Manga Review: The Heiress and the Chauffeur Vol. 1

A forbidden love between master and servant… That theme has formed the basis of many a romance, including Viz Media’s newly released historical manga, The Heiress and the Chauffeur.

Back Cover Blurb

Sayaka wears a crimson ribbon that signals she is at the top of her class, and her classmates all revere her. So when Narutaki ignores decorum and breaks school rules to protect Sayaka, will she stand by him or dismiss him as the school demands?

The Review

When I first read the title, I thought The Heiress and the Chauffeur was going to be a Japanese version of Downton Abbey. After all, Heiress takes place during the same time period as Downton, and its main characters are a very rich young lady and her servant. But whereas Downton was all about portraying the class differences in early 20th century British society with painstaking accuracy, Heiress‘ Taisho-era setting mainly seems an excuse to have a butler-type romance in period costume. The heroine Sayaka Yoshimura might attend a finishing school where they wear hakama uniforms, but she and her classmates have sensibilities more aligned with modern teens. Among the cast is a gaggle of self-proclaimed fans of Sayaka’s 22-year-old chauffeur Narutaki, and one fan in particular practically oozes otaku.

The cause of all their excitement, aside from Narutaki’s and Sayaka’s good looks, are the rumors that the two are having a forbidden love affair. Sayaka calls them nonsense; as far as she’s concerned, Narutaki’s a brother figure. That sentiment, however, is not mutual. Thus, we have a one-sided love on Narutaki’s part, a love he demonstrates by helping Sayaka through the various scrapes she gets into. And though Sayaka cherishes him as a friend, she’s utterly oblivious to his actual feelings.

This work is Ishihara-sensei’s debut series, and the manga does have a first-timer’s feel to it. Chapter 1 was originally a one-shot, and the illustrations are cramped because of all the details crammed in to complete the story arc. But even the panels of the subsequent chapters tend to be overcrowded, which is a shame because I really do enjoy Heiress‘ period costumes. Sayaka’s character profile also feels overloaded. She’s an heiress, she’s lame, she’s from an upstart family, she’s the “Crimson Lily” of her school, she’s ignored by her dad, and on and on. Narutaki’s, on the other hand, is a bit on the lean side for a leading man. He’s handsome, charming and in love with Sayaka just because. Fortunately, his previous place of employment is a bit of a mystery, which makes him somewhat more interesting.

This volume contains four chapters, each with its own arc. Despite their misadventures in those chapters, Sayaka and Narutaki’s relationship doesn’t really go anywhere, and given that Heiress is only a two-volume series, I wonder how far this romance will actually manage to progress.

Extras include an author afterward and the short bonus stories “Luca and the Bandit” and “The Promise from Four Years Ago.”

In Summary

If you’re looking for a historical romance with spot-on details, you’re better off looking elsewhere. But if you like devoted bishounen in servant attire longing for a love that cannot be, Heiress is worth a try. It does have its dramatic and poignant moments but for the most part stays a lighthearted story of one-sided affection.

First published at The Fandom Post.

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