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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Selah's Manga Mania Reviews: Failed Princesses Vol. 1 by Ajiichi

Failed Princesses Vol. 1
できそこないの姫君たち | Dekisokonai no Himegimi-tachi
by Ajiichi
August 11, 2020
Publisher: Seven Seas
Genre(s): Romance, Yuri, 
Teens & Young, LGBT
168 pages
Volume 1 of 3
Fujishiro Nanaki is super cute, super popular, and super annoyed with anyone as plain as her classmate Kurokawa Kanade. When Nanaki finds out her boyfriend's cheating on her, however, her life makes a complete 180 -- as does her relationship with Kanade.
Opposites attract in this new high school yuri manga!

Fujishiro Nanaki is super cute, super popular, and super annoyed with anyone as plain as her classmate Kurokawa Kanade. When Nanaki finds out her boyfriend’s cheating on her, however, her life makes a complete 180—as does her relationship with Kanade. This all-new yuri manga series explores the budding romance between the cool girl in school and the “plain” girl she once brushed off!
Friendship is an integral part of manga, but it can take a lot of forms. Tropes still reign, and so often, you get used to the popular girl and unpopular girl being at odds with each other.

And then there’s Failed Princesses.

Nanaki is popular and always has to be cute. While this seems obsessive at first, as the first volume goes along, you learn she actually has to put a lot of effort in. This is something she works at because it’s how she sees herself. Even so, it doesn’t prevent her boyfriend from dumping her. Kanade is the quiet, shy, ugly ducking otaku (fangirl) type and overhears the breakup. While she dislikes Nanaki because of a bad encounter with a popular girl in her past, she empathizes and reassures Nanaki that the situation isn’t her fault. Nanaki latches onto this and decides that they need to be friends. Kanade has absolutely no idea what to do with that.

The good: There’s a lot of emotional exploration and shifting in this one. The characters are decently self-aware while still being a bit ignorant of others’ feelings, which works. Kanade just wants to live her life even if Nanaki intrigues her. But the moment Nanaki befriends her, the popular girls laugh it off, thinking she just wants a servant and Kanade’s friends drop her. This possibility had never occurred to Nanaki, and so there’s a learning moment there as their friendship develops. In turn, Nanaki helps Kanade update her wardrobe and slowly gain a smidge of confidence. Kanade was under the impression that looks and popularity just happen, and Nanaki destroys that illusion as they bond over bad eyebrow grooming experiences. In the first volume alone, there’s just enough growth between the two of them to be interesting without shifting the dynamic too much too fast. The punchline at the end is Nanaki takes Kanade clothes shopping and then suddenly discovers that she may actually out-cute Nanaki, herself.
There’s also a great relationship between Nanaki and her brother. While Nanaki has things come somewhat easily to her because of her popularity and is a little insulated, she’s not a bad person. Her relationship with her brother really showcases her ability to have normal relationships. She’s also invested enough to want to borrow manga from Kanade and learn about her, in turn. It’s also a cool choice to not make Kanade totally friendless. Hence, she actually has stakes to lose due to the friendship with Nanaki. While she may not care about her appearance, she is intrigued by how Nanaki is so well put together, and her epiphany that people aren’t just born that way is honestly really nice to see in a teen series. The fact that it’s addressed makes the obligatory makeover scene feel truer than it would in a 90s movie sequence. I was impressed that Nanaki’s friends' snideness is very minimal compared to a lot of bullying scenes in other titles, and Nanaki immediately shuts it down. There’s no going back and forth for her. She does not stand for it, which is really refreshing. If anything, it’s Kanade trying to tell her how the world works and Nanaki reinforcing that it doesn’t have to be that way and that they both can learn from each other.

The bad: Nothing, really. The characters are still a bit tropey, but this is just the first volume, and it’s obvious that the intent is to have them grow.

Things to be aware of: Nothing so far. I haven’t fully researched this one, so I’m not totally sure if the intent is they become besties or end up together. But honestly, I could see it working well either way.

All in all, a fun title that takes standard plotlines and dares to do something a bit different without taking It completely away from the feel of a shojo title.

Four made-over sheep

About the Author:
Selah Janel is a writer who is trying to start doing that again instead of reading manga all the time.

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