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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Manga Review: Sakura Hime GN 11

Sakura Hime volume 11
Author: Arina Tanemura
Viz Media/Shojo Beat
184 pages
Kohaku follows Hayate into the woods and finds him there with Rurijo. Enju also witnesses the clandestine meeting and confronts Rurijo about her betrayal. Rurijo, now abandoned by Enju, vows to kill Princess Sakura... (Source: Viz Media)
Sakura Hime makes my heart hurt in so many ways, it should be punishable by law. Tanemura has created a cast of characters with conflicting relationships and she's bringing them together in some very explosive ways. As volume eleven opens, the Kohaku/Rurijo/Hayate love triangle is coming to an apex but Enju isn't far behind, still determined to bring Princess Sakura back to her side. That is, if Rurijo's sudden vengeance quest against the princess doesn't get her killed first.
Funnily enough, there is not a ton of Sakura in this volume, despite Tanemura's noting it being a Sakura/Rurijo heavy volume. It does center around them, yes, but the narrative is heavy mostly on Rurijo and her issues and her relationship with Hayate. Aoba is notably absent from the main story, flitting in and out when he can manage to justify his existence. He's not the romantic male lead in this volume; Hayate has taken this role, atypical as he is to it.

The Kohaku/Rurijo/Hayate goes from awkward to double awkward and then some when Hayate declares that he is in love with Rurijo. Last volume, Kohaku had declared her feelings for Hayate and Hayate, still conflicted over his new relationship with Rurijo, ran off without answering her. Now she has her answer, and it is not the answer she wants. Naturally, Kohaku is crushed, although being Kohaku, she still wants Hayate to find happiness with Rurijo. Rurijo, meanwhile, doesn't seem to realize Kohaku is in love with Hayate; she's probably too concerned with her disintegrating body, courtesy of Enju.
Volume eleven is all about Rurijo and Hayate and Sakura, but Enju always manages to pull back the focus to himself when he can. He's reminding us, rather forcefully, that despite his dwindling forces he is still someone to be feared and a threat to Princess Sakura's safety as well as the safety of her companions. He is the one who ruins Rurijo's life and sends her into a desperate attack on Sakura's life; he is the one who manipulates Shuri to do his bidding and even kidnaps one of our main protagonists all to get closer to his darling princess sister.
We also see the return of Princess Kaguya's hair, a plot line which seemed to have been neglected in recent volumes. Remember how Enju has been using the hair and eyeballs to revive Kaguya. Well, he's still at it. It's rather amazing that her eyeballs aren't shriveled raisins yet but I'll chalk that up to moon blood. It's during these scenes in which Enju tries several methods to revive the moon princess that we see Enju at his most ruthless; he has no problem sacrificing others' lives to reach his ultimate goal.
There is a lot of dramatic, gorgeous artwork in this installment of Sakura Hime, from the chapter art to the scenes featuring Hayate and Rurijo. As usual, Tanemura's illustration of characters in emotional turmoil - blushing and crying, fighting and wheezing - is high in detail and so very her style. She also uses blank space to her advantage, adding another layer of artistic drama to some already emotionally charged scenes. It's all typical Tanemura, but it's Arina Tanemura at her strongest.
Also, I love that we see so much of Sakura in her Chizakura form, because her uniform is awesome and deserves more page time that it's been getting lately. Sakura with Chizakura out is one of the highlights of this series; she makes a yin-yang symbol slapped on a ruffled skirt look cool. Plus, her sword skills are second to none in this title. I'm always impressed with how casually Sakura swings Chizakura around while still looking like a professional fighter. It's awesome.

Sakura Hime's manga is burning through plot at a rapid face, heading towards its finale - which just so happens to be coming up in the next volume. This volume ends in the most dramatic, heartbreaking fashion; one can only imagine how Sakura Hime's finale will top that one single moment. It is obvious that Enju and Sakura are destined to clash one more time, moon blood against blood. At this point, it's not a question of who will win, Enju or Sakura, because I doubt Tanemura is going to kill off her heroine. It's a question of who on each side will survive the battle intact or at all.
Volume 12 of Sakura Hime is scheduled to come out in English in February of 2014. You can read more about the Sakura Hime manga and buy volumes of the series at the Shojo Beat website.