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April 19, 2010

Bento Bako Weekly: Crown of Love vol. 1

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Crown of Love (Renai Crown)
Author: Yun Kouga (Loveless)
Publisher: Viz Media
Volume: The first volume of (I believe) four, for $9.99.  Volume 2 comes out in May.
Vintage: 1998 in Japan, February 2010 in America.  According to author notes in the back of the volume, this is a retelling of a two-volume series she wrote in the late ’80s, called Ren-Ai, but the story finished abruptly (and was also incomplete, it seems).
Genre: Romance; it’s a Shojo Beat imprint

High school student Hisayoshi Tajima is a rather aloof boy of 16, with no interest in love or celebrities.  Until he accidentally bumps into teenage idol Rima Fujio on a train.  It’s love at first site for Tajima, who immediately sets about finding every piece of information he can about the young singer.  His fellow classmates are not blind to his new obsession, as the popular Tajima is not quiet about his new hobby.  Particularly concerned is Yurie, who has long been in love with him.  As Tajima’s obsession continues, he gets a stroke of luck when talent manager Ikeshiba scouts him out to become an idol as well.  It’s the perfect opportunity to get close to Rima…if only his strict, classical musician father will allow it.  Unfortunately he’s extremely disapproving of Tajima’s desire to enter show business, so Tajima leaves home to take refuge at Ikeshiba’s house.

Rima Fujio is a top idol in Japan.  Scouted out by the excellent eyes of talent manager Ikeshiba, Rima now works diligently under a new manager, putting out a new single every month.  When she first bumps into Tajima, she thinks he’s a good looking guy.  Later in the story I even got the strong impression she liked him in return…or would, if she wasn’t so hung up on her older, married ex-manager Ikeshiba.  Or jealous over the attention Tajima was getting from him.  Or confused to the point that I’m confused trying to figure her out.  What is clear is that she feels oppressed by the image her fans (which includes Tajima) create of her, that she doesn’t feel she can live up to in reality.

Then there’s Shingo Tachibana, a random, apparently rich, brat of a kid who follows Tajima around.  He’s a super Rima fan, and appears everywhere, but seems to have no current purpose.  He’s a little annoying actually, and feels out of place.  He’s this bizarre element of unnecessary comedic relief.

There is some serious stuff in there.  Tajima’s father is short tempered and occasionally abusive.  Rima is uncomfortable with the extreme level of devotion she gets from fans like Tajima, and is not good at handling such attentions.  She must decide if it’s worth taking off her clothes for a swimsuit shoot to further her career.  Ikeshiba is quite the enigma, a master of control and at getting whatever he sets his eyes on, so one wonders if he’ll play a helpful or dangerous role within the story.  Rima’s mother is a hovering pest, leeching off her daughter’s success.  It’s got good elements…if only the execution were better.

Tajima and Rima meet by accident, as she hurries to escape from pursuing fans, in Crown of Love vol. 1. And who is that bratty kid, anyway?

The whole story feels rather…empty to me.  I didn’t really get anything out of it.  Some readers found Tajima’s obsession disturbing; I found it barely registering.  The idea about becoming an idol to get closer to Rima doesn’t even come from him; it’s suggested by Ikeshiba, who uses her as bait to get Tajima to sign with him.  It works, but that he didn’t consider it to be an avenue himself is a little odd.  And he takes quite a bit of convincing besides.  Unless he’s caught up with wanting to get there on his own terms, without the aid of someone else, which is touched on at the end of the book.  I might buy that if the sequence wasn’t so disjointed and rushed.  Melinda at Manga Bookshelf made note of the strong characterization; Connie at Slightly Biased Manga commented on the honest, earnest emotions.  I found the whole thing rather on the shallow side.  The reviews that convinced me to pick this up are more favorable of course, and it’s just a matter of different tastes and interpretations.  It’s possible that the things that were praised were built up in my head, then I got the book and it all just fell flat, not measuring up to my expectations.  I’m willing to believe that.  Or it could be as lifeless and generic as I found it to be in the end.

The cover is captivating, haunting, and gorgeous.  I wish the art inside had the same feel; it would better the story.  Occasionally a panel will reflect that, but it’s rare, and most of the heavily toned art jumps around in quality and seems a bit unsure of what type of story it’s supposed to be telling.  As it is…if I want a showbiz story, I’ll stick with Skip Beat! If I want angsty teenage drama…We Were There.




  1. Billy

    Wow, sounds like a very emotional story. Too bad the art isn’t as good. That would kind of bring it down for me too. 🙁

  2. […] Connie on vol. 5 of Cipher (Slightly Biased Manga) Susan S. on Croquis (Manga Jouhou) Kristin on vol. 1 of Crown of Love (Comic Attack) Charles Webb on vol. 4 of Detroit Metal City (Manga Life) Kate Dacey on vol. 1 of […]

  3. Kristin

    Since I wasn’t super fond of it, I sent this book along to a fellow manga blogger, who also wrote a review: http://animemiz.com/2010/04/18/manga-review-crown-of-love/
    She liked it a little bit more than I did.

  4. […] Connie on vol. 5 of Cipher (Slightly Biased Manga) Susan S. on Croquis (Manga Jouhou) Kristin on vol. 1 of Crown of Love (Comic Attack) Charles Webb on vol. 4 of Detroit Metal City (Manga Life) Kate Dacey on vol. 1 of […]

  5. […] you may remember my review of volume 1, which wasn’t entirely favorable.  I’ve been given a copy of volume 2, so I’m […]

  6. […] I reviewed volume 1 and volume 2 of this series, so you may want to check those out […]

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