Time Stranger Kyoko 1 by Arina Tanemura: B-

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been invited to contribute reviews to the Manga Recon section of PopCultureShock. This is my first review for them, and it was originally published here. Carlos Santos from ANN has also written a review of this title, and brings up some points left out of mine, so you may want to check his out, as well.

It’s the 30th century and all of the nations of Earth have united to form a single kingdom. The treasure of the people is their princess, Kyoko, but she’d rather attend school like a normal girl than fulfill any of her royal obligations. Her sixteenth birthday is approaching, however, and along with it the celebration at which Kyoko must finally appear before her subjects, putting an end to her incognito scholastic career.

Kyoko resigns herself to her fate, but her father offers her an alternative—if she can awaken her younger twin sister, who has been asleep since birth, and turn princess duties over to her, Kyoko can have her freedom. To do this, she must locate twelve godstones scattered around the planet and the twelve telepaths who can use them. When gathered, they can set into motion the giant clock upon which Princess Ui sleeps and use its power to awaken her.

I was pretty put off initially by the notion that Ui was to be awoken for the sole purpose of foisting princess duties upon her. Even though Kyoko intends to give her sister a choice in the matter, it’s still a thoroughly selfish aim. Quickly, though, Kyoko ends up revealing her identity anyway (to thwart a band of thieves who’re menacing her schoolmates) and her goal becomes simply meeting her sister.

Adventure ensues, with Kyoko gradually acquiring more powers and, eventually, locating the first of the telepaths. She’s often tempted to use her powers for selfish reasons, but usually ends up helping others in the end. Other hobbies include requiring rescue by her bodyguards and behaving irrationally.

There are some comedic elements to the story, though not all of them are a success. I giggled at the instructions for the issuance of a royal greeting (step 5: gesture flamboyantly!) and I like that Kyoko’s magic cane has a personality and dialogue, but I can’t stand the character of Chocola. She’s the King’s cat android pet, and I reckon I’m supposed to find her unbearably cute, but instead she just creeps me out.

As usual, Tanemura’s artwork features big eyes, lots of screentone, and a plethora of flowers. I was a little disappointed that she didn’t avail herself of the opportunity to draw the kirito—humans whose DNA has been combined with that of plants or animals—in a new and different style. Mostly, they just get things like pink hair or gold eyes. Kyoko herself has pointy ears, but no one has commented on them thus far, so I’m not sure if she’s supposed to a hybrid or not.

While I didn’t love this volume, I didn’t absolutely hate it, either. It’s true that neither the story nor the characters particularly engage me, but because the series is only three volumes long, it’s really not that much of a commitment to see it through to the end. I expect that I will do so.

As a final thought, I leave you with a topic: Arina Tanemura is the manga equivalent of Meg Cabot. Discuss.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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