Buccellato. That story centers around Kent's co-worker Daisuke, who tries to impress some girls at the library with his knowledge of Ai. Since he only got a meet her a few times, he spices up his tale with a few comic-influenced elements and makes himself a heroic lead. Both “A Little L-Ai” and “Zoroa the Martyr” would be considered successful here as well. “A Little L-Ai” is incredibly cute and feels like a short from Adventures of the Mini-Goddesses, while “Zoroa the Martyr” is a well-executed heroic/dramatic/iconic story. Only one or two stories came across as real duds, but for the most part, the majority of these stories are entertaining. It's just that some are more so than others. Most stories, like “All about Ai,” and “A Star is Made” really play up the funny and work best in that regard. But when all is said and done, the book as a whole is plesant, but not something that you'll be chomping at the bit to read again or pay money for.
Let's be completely blatant and just get this out of the way: you don't need this book. Sure, if you are a big Princess Ai fan, then you will want to read the canon story that Kujiradou did, but everything else isn't necessary. Not that any of the other stories are really all that bad, but let's call a spade a spade: they are commissioned fanfiction cobbled together to increase attention to both the new Princess Ai books coming out after a sizable interim, and to TOKYOPOP's OEL manga. That doesn't mean that the stories can't be good or worth your time, but they are, in effect, an advertisement that you are paying for. Sure, some of them are good and they are neat side stories to read if you are into Princess Ai and like non-canon, fanfiction stories, but they aren't Princess Ai – and that's the clincher. They're just fluff. If you are a big fan and you can't wait to get more Princess Ai and you really like side stories and have the ten bucks to spend, then give this a go. But, by design, you are not going to get anything of substance out of this book.