Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lapis Lazuli Crown, vol. 1

After a short, unplanned hiatus, I'm back to regular reviews of manga and graphic novels. While I'm not sure that I'll be posting everyday, please expect around four to five posts per week.

The story: Miel is a teenage girl in the magical kingdom of Savarin. While everyone in Miel's "fallen aristocratic family" seems to be quite adept at magic, she isn't; at times, she's proven a magical menace of sorts. But, Miel does have a claim to fame that she tries to keep quiet—her abnormal strength. While in town one day, she runs into a young man named Radi. While he bears a strong resemblance to the kingdom's Prince Radian, she helps him find his way around town. Once Miel gets to know Radi, she finds herself in the position of wanting to stand at his side as his equal. Has Miel finally found the motivation to improve her magic?

Reaction: I had a mixed reaction to this story. When Miel's first introduced, there's mention of her family's history as magicians in the king's court. Unfortunately, they've fallen on harder times and, so, Miel wants to "marry up" in order to restore her family's standing. Of course, once she meets the right guy, she's all for bettering herself in magic in order to stand by his side. While this story is cute enough and has some great fantasy elements, I feel like it gives younger readers a false impression of why we should want to improve ourselves. (Note: This story is rated E for "Everyone".)

While the purpose of Miel's training is to better herself, its end goal is to make her Radi's equal. And I can't exactly agree with that—doing it for her own self-satisfaction rings truer to me than doing it because of the guy she likes. Then again, wanting to be a better person because of who you love is admirable in its own way, too.

Deep thoughts: In the one-shot at volume's end, "Daisy Romance," a prolific thief receives some flattery via imitation when a copycat burglar emerges. Hinagiku, a young woman from a well-to-do family, works with the original thief when the copycat targets her house. Since the story was in a Japanese setting, I was surprised to see how personally empowered Hinagiku was in pursuing the copycat and protecting her home. In comparison to other countries, Japan has a high rate of masculinity, which includes rigid social roles. While a similar romantic thread runs throughout this story, I liked Hinagiku moreso than Miel at times.

Artwork: After reading A Tale of an Unknown Country, also by mangaka Natsuna Kawase, my same criticisms stand in regards to the character's faces. The eyes, at times, look awkward and the pointy chin look dominates. At one point, Miel's older sister's eyes seem almost comically crossed when, in fact, she's reading a book.

However, unlike her previous work, there are more signs of the shojo style here, including more screentone use and other "sparkles." And it's obvious in Lapis Lazuli Crown that Kawase has grown as an artist since her earlier work—the backgrounds are more elaborate and characters are more well developed.

The verdict: If only... I liked this better than Kawase's earlier work, but still had reservations regarding the basic storyline and art. Yes, this is a fun fantasy series, and a short one at that with only two volumes. But, Miel's motivation worries me as a feminist. Despite those reservations, I will more likely than not read the second and final volume. Lapis Lazuli Crown is available in the U.S. from CMX.

Review copy provided by CMX.


  1. I've found this mankgaka's work to be mostly in the "meh" category. The stories seem to have potential, but then fall flat along the way. I totally agree about the art criticisms, too. I guess I really don't like her style of anatomy. Keep up the great reviews!

  2. There is a lot of potential here (and in Kawase's other English work), but she seems to get her two romantic leads together all too quickly, leaving the story to crash and burn pretty quickly. And thanks for the encouragement, Laura!