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February 11, 2010

Bento Bako Lite: Harlequin Highlights 4

If you surf on over to Digital Manga Publishing’s eManga website, where you can read digital copies of manga titles (by buying points to spend on buying or renting them), you’ll find a section of the site under the name “Harlequin.”  What you’ll find there is a collection of short romance titles (most run about 126 pages).  They go for 100-200 points a piece, which is just over a dollar (you can buy 500 points for $5.50).  They are essentially comic adaptations of romance novels.  Since these are short, low budget titles, I feel that it would be best to group them together and review several at once.  This week we’ll look at The Apartment and Valerie.

First up is The Apartment, art by Ryo Arisawa, and original text by Debbie Macomber.  Twenty-three-year-old Hilary has just left home and her mother to move into her own apartment.  Her entire life she has lived in a wealthy family, under the watchful eyes of her mother, but now she is finally free to do things her own way.  With a job playing flute in a local symphony, and a part-time job working in a music store, Hilary finds herself happily off to a good start with her new life.  But suddenly her perfect life comes to a grinding halt, when she wakes up her first morning in the new apartment to find that someone else has been there, eating her food out of the fridge.  She doesn’t have to wonder about the mystery long.  A man suddenly appears claiming that the apartment belongs to him.  The couple who owns the apartment accidentally separately rented out to the both of them.  Unfortunately the couple has just left on a six week vacation, and the young man, Shaun, has nowhere else to go, having recently left the army and just arrived in town.  The two agree to live as roommates until a solution can be found.  It seems like fate has thrown these two together, but is the social divide between them too great for them to become even simple friends?

Next we will look at another Debbie Macomber title, Valerie, with art by Mao Karino.  Valerie, a successful company executive, is consumed by her job.  She has little time for anything other than corporate success, and is completely absorbed in her work; there’s no time for romance!  Her father falls suddenly ill after a heart attack, so she rushes home to be with her father David, and her younger sister Nora.  There she meets her father’s small town, country doctor, Colby, whom she has little faith in as a doctor and surgeon simply because he isn’t a big city doctor.  Colby is incredibly gracious as Valerie questions his experience, and offers to show her his credentials later to put her mind at ease.  A little later Valerie questions Colby about some strange words she heard from her father toward the doctor.  Colby explains to her that David would like Colby to marry Valerie, because he is worried about her future.  Valerie doesn’t see the point in putting on an act, until Colby suggests that giving her dad hope would give him a greater will to live and bring him back to health.  Unfortunately, Valerie isn’t exactly the type to settle down (particularly so far from the city), and Colby’s idea of a wife is the exact opposite of Valerie; but her father’s condition cracks Valerie’s cold exterior, with Colby around as a witness, and her only comfort.

I found The Apartment rather charming, though I admit an initial bias because I also play the flute.  It’s a really sweet story about a girl finding her way, a mother’s protective love, and a guy’s struggle to control passion with discipline.  The art even fits the style of the story perfectly.  Valerie I found a little…desperate.  The main characters go around in circles, and Valerie is too quick to turn into a panicked and desperate woman given her initial personality.  You could argue that her father’s condition causes this crack in her stony exterior, and it does, but it’s almost like she’s two different people.  Colby’s kindness brings out a gentler side in her as well, but her desperate pursuit of him seems a little out of character.  Then again…perhaps she is pursuing him the way she would a business deal?  That makes sense, though it’s a little cold.  Anyway, to make a long ramble short, I preferred The Apartment to Valerie.

By the way, eManga has been gradually adding more titles online, and there are plenty of free samples to view as well.  They’ve also been giving away free rentals and volumes via Twitter.


All images copyright © Harlequin.  Access to eManga provided by Digital Manga Publishing.



  1. billy

    “The Apartment” sounds like a good read.

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