REVIEW:  Harlequin’s revamped manga line; A Prince Needs a Princess by Barbara McMahon and Reiko Kishida

REVIEW: Harlequin’s revamped manga line; A Prince Needs a Princess...

A Prince Needs a Princess. Story by Barbara McMahon, art by Reiko Kishida.Retail: $7.99.Rated T for Teen, 12 and up, sweet kisses only (I’d say a little younger would be OK too).I believe it’s based on McMahon’s Harlequin Romance The Tycoon Prince, from 2003, but has been reworked into a YA romance.B for young girls, C+ for older readers.

Dear Harlequin,

Harlequin Manga seems to be going through some permutations.That’s good.There was a lot of room for change.When I bought the very first manga that you published, I couldn’t get past two things: the fact that you were using romances from the early 80s to attract readers who hadn’t even been born then, and that awful purple and pink ink.

A Prince Needs a Princess by Barbara McMahon and Reiko KishidaIt seems like you eventually realized some of the same problems.That horrible ink is still there (Note: “Printed in Flirty Pink Ink!” is not a selling point for me), but at least the aged feeling is gone.The covers have an updated look, more modern.You’ve stopped selling the purple adult line, which I think is a good move because those titles would only attract grandmas, and I don’t know all that many grandmas who are interested in manga (though I know a couple!).

You’re also no longer available at the anime and manga stores online.Only at chain bookstores, and your own website.I think that says something about your purpose, that you don’t care about dedicated manga fans, you want to pull in young readers who go to regular bookstores to get them used to the name Harlequin.You’re trying to repackage yourself.Harlequin Pink is your Joe Camel, so to speak. And it might work.

I bought five of your new Pink titles so that I’d have a good idea of what you were aiming for.For the record, I don’t recommend the six manga from the first attempt you made, unless someone finds them at a garage sale for a steal (they aren’t horrible, they’re just rather like one’s Aunt Betty tarted up as someone half her age and dress size).But I’m curious to see what the new brand of Harlequin Pink stands for.

Here are my thoughts on the first, A Prince Needs a Princess:

I honestly opened this manga fully prepared to dislike it.To my surprise, I did not.Despite the fact that you still use pink ink *sigh* I enjoyed the book and read it through to the end.It has a few things going for it.First off is the art.I had to choose from a number of Harlequin Pinks to buy and review.The hottie on the cover caught my attention immediately.I figured if I had to suffer, I was going to suffer staring at a pretty man.

The artwork was nice.Not outstanding, but nice manga artwork reflecting recent shoujo styles.The characters are easy to tell apart, and all are modern in their demeanor, with the possible exception of the king who reminded me of some kind of cross between God and King Lear.What’s with the bathrobe and hermit look?But really, I was staring at the gorgeous hero too much to worry about the old man.There are also some nice background details to give the reader a feel for the settings, though of course plenty of the requisite flower and star type backgrounds to emphasize the romance.

But here’s what I liked most.Unlike the other manga titles you first released, this newer title is just that, newer.The characters all look, dress and speak like we do in the 21st century (excepting His Royal Grandpa).The heroine was dressing in things I could probably walk into a store today and buy.The hero had a normal modernCalifornia style.This story doesn’t contain the trappings of 80′s romances, because it was published in 2003.The covers reflect a more modern style that immediately caught my eye.I’d like seeing that cover on any romance.

The story is a cute one, akin to some of the teen romance flicks we’ve seen in the past few years.Clarissa is a young woman from the country of Marik, sent by the king to get his last remaining grandson and heir back.Jack, the grandson, is estranged from the man for good reason, and Clarissa finds him working as a construction worker in LA.He has no desire to be king.But after an argument he decides to go (remember this reads right to left, top to bottom):


There are issues for the characters to deal with.Obviously Jack and his grandfather have things to work out.Clarissa was engaged to the former heir and is unsure about her changed feelings and how that would look.These are both worked out quite a bit more easily than one would expect.But considering the intended audience, the single volume length, and the style of the story, the ease of resolution is not out of place. It may disappoint older readers though.

But if readers here have a young girl (ages 10-14) in the house and want to buy her manga, they could make a much worse choice than A Prince Needs a Princess.And then when she was done they could pick it up the next time they needed a bathtub read. Because we’re never too old to look at pretty men. ;)

Just please, Harlequin, lose the pink.