Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Shirasawa Marimo's Nobara no Mori no Otome-tachi ("Maidens in the Forest of Wild Roses") is the latest in a long line of "starry-eyed protagonist attends an elite, lesboriffic girl's school"-type stories, but while it doesn't break any new ground with respect to its basic premise, it's a really fun read.
Cheerful, romantic Saionji Hatsumi is starting her freshman year at Otowa Girls' Academy with her down-to-earth best friend since childhood (we all know what that means), Hanami Sakura. Otowa has an opulent, old-fashioned European look to it, complete with wild roses growing throughout its grounds and a population of proper young ladies who fawn over the Prince of the school, "Izumi-sama." The students pair Izumi with the musumeyaku-like Mayuko, who Izumi has known since childhood. How many clichés did I just fit into this paragraph?
Nobara is well-written enough to make it all work well, though, with likeable characters and a copious amount of knowing nods to its yuri predecessors, like Izumi fixing Hatsumi's neckerchief, Izumi encountering Hatsumi while riding a white horse, and Hatsumi and Sakura being chosen by Izumi and Mayuko to join Otowa's Nobarakai, or Wild Rose Council.
Hatsumi realizes that she likes Izumi after she and Sakura see Izumi and Mayuko kissing in the school garden. (Following which, Sakura tries to kiss Hatsumi in their room, but then passes it off as a joke.) Hatsumi and Izumi start to conveniently run into each other more and more, and grow increasingly close.
The entire school (courtesy of the school paper) knows that there's something going on between Izumi, Mayuko, and Hatsumi, but Sakura herself is quietly in love with Hatsumi and warns Izumi to stay away from her. Hatsumi blurts out her feelings to Izumi when they're alone one day, but then starts avoiding her because she knows she's taken.
Mayuko turns out to have an arranged fiancé (who she shows around one of Otowa's school festivals), and when Izumi congratulates her on her engagement when they're dancing at the Otowa student ball, Mayuko slaps her and runs away. Izumi retreats to the garden, where Hatsumi follows and Mayuko watches them from a distance, glaring.
Good fun, basically- very much my rose-flavored cup of tea. ^_^ The art is really pretty, with little details like the decor in Hatsumi and Sakura's room, the clothing the characters wear, and even the cake Izumi and Hatsumi order at the school festival effectively bringing Otowa's atmosphere to life and making it clear how much the mangaka is having fun with the setting.
It's also refreshing that Hatsumi's biggest source of angst is that Izumi already has a girlfriend, not that she's a girl too. The fact that Hatsumi has a fangirly image of her school's quirks and traditions (like the tea for new students and the ball) adds to her likeability.
Soapy as Nobara is, it doesn't take itself too seriously and is set for a happy (or not, depending on who you want paired) resolution to its characters' relationships in volume 2. (Although I'm not sure how the situation with Mayuko's fiancé will be resolved.) For now, I'm just enjoying the ride; I haven't read through volume 2 yet, even though I've skimmed it.