Sakura is the granddaughter of a mysterious moon princess who slew demons with her Blood Cherry Blossom sword. All her life Sakura has been forbidden to look at the full moon without knowing why. Then one night, unhappy over her impending marriage, Sakura gazes up at the moon, only to see a demon attacking her…

By: Arina Tanemura
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

I haven’t had a lot of luck with Arina Tanemura manga. I didn’t like her last title I read, Mistress Fortune, nor her last series, Gentlemen’s Alliance Cross. I was starting to think there would never be a Tanemura title I could enjoy. Then this series was announced. The historical setting of the Heian period did appeal to me, but the “magical girl” aspect didn’t. But I decided to give this series a try.

When we are first introduced to Sakura, she comes off as a spoiled princess, willfully resisting her arranged marriage to Prince Oura, son of the Emperor. She has lived alone on his mountain estate, with only her servents as company. The emmisary sent to bring her to the prince is rather rude and obnoxious, but is also skilled in casting spells. He also turns out to be the Prince. The story starts out seeming like it’s going to be a typical “couple betrothed to each other that start not liking each other, but slowly learn to love each other.” But the twist at the end of chapter 2 changes all of that.

I was really surprised by the change of direction of the story, and even the change in atmosphere! With the twist in chapter two, the tone gets a darker feel, which is quite a contrast to the more bubbly beginning. I have to give Tanemura credit for setting up a good red herring  just before the reveal in the second chapter.

The “magical girl” aspects of the story aren’t quite as interesting. Sakura’s transformed form is very typical with the short skirt and boots. She also has a “mascot” in the form of Asagiri, a small mononoke that looks like a girl. She takes to defeating  of the youko fairly easily, despite having lived a mostly sheltered life. She also has trouble controlling her sword Chizakura, the only thing that can defeat the youko.

Sakura Hime is the first Tanemura title that I actually want to read more of. The volume ended on a cliffhanger, and I want to find out what happens. Sakura has a lot of obstacles to overcome, and from the set up so far, I want to see how she overcomes them. The art is typical Tanemura, but with not so many similar looking characters (so far). The costuming though is great, with a lot of variety and detail.

Sakura Hime is a fun title with some drama that isn’t overly dramatic (yet). Hopefully, it won’t get to that, because as the title stand, it’s off to a great start.

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