Arina Tanemura is a popular shojo mangaka, and one of her works currently being translated into English is Sakura Hime, a magical shojo story that puts a twist on a famous Japanese legend. Volume 4 has recently been released, and you can read on for the review. (Also, for those who are interested, you can click here for my reviews of earlier volumes).
The story centers on Sakura, the granddaughter of the Moon princess Kaguya. As her descendent, Sakura wields the power to defeat Youko, monsters from the Moon, but Sakura’s Moon heritage also means she’s predisposed to becoming a Youko herself…
Back Cover Blurb
Sakura is taken away by Enju to live in his hidden palace. Once there, Sakura comes face-to-face with a mononoke who looks and sounds exactly like her. Sakura has met her double, and her double wants her dead!
The story really picks up in Volume 4, mainly because of the introduction of Enju’s minions. Though the Youko had given Sakura and company enemies to face against, the monsters weren’t that interesting and didn’t last that long. Team Enju, on the other hand, is not only comprised of a unique array of personalities, but two out of the four have some past relationship with Sakura’s friends.
All of Enju’s henchmen have had moon power bestowed upon them, and these chapters include lengthy flashbacks on the origins of Rurijo and Maimai. These detours don’t detract from the story though; they actually make those individuals and their actions more compelling. The flashbacks also provide additional layers of depth to Enju’s character.
As for Aoba and company, they aren’t completely sidelined. With Sakura trapped in the enemy’s lair, they of course must play hero, and their assault against Enju’s fortress is where we get most of the action in this volume. Even so, it’s the bad guys who steal the show, and the nice thing is that Enju lays out fairly clearly what he’s after and why. After Aoba’s earlier waffling between killing and loving Sakura, Enju’s straightforwardness is rather refreshing.
By the way, Volume 4 includes several extras including a bonus story about Asagiri, comics created by Tanemura-sensei’s assistants, and a special interview between Tanemura and one of her assistants.
The plot gets vastly more interesting, thanks to the introduction of some fascinating characters on Enju’s side. The battle aspect of this series continues with Aoba and company launching an assault on Enju’s fortress, but as Tanemura-sensei mentions in her closing notes, the shonen story she originally aimed for has taken more of a shojo flavor with past histories and complicated relationships taking center stage.
First published at the Fandom Post.