From the Archive: Sugar Princess – Hisaya Nakajo (Revised)

Sugar Princess is Hisaya Nakajo’s second title to be released by Viz in North America. It originally ran in Japan’s Hana to Yume publication from 2005-2006. A figure skating title would be a welcome addition to the shoujo/sport genre, however Sugar Princess falls short of medaling in several categories.

Maaya and Shun's Short Program

Maaya and Shun Complete a Short Program for Competition

The Gist: The main character Maaya Kurinoki goes ice skating with her brother one day and is scouted to become a figure skater. At the rink she meets Shun, a professional pairs skater, who does not have (nor does he want) a partner. He is told to instruct Maaya in skating basics but refuses. Maaya then turns to the children at the rink for beginning lessons. After watching her from a distance, Shun then decides he will help her out. Maaya discovers the reason behind why Shun no longer pair skates. In order to save the rink from being closed down, Shun and Maaya are asked to pair skate in a competition.

The Characters/Romance: A decent setup for the story so far, however the characters fall flat. Nakajo’s characterizations are too similar to Hana-Kimi. Shun is like Sano in that he’s cool and quiet, and has given up doing what he loves for an unknown reason. Maaya is similar to Mizuki with her positive, sunny attitude. It’s like the same character personalities have been thrown into a different setting and given different backgrounds. That doesn’t mean that with more development the characters can’t improve. I would love to watch the career path of these “destined to be a pair” skaters and how things turn out in the end. However, much of what I can imagine has been written into an American movie titled “The Cutting Edge.”

Nakajo handles the sequential art of skating with ease

Nakajo handles the sequential art of skating with ease

The Art: The artwork of Sugar Princess fits well into the story. There’s the right amount of toning for the dramatic moments, and other times the line drawings are complex enough to tell the story. I have to admire Nakajo’s work on drawing skating. Her experienced skaters look very elegant, while the novice skaters still appear clumsy.  Kuddos to Nakajo for fitting Maaya and Shun into the same frame with the difference in height and added sequential movements. There are only a few colored pieces for this series, but they are appreciated.  I would never have guessed Shun had reddish brown hair from the line drawings since his hair is usually a solid black in gray scale.

The Audience: This series is highly appropriate for teens and tweens. Not much romance happening yet.

The Media: Only the first two volumes have been released, and at this point Nakajo is unsure if the story will be completed, as she went on hiatus from this series in order to draw for the DS video game Duel Love: Koisuru Otome wa Shouri no Megami, released in March 2008 in Japan.

Heart of Manga Rating: ♥♥♥

If there is ever more to this series, I may change my mind, but with so little story and underdeveloped characters, I would only recommend this for fans of skating or Nakajo fans. I personally love the ice skating plot, but Nakajo really needs to spend more time on this series to make it any better.

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Super mom and teacher until the kids go to bed, then romance manga addict and writer until the caffeine wears out! Specializes in the shoujo and josei genre of manga and anime.
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