Oyayubihime Infinity, vol. 1-6
Story and Art by Toru Fujieda
Original Japanese editions: Akita Shoten, 2004-2006
ISBN-13: 978-1401210755 (vol. 1)
ISBN-13: 978-1401210762 (vol. 2)
ISBN-13: 978-1401210779 (vol. 3)
ISBN-13: 978-1401210786 (vol. 4)
ISBN-13: 978-1401213053 (vol. 5)
ISBN-13: 978-1401213077 (vol. 6)
When Kanoko’s classmate Tsubame discovers that they both have butterfly-shaped birthmarks on their thumbs, he decides they’re fated to be together. According to Tsubame, the birthmarks are a sign that he and Kanoko were tragic lovers in a previous life, and their present day reincarnations are a chance to remedy the sorrows of the past. But Kanoko isn’t a romantic like Tsubame, and it’s not going to be easy to convince her that her future should be determined by her past life.
Oyayubihime Infinity is a high school shōjo series that is at its best when it twists the tropes of that genre. Its willingness to play with the formula is obvious from the introduction of the character of Kanoko. While I am very fond of some of those classically genki shōjo heroines, like Honda Tohru of Fruits Basket, it’s very refreshing to meet a female protagonist who marches to the beat of a different drum. Kanoko is smart, cynical, and opinionated, and she isn’t interested in being cute. She has no patience for her empty-headed peers, who flutter around the popular Tsubame, but she cares deeply for her family. In short, she’s kind of awesome. There are some manga series where the lead is so bland that the reader can only wonder why so many characters are drawn to him or her. That’s not the case here: when more than one character falls in love with Kanoko, it actually makes sense.
Fujieda’s art is very attractive, with clean lines and appealing character designs. There are previews of all six volumes up on the CMX website. I especially like how Fujieda draws the characters’ memories of their past lives. The transitions between past and present are effective, and her focus always remains more on the people than the period details of costuming and setting.
The series gets off to a strong start with the mystery of the butterfly-shaped birthmarks. As Kanoko, Tsubame, and others try to unravel the true significance of the birthmarks–it’s a lot more complicated than what Tsubame initially believes–their present day relationships develop and change in interesting ways. The series stumbles, however, when it introduces a character who ultimately becomes a rival for Kanoko’s affections. Both the character and a subsequent plot development are too predictable. This doesn’t ruin the second half of the story, which is still quite entertaining, but the series never manages to live up to all the potential it showed at the beginning.
In the end, Oyayubihime Infinity is a series that I like rather than love, but it’s left me very interested in seeing the mangaka’s follow-up work. There’s just enough originality in Fujieda’s treatment of the usual shōjo tropes here that I’m curious to see what she might come up with in another series. Lucky for me, Yen Press has recently licensed Dragon Girl, which was Fujieda’s first series after Oyayubihime Infinity. Volume 1 of Dragon Girl is due in May. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for that one in the spring!