♡ Fans of classic romance, this is the crossover manga for you!
Sumi Kitamura is a young girl of marriageable age, living in poverty during the Meji era. She runs a household of orphaned children brought home by her gambling brother, always promising he’s going to make it big and needs the kids to run his future business. When her brother runs off to escape a loan shark and the landlady threatens to evict Sumi and the kids, she becomes desperate. She ventures to the red light district and offers herself for enough money to cover her brother’s debt. There she is rescued by Soichiro Ashida, who promises she’ll have all the money she needs if she will marry him. The catch – they are never to love one another. She quickly agrees, and finds herself thrown into a new world of refinement and a culture evolving towards western customs. Upper-class society demands she learn to read and write as well as practice the social graces of a lady. She is no longer allowed contact with the kids or her brother. When Soichiro introduces Sumi to a personal friend, Nozoma Ijuin, she discovers her secret prince who’s generosity saved one of the children’s lives when she was desperate for money. Sumi’s affections for Ijuin are obvious, and Soichiro decides to play upon emotions to put himself at a corporate advantage. As Ijuin makes advances and Sumi learns more about Soichiro, she finds herself in an awkward position and her emotions become confused. Which man should she care for, and which one needs her the most?
This series has all the trappings of a traditional historical romance. A pauper maiden rescued by a rich noble, marrying only for inheritance, but wait, we can’t fall in love! The introduction of a love triangle is another cliché plot element. It’s stereotypical romance roles, and the plot is somewhat predictable. Although, if I’ve come to the correct deduction, things are going to get mighty interesting when all character backgrounds are revealed.
Sumi Kitamura is portrayed as a very loving and self-sacrificing girl. She takes care of all those children and even decides to sell herself to keep the family together. However, once she is in the presence of Soichiro, Ueda turns her into a helpless maiden. By taking her out of her usual environment she’s forced to rely on Soichiro, and Sumi acts more scared than determined. She falls for Ijuin, and lets Soichiro push her around. I guess it has to do with the time period, but I wish Sumi had more backbone and was a little saucier.
As for Soichiro Ashida, now there’s an interesting guy. He buys a girl off the street and marries her so that he can gain his inheritance. He tries to match his wife with his childhood friend in order to ruin his reputation so that he has a corporate advantage. He harasses Sumi so that she won’t like him, but then realizes that there are things he finds attractive in her. He’s had a difficult childhood, and some trauma in his past. Ueda does a fine job making him desirable to the audience, even though he acts like a jerk. I find myself wanting to know a lot more about this young man and why he makes the choices he does. That would be the hook that Ueda uses to take hold of her readers – as well as the good looks. 🙂
The characters are drawn attractively, and Ueda has a vein for fashion design. Period clothing looks dashing! There is typical shojo toning with roses and sparkles used every few panels. I found an inconsistency with the cover art between volume 1 and 2. On Volume 1, Sumi has brown eyes, and on volume 2, she has blue eyes. Oops! I think I know why that happened. The colored art does look really nice, especially the hair. I’d like to see more of Ueda’s colored pieces.
Panels flow well, and at a good pace. The English translation seems well done, but I did find an editing mistake in volume 1.
Overall, I highly recommend this series for shojo fans who like cliché romance, or historical pieces. The plot thickens after volume 2, and the series really is easy on the eyes. If you liked Black Bird, then you will most likely enjoy Stepping on Roses, too.
Steamy – Soichiro does try to ravish Sumi in one scene, but only suggested nudity.
Stepping on Roses is currently running in Margaret magazine in Japan. There are 2 volumes available in English from Viz media.