Sakura Hime: the Legend of Princess Sakura, vol. 1-4

sakuraHer entire life, Princess Sakura has been forbidden to look at the full moon. One night, after being told she is going to meet Prince Oura — to whom she has been betrothed to since her birth, but has never actually met — Sakura becomes upset and gazes at the full moon. To her surprise, she is immediately attacked by a man-eating demon who claims to have been searching for her! She discovers that she is the granddaughter of the moon princess and the only one with the capability of destroying these terrible demons, called youko. Now, youko from all over are searching for her to try and possess her body. Not to mention that whole fiance thing. Sakura has a lot on her mind.

Sakura is clumsy, sweet, and lonely, making her an excellent heroine. She is completely guileless, opposite to everyone else in the story. Her family are all dead and everyone around her is keeping secrets from her. No one is who they say they are. I couldn’t help feeling bad for Sakura, who tries to take care of everyone, despite never being sure of who is on her side. At least she has Asagiri, a miniature girl whom she confides in. Asagiri is really cute and really feisty. She is incredibly loyal to Sakura and her back story finally comes out in a bonus chapter in volume 4.

Prince Oura is similarly sympathetic. He is torn between his attraction to Sakura and his distrust of her abilities. She could be his kingdom’s greatest asset or its destruction. He is strong, yet adorably nervous around Sakura from their first introduction. Their interactions are very fun to read, because they are both so awkward and unsure of themselves.

On the whole, the characters are all well-written. Each is hashed out in different chapters, strengthening the overall storyline, which feels weak in a number of places. Similar in a lot of ways to CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura, Sakura Hime is not quite up to the comparison. It is not quite as complex as Cardcaptor Sakura, but is not as well-organized. Many plot points seem to happen as if they randomly occurred to the author, rather than being planned for. While I appreciate a plot I cannot predict, this one is all over the map. Just when I started to think I understood where the story was going, something would happen to change the entire dynamic of the story – usually in a way that didn’t fit well with what had been happening. A few times I thought I must have misunderstood something and had to go back and re-read. I enjoyed the characters enough to continue following the series, but the story needs to be much tighter from here on out to be really effective.

What Sakura Hime loses in plot, it makes up for in artwork. Nearly every panel is stunning, again similar to CLAMP’s style. Sakura’s hair is particularly gorgeous, as it flows and curls with the wind and usually some falling cherry blossom (sakura) petals. The period costuming, such as Sakura’s kimonos, is beautifully detailed. Each page was clearly planned out and carefully executed. There is so much detail in the backgrounds and I found myself poring over many of the pages to take it all in.

The youkos are very nicely depicted. Each one is creepier than the last. They are all pretty gross, with drool or blood dripping from their mouths, creepy limbs, and disproportionate eyes or fangs. Tanemura says in her author notes at the beginning of each chapter that she wishes she could make each one scarier, but I can’t imagine how she would go about doing that.

Also, Tanemura’s author notes are very fun to read. She tells funny stories or makes interesting comments before each chapter. The only problem with this is that she usually hints at what is going to happen in the chapter and pretty much gives it away. I learned quickly to go back and read the author notes after finishing the chapter.

Sakura Hime is a very fun manga to read. The love story is sweet and contains a lot of obstacles for Sakura to overcome. I am interested to see how things develop, especially since the introduction of some crazy new characters in the last volume. My only hope is that these odd plot threads come together neatly at the end to help clear up my confusion.

Sakura Hime: the Legend of Princess Sakura, vol. 1-4
by Arina Tanemura
Vol. 1 ISBN: 978-1421538822
Vol. 2 ISBN: 978-1421538839
Vol. 3 ISBN: 978-1421538846
Vol. 4 ISBN: 978-1421538853
Viz Media, 2011
Publisher Age Rating: 13+