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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Manga Review: Sakura Hime GN 10

Sakura Hime volume 10
Author: Arina Tanemura
Viz Media/Shojo Beat
184 pages
Rurijo captures the smitten Hayate and uses moon spring water on him. Princess Yuri, betrothed to Lord Fujimurasaki, seeks the private company of another man. And Princess Sakura is taken hostage by the emperor... (Source: Viz.com)
Spoiler warning: Review contains spoilers for the latest English translation of Sakura Hime.
If volume nine of Arina Tanemura's latest manga Sakura Hime was a departure into the more shojo-style romantic sphere of the series, volume ten brings us crashing back into the conflicts that propel the manga forward. Sakura's ancestry and curse of immortality once again comes into play, as does Hayate and Rurijo, two supporting characters caught in the web of Enju's machinations. Tanemura is bringing the danger and the drama back to Sakura Hime and it creates one of the strongest volumes of the whole series.

The tenth volume opens with a resolution of the previous book's cliffhanger, in which we found Hayate in the grasp of Rurijo, who seemed to have less than savory intentions for the young ninja. Turns out, she just wanted to use her remaining moon spring water to break the jutsu on Hayate. Whoops! This affects Hayate so deeply that when it works and Kohaku finds the inner strength to confess her feelings, what would have been an easy affirmation of mutual affection turns into quite the opposite.
And thus, a heartbreaking love triangle was born, as if it wasn't blindingly obvious before that Hayate really really likes Rurijo, and a great rift forms between two childhood friends. I guess now that Fujimurasaki's feelings for Sakura have been made null, Tanemura needed another romantic entanglement. This one is even worse than the Fuji/Sakura/Aoba triangle, since Rurijo is supposed to be actively working against Hayate's interests and his friends, and being an immortal means Rurijo probably does not wish to get involved with a mortal human being.
Of course, as this volume continues, it becomes laughingly obvious how deep Enju's minions' loyalties lie. Like, come on Shuri, stop playing at being a jerk. No one believes you. Really, at this point, the only villain I take seriously at this point is Enju . . . and maybe the people in the palace who still see Sakura as a monster. This is something that continues to be an issue for Sakura, since her immortality and her being Kaguya's granddaughter has made her a target for random acts of government-approved espionage.
To the readers, of course, these actions against Sakura are cruel and unusual. We've spent ten books sitting by her side, listening to her story, seeing her as a human being with a life and dreams who happened to be burdened with the curse of the moon blood that flows through her and Enju. Sakura is forced to come face to face with her unwanted burden in this volume as the Emperor moves to destroy the monster of the palace once and for all, and she wonders if the madness she sees inside of her is the same that drove Enju to the dark place he's currently at. Seeing Sakura struggling against these forces made me want to reach into the page, pull her out, and give her a hug and a hot cup of tea. My poor princess!
I really loved the artwork in this volume of Sakura Hime. Arina Tanemura did a fantastic job at drawing the scenery, the facial expressions, and the period-appropriate clothes. She expresses humor as well as she does anguish and passion, and she does those pretty darn well. Some of my most favorite rendered scenes involved Sakura, Hayate, and Princess Yuri. I really want a Sakura Hime art book with full color pages!

I've found myself surprised by how much I've enjoyed Sakura Hime over the past year, and this latest volume has made me glad I stuck to it. It's not a perfect series - some of the plot twists are pretty Tanemura-style silly - but it's entertaining, contains a vibrant and interesting cast of characters, and has me chomping at the bit every time wanting the next book to see what happens next. And volume 11 doesn't hit shelves until October? Somehow, we shall survive the wait!