As alternate world fantasies go, this one is well worth the investment.
Writer/Artist: Shiho Sugiura
Translated by: Shirley Kubo
Adapted by: Karen S. Ahlstrom
What They Say
Rakan is a lonely orphaned teen with an unusual attraction to flowers and plants. Chigusa is his surprise guest, who arrives mysteriously one day out of nowhere. Together, these two uncover secrets about each other - including the fact that Rakan may be a special prince who Chigusa insists on protecting at all costs!
Tokyopop has really gone all-out with this release. The cover is a gorgeous matte watercolor piece in subdued shades, while the title is printed in a metallic silver. A double-sided color plate is included, also matte rather than the usual gloss. The print quality overall is pretty good, with sharp lines and dark blacks - not the greatest, but certainly on par with Tokyopop's best. After the story there is some extra information about the world of Silver Diamond and fanart included. This is a slick looking book.
The coverart was what drew me to this title in the first place, and the art inside didn't let me down. Sugiura excels at creating distinctive character designs, and keeping them recognizable even through some extreme circumstances and strong emotion. She's extremely expressive, and her technical skill is undeniable. Page layouts overall are functional but not particularly exciting, and there are definitely some pages that feel like they were attacked by a flower shop - it fits the story, but it was still rather amusing. There are some stunningly gorgeous action shots that just oozed motion and energy. Definitely an artist to watch out for in the future.
Some of the sound effects are translated on the page, others appear to have been replaced with the English equivalent, and still others are left completely untranslated. Tokyopop's haphazard treatment of sound effects remains disappointing.
The adaptation is a different story - it's smooth, natural, and genuinely funny in places. It really feels like a labor of love, and manages to even give the various characters unique voices. An excellent job overall.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Rakan is far from your normal high school student - in addition to being better looking then even most girls, he lives alone, cooks for himself, and is know for bringing the extra flowers from his garden in to school. But that's just the beginning, as his past is pretty much a mystery. He and his mother appeared one day in an elderly man's garden. He took them in and made them family, and that's as much as Rakan knows about his origins. Now, other than his wildly overgrown garden, he lives a fairly quiet, normal life.
All that change the day that Chigusa appears in the very garden that Rakan did so many years before. Chigusa first attacks Rakan, mistaking him for someone else, and then when his strange gun grows into a tree before their eyes, has a sudden change of heart. What exactly is a sanome, and why is he calling Rakan one? The two settle into a routine of sorts, but they don't have time to get comfortable. When another strange man shows up in Rakan's garden, armed with a weapon even more unusual than Chigusa's, the situation may just fly even farther out of Rakan's control.
This book was a real surprise to me - I went in not expecting much, but was blown away by the unusual premise, gorgeous art, excellent writing, and surprising humor. Alternate world stories are a dime a dozen, but this really feels like a fresh take on the whole concept. Actually, there are quite a few things in here that could have ended up being eye-rollingly overdone cliches, but were so well executed that it's hard not to be impressed. There's a lot about the story and the alternate world that's still a mystery, which makes the wait for the next volume that much harder. With interesting, well-rounded characters, a well-executed and unique fantasy premise, and a story that balances humor and drama, this is what shoujo fantasy manga should be. Highly recommended.