Featured Columns

March 23, 2011

Bento Bako Lite: Harlequin Highlights 11

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 100-400 points a piece (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 Avoiding Mr. Right and Backwards Honeymoon.

[Previous Harlequin Highlights reviews can be found here.]

Title: Avoiding Mr. Right
Author: Keiko Okamoto (The Sheikh’s Contract Bride), original story by Sophie Weston
Publisher: Harlequin K.K./SOFTBANK Creative Corp.
Vintage: Original novel in 1996, Harlequin manga version in 2008

Christina makes her living working as a crew member on (mostly cruise) ships. She gets to see the world and get plenty of the sun she loves, meet interesting people, and enjoy living life. In Athens, she (literally) bumps into a man named Luc Henri, an apparently rich and important fellow, who invites her out for coffee. Her carefree spirit attracts Luc, and he offers to give her some money while the bank works to unlock her account. She cheerfully tosses it back at him and insists she doesn’t need the help of any man. While waiting for her next job to begin, Christina finds a job as a crew member on a royal ship. As they wait at a port taking on supplies and waiting on their final passenger, the Prince of Colcastan, Christina runs into Luc again. As long as they’re waiting on the prince, they’re stuck at the port, so Luc convinces Christina to meet with him again. On the beach, Christina is swept away by Luc’s advances, but her pained feelings regarding relationships cause her to push him away. When she is later assaulted by the drunken ship’s captain, Luc comes to her rescue, and she learns that he is the prince! The royal family stops at a private villa, and Christina and Luc are thrown together again. Christina, upset that Luc hid his identity, and worried over the social gap between them, continues to push back her feelings. Luc, though he is quickly falling in love, finds himself trapped by his position as prince. Will the two manage to break through to social constraints and give in to their feelings?
It’s a cute story. Christina is a young, mature, independent woman, though her unwillingness to have a relationship with a man comes from her mother’s reliance on men. She doesn’t want to end up like her mother, basically. So when Luc comes along, and she feels herself being swept up in his pace, she pushes back her emotions, not wanting her life ruled by her feelings for a man. Christina no longer has a family to return to, so the ships she works on become her family. She finds herself becoming part of the royal family, talking with the princess, and caring for her two children, which makes rejecting Luc that much harder.

Title: Backwards Honeymoon
Author: Ritsuka Amane, original story by Leigh Michaels
Publisher: Harlequin K.K./SOFTBANK Creative Corp.
Vintage: Original novel in 2001, Harlequin manga version in 2008

The beautiful, rich Kathryn is about to walk down the aisle to enter into an arranged marriage with Douglas. Just before the ceremony, she overhears her husband’s attendants reveal that he is only marrying her for her money, having gotten himself deeply into debt. Upset by this revelation, Kathryn sneaks away from the crowd and begins to plan her escape. While running through the garden, she stumbles upon Jonah, the son of their gardener. Kathryn offers him $10,000 not to tell her father what she is doing, and to help her escape. Realizing he won’t be able to stop her, Jonah agrees to help, if only to keep her safe. Frustrated by men who only want to marry her for her money, she spontaneously proposes to Jonah. She ups the ante and promises him half her fortune, claiming that even though she would be paying him to marry her, at least the deal would be out in the open, with no deceit involved. Worried that she will stubbornly run off and find someone else if he refuses, he reluctantly agrees and they set off to find a town where they can be quickly married without too many questions or legalities. As they travel together, Kathryn relishes in Jonah’s warm and kind nature, and gradually forgets about Douglas. In a small town along the way, the end up in a car accident. Upset at having given their visitors such a rough greeting, the townspeople heartily welcome Kathryn and Jonah. They are shown a small bed and breakfast style motel to stay in, but with their car damaged, they are stuck in the town. Kathryn discovers that in this town, they can be married in three days time, so they begin to make arrangements. Somehow, during their time together, Kathryn has started falling in love with Jonah and genuinely wants to marry him. So of course, she begins to regret that he’s only in it for the money. The day of the wedding arrives, and the generous townsfolk have pulled out all the stops to give Kathryn and Jonah a wedding to remember. But when Kathryn’s father shows up at the ceremony, accusations begin to fly and secrets are revealed.
This is a cute little story as well, but it’s a bit choppy, as if whole scenes have been cut out. Obviously not everything will be in these adaptations, but it’s best for the story to flow without betraying the cuts; here they’re obvious. The art is pleasant, if simple. Kathryn is a bit of a spoiled rich girl, but at least she stands up for herself and takes action (even when it’s not always the smartest action). Jonah is a little blank. His personality is toned down quite a bit. The sarcastic side of him that is supposed to characterize him only makes very brief (and very few) appearances.

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



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