Today I examine Crown volumes 1 and 2 (published by Go! Comi), a light, frothy shojo manga featuring deadly assassins, a little bit-o-incest (just a little bit!) and a sweet-shojo-heroine whose shojo-ness is so concentrated I'm not entirely sure she isn't a weapon of pure unadulterated cuteness. Of course there's also this "heir to the throne" issue going but, really, near-incest can be awfully distracting....
Crown is about a sweet, young orphan girl named Mahiro, who appears to be all alone in the world but in fact actually has an entire nation -- known as Regalia -- to claim as her own. Separated from her brother, Ren, since she was 2 years old, Mahiro has no clue about her monarchical status until Ren, now a grown man, swoops in to save his little sister from cruel pretenders to the throne who would like to get rid of any potential obstacles, i.e. sweet, pretty girls with a special jewel around their neck indicating their status as the one true heir. Although it probably saves time if we just refer to her as "Mahiro."
Nothing about this description would lead one to think Crown takes place in modern society but it actually does -- this isn't some medieval or feudal historical tale but inserts royalty intrigue into a world more concerned with global power than pure lines of succession. During their time of separation, Ren has become a skilled mercenary and picked up a loyal friend, another mercenary named Jake, during his adventures in killing people and toppling various governments (one assumes). Together they've vowed to protect Mahiro and lead her safely to her birthright.
Mahiro and Ren have a very, um, "close" shall we say relationship. Unlike a normal person who would want to punch Ren in the face for disappearing for most of her life, Mahiro is pleased as punch to have family again. She too easily accepts Ren and Jake into her life, and basically is one of those shojo manga heroines that inspires love in almost everyone who meets her. This becomes amusing because assassins sent to get rid of her somehow become part of her little harem of adoring fans. Even Jake, who apparently has a little woman-phobia going on, allows Mahiro to get close to him (although his face of shock when she physically touches him is hilarious for its freaked out vulnerability.)
Crown is drawn by You Higuri but written by Shinji Wada. The art, therefore, quite excellent, and even matches the light, easy narrative tone. Higuri's own manga narratives tend to emphasize the demons that always surround us and are within us, ones that tempt us to do whatever we have to in order to get what we want. Occasionally there is a figure of purity in her titles, but they often become damaged and dark, because the world is impure and we walk in it, not separate from it. Crown, as written by Wada, has none of that darkness. Even trained-killers can be good people at heart, and the sins of the past don't seem to be weighing the characters down very much. Hell, even Mahiro's socially-taboo love for brother doesn't seem to weigh her down too much either.
In a way I like Crown because it is such an easy, light read, but I'm always wondering how the story would have been different if Higuri wrote it. I suspect Marhiro and Ren would have been a much more tortured pair, and Mahiro's existence would be much more troubled. There is also no acknowledgment that to have the power of a kingdom is a heavy burden and there is nothing to indicate just yet if Mahiro will be able to shoulder it (right now I think she should just open a killer rehabilitation center, since most people after her life tend end up adoring this little saint.) I guess I want a little more tartness to balance out the sweetness of this well-produced tale.
Review copies provided by Go! Comi.