Holiday Suggestions, Manga, Manga Monday, valentines day

Manga Monday: Princess Ai

We’re pretty sure that Courtney Love never really meant Princess Ai to be polarizing.



Princess Ai is a really frothy 2004 manga series in three parts (and sequels/prequels) with a gothic lolita edge and lyrics… lots of lyrics.  Lots, and lots, and lots of lyrics.

A quick summary:
Lead character Ai is dropped in a nameless city (think… SanFranSokyo of Big Hero 6), memories wiped, with nothing but a small, precious, heart-shaped box that seems ever-so-important.  (Yes, it’s one of those stories.)  After meeting her first few side characters, the natural thing to do is get a job, so she does…  As a nightclub performer, she gets picked up by a label for her “angelic” voice, and creates a sensational following over the course of the series, and slowly gathers the little tidbits of her history that mean less and less to her in this new world but gives her more and more clarity about what is important to her now.

Princess Ai had a lot of classic tropes for fangirls at the time of its publishing:

  • Immediate love interest
  • Library and people who love books
  • Mysterious and easy-reach backstory
  • Quirky side characters
  • Lush pop-idol costumes
  • Winged dudes and dudettes (dragon and feathers)

About the music:

When reading Princess Ai for the first time, I had been listening to symphonic rock a lot – which meant classically trained opera singers backed by slammin’ electric guitars.  Think… Nightwish and Kamelot.  It pairs well with her Gothic Lolita/Punk look throughout the series, but then Tokyopop (proudly) released a few videos that could have… might have… should have launched an anime:

It didn’t.

Princess Ai did have a pretty sizable fan community during its release, but despite the resurgence of Tokyopop, it may take some extra push to get this angel off the ground if they feel like re-launching their attempt.  There’s also the polarizing influence of Tokyopop itself which, despite its relaunch, is trying really hard to make itself relevant again.

(Quick Opinion: I want to take a moment to mention that the problem with the video isn’t so much the song, or the sequences… It’s actually a really lovely animation sequence, and is pretty nuanced as a whole.  I think it’s because the readers all had a different voice for Ai in their head – and with that voice came expectations… and with those expectations came a bar.  Which seems to be the case with most fandoms – whether it reaches the bar or not.)
If you’re in need of a frothy Valentine read, you might as well read Princess Ai.  Ai Yazawa’s art is on par with CLAMP for frilly Gothic Lolita, and the tankonbon with all three volumes is probably the best way to read it.  You can follow it up with Kamisama Kiss or even Angel Beats when you’re done.  I’d probably recommend it.


On this day in history, last year, we posted a heartstruck anime list, which you can find here. Happy Manga Monday, and we’ll see you again on Sunday!  Check back next Manga Monday – guests to be announced on Fandom Friday!

Manga, Manga Monday

Manga March: Bizenghast

There was a buzz of press releases not too long ago about the resurgence of Tokyopop, who left behind a trail of burned bridges, and is not quite through with its restructuring.

There were quite a few talented emerging artists were swept into their contracts – and while there is something to be said about the resurgence of Tokyopop bringing about cautious optimism, there was a dark period for those artists – they held 50% of the rights to their work.  They couldn’t republish what Tokyopop still had under their control.  They couldn’t cancel the series or shop it elsewhere while Tokyopop was still undergoing restructuring.

I wanted to take a minute to talk about one of my favorite series under their control, and subsequently where to find the original adventures, and where to find the extended adventures.

(I still have the full version of the song from the intro.)

Bizenghast is the story of Dinah, an empathetic darling with big eyes and a Victorian look.  It has shades of Gothic Lolita all over the beautiful artwork.  As the series grows, she is encouraged to be brave and intrepid, searching for ghosts to save, and unbind.  There are metaphors to be had between true delusions and shared adventures as the series goes on.

The metamorphosis from victim to victor really is a triumph.  Her friend, Vincent, arguably sets the whole story into motion in the first place.  It is not that Dinah is unlikable, it’s more that Dinah’s personality becomes more focused on being clever, using her intellect, and believing in her own self-worth in learning that she, too, has more value than her mother and father seemed to believe.

The black-and-white artistry is lush, with lots of straight and curved angles to the lines to assist with the distortion of the world around them.  If you’ve ever seen unusual gravestones, then imagine them,  Then add to them.  Then put them all in the same graveyard.

It has shades of Alice in Wonderland, mixed with a hearty helping of Dickensian bleakness added in for flavor. I’m certain that Edward Gorey would be ecstatic to see this spiritual successor to his artwork as well.

You can purchase it here: Bizenghast is still available for purchase online. Support the creator!

After that, you can read the ashcan novels- the hand-created single-print on-demand adventures of Dinah by purchasing them here: M. Alice LeGrow’s Etsy

M. Alice Legrow, writer and artist of Bizenghast, has moved on to other fun and amazing things.