January 6, 2015
Disclaimer: I received this copy from Viz Media for an honest review.
Like many a shoujo manga heroine, Hako Natsuno just wants to get through high school. It’s bad enough that she seems to be the unluckiest person on the planet, without having to deal with an alien prince (en deshabille, at that) dropping from the skies and into her arms.
Oh, and he’s here to mate with Hako and make her his queen.
If that sounds like a disaster of a first meeting, you’d be absolutely right. Meteor Prince is a story of hyperbole and extremes, going from zero to 120 kilometers per hour as soon as the two protagonists crash into one another. The story hinges on the connection between Hako and Io, who hails from the planet Yupita and claims that Hako shares a wavelength with him, making her his soulmate.
Hako is supremely unimpressed by His Highness, and doesn’t have any qualms about saying so. Io is genuinely bewildered by Hako’s rebuffs of his advances and is desperate to understand why. He accepts that there are things he doesn’t understand about Earth and its people, and he begins to change his approach to Hako with the same undeniable enthusiasm.
Io proceeds to learn about romance and love from none other than a shoujo manga, a rather meta decision on Meca Tanaka’s part, and one that highlights the trope further. His subsequent attempts to make Hako fall in love with him will certainly make readers laugh, especially since they’ll be familiar situations to shoujo manga fans. Seeing him try to adjust to Earth life is similarly entertaining, as Io doesn’t understand why humans aren’t simply honest about how they feel or what they think. Playing him off as an outsider that enlightens the other human characters isn’t a new concept, but Meteor Prince is unable to rework it to either improve or subvert it.
Where the manga succeeds best are the moments that have Hako and Io simply talking and interacting with each other. Both the reader and the characters get a chance to breathe in those moments, and let the relationship actually begin. Whether or not they’re soulmates, they do seem to share a connection, an ease that could very easily develop into more serious emotions. There are several laugh-out-loud moments as well between them, but they mostly hinge on a thin line between adorable and creepy. Io’s constant propositions are just shy of unsettling, and Tanaka plays them off as part of his ignorance regarding Earth customs, but there are some scenes in which they’re simply uncomfortable to read.
Meteor Prince is an easy story, one without stakes beyond the development of Hako and Io’s relationship. It’s not a bad plot, but there’s not a whole lot to support it and carry it past shoujo romance. There are only two volumes to the story, hindering chances of more situations where Hako and Io can get to know each other. The romance that does begin moves quickly enough that I wondered if I’d missed a few scenes where their connection deepened. The supporting cast is likewise charming, but they don’t stand out within the story, and the art isn’t as eye-grabbing as I would have liked.
Would I read the second volume? Probably, as a light way to spend a Saturday afternoon, as I did with the first volume. There’s very little urgency, even with that cliffhanger, that would drive me to get the second installment straightaway. Readers who enjoy the trappings of shoujo manga for exactly what they are will likely enjoy the cute moments and exaggerated dialogue. New manga readers will also find Meteor Prince to be a comfortable way into the medium, with more seasoned fans perhaps choosing to pick it up for a break from longer dramatic series.