Once upon a time, a king in a faraway country took so many beautiful girls for his harem that he was cursed to live in a magical lamp, released only when he has granted the wishes of one thousand girls who are looking for romance. Shigematsu, best known for her series Tenshi Ja Nai, presents three of the King’s adventures, plus two extra tales, in this collection of stories about love and sex.
The problem with short story collections is that they only offer a brief glimpse at the characters before the story is finished and many people get frustrated because they want something more in depth. On the other hand, when you have a collection like this one, where there is a typical pattern to the events, making each story brief prevents the volume from seeming repetitious. So looking at it that way, I think that King of the Lamp both succeeds and fails. It succeeds because I found my short time spent with the King to be funny and interesting. The failure is because it was simply too brief. We’re presented with three stories and then it’s over.
What I especially liked about Shigematsu’s stories is that she doesn’t shy away from the issue of sexual desire. The girls in her stories want to be physical with the boys they like. There is a lot of romance involved as well, but here the shojo sparkles and flowers provide the backdrop for beautifully and tastefully drawn sex scenes. My personal favorite of the three stories was “Hinata’s Situation,” about a girl who takes her callous sister’s place when the sister’s boyfriend, Hinata’s secret crush, injures his eyes in an accident. This tale had the most character development and even the happy-go-lucky King was moved by Hinata’s selflessness.
The final two stories are unrelated to the King plot. One is the story of a foundling girl who is falling in love with one of the two men who raised her and is an interesting twist on the brother-complex story common to manga which has the same romantic and sexually charged feel of the King tales. The other, which comes after the author’s Freetalk section, is one of Shigematsu’s very first stories. It is rougher, but is interesting to read as a perspective on the artist’s past work.
Go Comi has done a nice job with presentation and translation. This brief collection has a slightly unfinished feel to it because of the brevity of the stories, but is worth a read for the emotions the author imbues in her tales.
King of the Lamp
Go Comi, 2007