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April 20, 2011

Bento Bako Lite: Harlequin Highlights 14

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 Blue Moon Bride and The Bride of Montefalco. Also, for anyone who has noticed or cares, I am going alphabetically through the titles currently available to me. So if there’s one you’re looking at I haven’t gotten to, I’ll likely get to it at some point down the line.

Title: Blue Moon Bride
Author: Kako Ito, original story by Renee Roszel
Publisher: Harlequin K.K./SOFTBANK Creative Corp.
Vintage: Original novel in 2006, Harlequin manga version in 2008

Feeling insulted by her superior Milo, who joked in front of his colleagues about changing her from a mediocre office worker into a piece of arm candy, Hannah quits her job. Worst of all, the president of the company, Roth, had joined in, which hurt Hannah’s feelings even more. Wanting to escape the humiliation, Hannah goes to a little bed and breakfast inn to relax away from city life. Who should show up at the Blue Moon Inn, but Roth himself? As Hannah explains to him why she quit her job (she didn’t feel she was respected as a person or recognized for her skills), she is shocked at how Roth brushes off her reasoning. Of course, a man who only cares about money and reputation couldn’t possibly understand her feelings. Back at the inn, the hostess, Joan, begins fretting over Roth and Hannah’s chance meeting in the garden. There is a local legend, that a man and woman who meet each other on the night of a blue moon in the garden are destined to be together. Joan was attempting to fix a local boy up with Hannah that night, and is flustered that Roth got there first. Hannah finds Roth handsome, but very cold, and although there is clear attraction between then, Hannah refuses to see him for anything other than what she believes him to be. Just as her feelings begin to start changing, Hannah finds out that Roth is planning on buying the financially struggling inn from Joan to build a modern resort. Furious that Roth doesn’t care about Joan’s feelings or the unique qualities of the Blue Moon Inn, Hannah takes it upon herself to save the inn by putting her accounting and business skills to good use. Can Hannah save the Blue  Moon Inn?

The story itself is rather sweet. A romantic legend, two people who misunderstand each other learning to like each other, and love melting a businessman’s cold heart. Unfortunately, it’s a mess. The art is quite sloppy, and the text is littered with errors. If you can get past that, and the awkward pacing, the meat of the story is enjoyable.

Title: The Bride of Montefalco
Author: Kiriko Higashizato, original story by Rebecca Winters
Publisher: Harlequin K.K./SOFTBANK Creative Corp.
Vintage: Original novel in 2006, Harlequin manga version in 2008

Two months ago, Ally found out that her missing husband, Jim, had died in a car accident four months ago in Switzerland, with a strange woman in the passenger seat. The classical musician became obsessed with the idea of her husband having had an affair with the unnamed woman. The woman turns out to be the wife of the Duke of Montefalco in Italy. Distraught and confused, Ally decides to head to Italy to meet the Duke, thinking he must be as upset as she is, and that maybe they can help each other overcome their shared tragedy. Of course, she is barred entrance to the Duke’s estate, but during the night, she is woken up by someone connected to the Duke who has supposedly come to pick her up…but she finds herself thrown into a prison cell instead. Suspected to be a paparazzi trying to prey on the Duke’s tragedy, she is held until the local police clear her identity. The handsome man who arrested her then whisks her away to his estate, where she soon learns that the man, Gino, is the brother of the Duke of Montefalco. She also meets the Duke’s young daughter, Sophia. Having completed the task she came for, Ally tries to leave, but is convinced by Gino and Sophia to stay longer. But the longer she stays, the more she falls in love with the Montefalco family. She tries to leave once again, but is persuaded to stay and teach Sophia to play the violin. As Gino sees the happiness Ally is bringing into Sophia and his brother’s life, his heart begins to warm toward her. Unfortunately, their peaceful life is about to come crashing down. Evidence has arisen proving that Jim and Donata’s car accident was not an accident at all, and both Gino and Ally are now under suspicion of murder. Things are looking grim for Gino, so in order to protect his family in case he is incarcerated, he asks Ally to marry him. Ally believes the marriage is just a deal, and frets over the apparent lack of consideration for her feelings, but goes through with it anyway for Sophia’s sake. Can Gino clear his name, and will the Montefalco family finally be happy again?

Oh, man. It’s sweet, and the art is loads better than Blue Moon Bride. But I’m getting a bit annoyed at all these woman who are so freaking dense they can’t figure out the man next to them loves them. Even after passionate kisses and expressions of faithful confidence. Though I guess there wouldn’t be a story otherwise. I was also a little bothered with how Sophia is handled. Her father, the Duke, is ill, and now her mother is dead. It’s not surprising that Gino has become a father figure for her, but there’s a lot of dialog about Ally becoming her new mother. I wish that had been handled a different way. Sophia even starts calling her “mother.” It’s kind of strange. Her father may be mostly incapacitated, but he’s still there. Then there’s how quickly Ally is accepted into the family, when she really doesn’t do anything at all except exist. Obviously there aren’t enough pages to really get into that, but they’re already all totally in love with her before she really ever does anything to garner that affection.

For more Harlequin manga reviews, click here.


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


One Comment

  1. […] Todd Douglass posts some short reviews of recent manhwa at Anime Maki. Kristin reviews some Harlequin manga at Comic […]

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