Sugar Princess Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Art Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: All
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 8.99
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 978-1-4215-1930-2
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Sugar Princess

Sugar Princess Vol. #01

By Sakura Eries     August 26, 2008
Release Date: August 05, 2008

Sugar Princess Vol. #1
© Viz Media

After Maya Kurinoki lands a double axle her very first time skating, an ice-skating coach scouts her out as the new skating partner for the ice-skating club's star skater.

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Hisaya Nakajo
Translated by:Anastasia Moreno
Adapted by:Anastasia Moreno

What They Say
Maaya Kurinoki is an 8th-grader who has no experience in ice skating but seems to have natural talent. She performs a double axel and impresses a scout named Eiji Todo, who tells her that he can make her a skating "princess" if she can convince famous skater Shun Kano to coach her and become her skating partner. Unfortunately for Maaya, Shun only wants to skate singles.

The Review
The front cover design incorporates part of the splash illustration from Chapter 1.  Against a background of pale blue with faint snowflakes is Maya, facing forward with a soft smile on her face.  Her long, blonde hair is down, and she wears a white blouse with a reddish overdress.  In her hands, she holds a sparkling tiara, which features a pink heart-shaped jewel, and scattered around her are colorful pieces of konpeito candy.  At the top left corner is the Shojo Beat manga logo.  The title logo, centered towards the top of the cover, is rendered in a graceful pale pink script with a sparkling tiara on top of the "S" and an ice skate at the trailing edge. Author's credits are placed to the lower left in purple with a purple border below.

The same pale blue and snowflake background is used for the back cover.  The Shojo Beat logo is at the very top, followed by the title logo.  Placed at the center-right is an illustration of Maya, smiling in her school uniform and wearing a tiny, sparkling tiara on her head.  To the left of the illustration is a brief story summary in black text, and at the very bottom are printing orientation, rating, and publisher's icons.

The print quality is clean, and binding and materials are satisfactory. Extras are comprised of embedded author's remarks, a page of thanks from the author, page fillers featuring drawings of famous figure skaters, profile of the mangaka, and ads for other Viz releases.

Nakajo has a clean drawing style.  She seems to put a lot more care and attention into her male characters than her female ones.  The faces of her male characters are very distinct, and all of them, even the older ones, have beautifully drawn hair (even Coach Todo's scruffy head).  The facial features of her female characters seem a lot plainer, especially Maya, whose eyes seem too large and set too far apart on her face.  However, all of the skating action scenes are wonderfully detailed and easy to follow.

The panels are arranged such that the artwork never feels cramped and so that the story flows fairly well. Regarding the backgrounds, Nakajo seems somewhat sparing with her use of background tones and decorative flowers.  She does use them, but they're extremely subtle and simple compared to most shojo manga.  The same goes for settings; she puts in just enough for you to figure out where the characters are, and while well drawn, her depictions of rooms and buildings tend to be fairly minimal.

By the way, in addition to the characters of her manga, Nakajo also includes some drawings of her favorite ice skaters, which look like they were inspired by magazine photographs.

Viz delivers another solid job with the translation for Sugar Princess.  All signs, books, papers etc. are replaced with overlays in lettering styles compatible with the original Japanese feel. All the original Japanese sound effects are replaced with English sound effects that capture the flavor of the original. 

Even if you don't know anything about ice-skating or Japanese culture, the story is easy for American readers to follow.  Currency has even been changed from yen to dollars.  Cultural references and ice-skating references are explained in footnotes placed in panel gutters. Translation of the dialogue is satisfactory, and a nice variety of fonts are used throughout the text. Honorifics have been dropped or translated into English equivalents.

When third-year middle school student Maya Kurinoki goes ice-skating for the first time with her younger brother, he dares her to do a double axle, and she lands it!  Her jump catches the attention of ice-skating coach Eishi Todo, who invites her to become a part of the local ice-skating club.  Maya is reluctant at first, but when she goes to observe the club, she is awestruck by the skating of the club's star, Shun Kano.  However, when Todo introduces her to Shun, she's in for the shock of her life -- Todo wants her to team up with Shun as an ice-skating pair!

Shun wants nothing to do with a complete novice and harshly rejects Todo's suggestion.  But despite Shun's cold, unfriendly demeanor, Maya is inspired by his brilliant skating and joins the club.  Suddenly, Maya, who has never applied herself to anything before, is spending all her spare time practicing at the ice skating rink.  And as Todo anticipates, she has a natural talent for the sport and progresses rapidly.  Eventually, her efforts draw Shun's attention, and he begrudgingly agrees to become her coach.

Still, as rapidly as Maya is progressing, Shun is leaps and bounds ahead of her as a skater, and she has a long way to go. However, Todo remains hopeful that Maya and Shun will one day pair up. But when Maya learns who Shun’s former ice-skating partner was, she finds herself doubting her ability to fill those skates.

Hisaya Nakajo, who is best known for Hana-Kimi, the story about a girl obsessed with a high school athlete, now brings us Sugar Princess, another story about a girl obsessed with a high school athlete.  However, this time the sport is figure skating, not track and field, and Sugar Princess is as straightforward as Hana-Kimi is convoluted.  There's no cross-dressing, mixed romantic signals, or huge cast of bizarre bishounen characters in this manga.  The story keeps its focus firmly fixed on a beginner's foray into figure skating as she attempts to emulate the athlete that has inspired her to take up the sport.

In terms of main characters, Maya is relatively easy for readers to relate to.  She's not particularly good at school or crafts, nor does she have striking looks. (Compared to Shun, she looks like a plain secondary character.) And despite her huge appetite, she's puny for her age. The one unusual thing that Maya does have is a keen sense of balance.  That plus her love of the sport of figure skating allows her to excel quickly as a skater.  However, she is starting at the bottom, so ice-skating newbies get watch her go through the basics and learn about the sport as she does.

Playing opposite Maya is Shun, who falls into the "handsome and talented but gruff" category of bishounen.  A talented skater with years of experience, he's achieved a certain level of fame for his skating.  He has a haughty demeanor, and he and Maya get off on the wrong foot.  However, he's not actually as cold as he makes himself to be, and there is a personal tragedy tied to his reason for skating singles only.  But eventually, he comes to see Maya as a skater with potential and starts investing in her, on and off the ice.

It's not obvious right now whether a romance will spring between the two.  At this point, the focus is more on Maya's performance in the rink, and there's no strong sense as to the direction of the relationship other than they seem destined to become skating partners.

By the way, Coach Todo, who pairs the two, doesn't do any actual coaching in Volume 1, interestingly enough. I have to wonder if there are other underlying reasons for Todo forcing Maya on Shun as a partner other than her potential as skater. But I also honestly doubt that any actual skating coach would ever pull a random skater off the rink and throw her together with a champion.  However, if you can accept that portion of the plot, you will be able to enjoy Sugar Princess as a girlishly cute sports manga.

This title is aptly rated "All Ages."


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