A Review By: Amelia
A diva torn from chaos. A savior doomed to love. Take an amazing journey with a mysterious young woman searching for identity and salvation in this world and beyond. She must piece together clues about who she is but the forces of chaos are closing in around her and her ceaseless love may not be enough to protect her.
So begins Princess Ai, a three volume series of mangas about a young, beautiful, alien girl name Ai who has been mysteriously transported to Tokyo. She has no memory of her past and the only clue to help her is a heart-shaped box. While trying to sort out her muddled memories and blend into modern Japan, Ai makes her living as a rock star (as her voice is hypnotically beautiful) and falls in love with a mortal man named Kent. As the story progresses Ai is pursued by gun-toting talent agents, demons seeking to take control of her homeland, and things only get stranger when she sprouts a pair of small pink wings!
Princess Ai was co-created by four people: Ai Yazawa, Misaho Kujiradou (who wrote most of and illustrated all three volumes), DJ Milky, and (believe it or not) Courtney Love. Yup, that Courtney Love–musician, grunge-girl extraordinaire, and widow of Kurt Cobain. Hard to believe right? What could Courtney Love possibly contribute? Well, more than you’d think. The main characters are actually based on Courtney and her late husband Kurt Cobain. And although Courtney love may not be from another world, Ai’s rockstar life is a vague, whimsical autobiography based off of her own life.
The characters followed most throughout the three volumes are Ai and her mortal love interest Kent. Ai is beautiful and talented, Kent is beautiful and talented. They seem to be meant for each other! At first, they seem a little flat as characters but they are surprisingly well-rounded people. Kent is a little too soft-spoken for his own good, making him appear apathetic, even bland, but he’s smart and more caring than most. Ai is self-centred, a little vain, and has the temper of a diva, but she’s mostly friendly and incredibly trusting. She believes people can change and always gives those around her a second chance.
There are also a few other characters tossed in there to help round out some of the traits Ai might be lacking. Hikaru, who is Kent’s gay roommate, is fiercely loyal. Jen, who befriends Ai, is sweet and completely unselfish. Nora, who is a prominent part of Ai’s past, is noble and righteous. These characters, and a small host of others, lend themselves nicely to the story without making you forget that it really is all about Ai. They add to Ai and you see more of her character through them then you could ever see if Ai had the whole story just to herself.
The art style in Princess Ai is very beautifully done, albeit lacking in originality: big eyes, blonde hair, yada yada yada. Of course, this doesn’t detract from the manga at all. The characters are attractive and detailed, their clothing (especially Ai’s) is superbly drawn, and overall, the art style very much suits the manga’s fantasy/romance based plot. Like other similar mangas, Princess Ai will differ from panel to panel. Panels with dramatic scenes are very detailed where as a comedic or action scene will have almost all details stripped away from it. By increasing or decreasing details, it creates a sense of emotion and urgency that might be lost if all the panels were always the same.
Princess Ai was a real treat to read. It has a great plot, well thought out and composed characters and a beautiful art style. Most surprising of all though, was how funny and thoughtful it was. It had themes of racism and self-hate; themes of not being able to fit in no matter how hard you try. And the characters grow and change and evolve through their struggles and it adds such realism, no matter how unrealistic the fantasy becomes.
My final thoughts on the manga Princess Ai are that it is a great manga–don’t be put off by Courtney Love’s name on the cover, or that it’s ‘technically’ a romance manga, there’s something in it for almost everyone be it plot, humour, fantasy, or the beautiful art style. All in all, Princess Ai is a fun manga. It’s light, it’s easy to get into to, and Ai’s fashion sense alone is enough to keep you enraptured until the end!