Joy Kim

Librarian. Book Reviewer. Coffee Addict.

Kawase, Natsuna: The Lapis Lazuli Crown, vol. 1

lapislazulicrown1.jpgThe Lapis Lazuli Crown, vol. 1
Story and art by Natsuna Kawase
Translation and adaptation by Sheldon Drzka
CMX Manga, 2009
Original Japanese edition: Hakusensha, 2004
ISBN-13: 978-1401221201
Paperback $9.99

Like many people in the kingdom of Savarin, Miel has been born with magical power. Unfortunately, she has not been able to master her ability. Her sister, Sara, is the overachieving genius of the family, and Miel has decided to live a normal life without magic. But when she makes a new friend, Radi–they meet after she accidentally flings her purse at his head–she decides that learning to harness her magic might be worthwhile after all. Of course, with Miel’s ridiculous super strength, that’s going to be easier said than done!

The Lapis Lazuli Crown is most charming when it is poking gentle fun at Miel’s situation. For example, Miel’s attempts to hide her super strength tend to fail miserably, much to her chagrin. It doesn’t help, of course, that she destroys doors when she opens them and can defeat grown men in arm wrestling. Meanwhile, the interactions of the mostly likable cast are reliably amusing. Radi is playful and a bit mischievous; he’s always giving his more serious friend, Sieg, the slip. Even better, Radi likes Miel for who she really is, not for who she is pretending be. As for Miel’s friends and sisters, their sensible personalities provide a good contrast to our heroine’s tendency to get into one scrape after another.

Alas, most of my personal enjoyment of the story was undone by some aspects of Miel’s characterization. In the first scene of the manga, Miel declares, “I’m going to marry into wealth and nobility as a normal girl!” Her stated desire to “snag a man of position” rather undermines the budding romance between Miel and Radi, who of course turns out to have an elite background. While it’s annoying that Miel’s change of heart is sparked by meeting a cute boy, I can’t complain too much about that by itself because that’s true of almost every other shōjo heroine as well. However, the best shōjo series make this tired formula work by adding some layers of complexity to the plot and characters. The Lapis Lazuli Crown does not. It vaguely hints at some reasons for Miel’s attitude, but does not actually explore them, leaving us with a rather shallow heroine.

The manga’s art is fairly generic and looks like a lot of other shōjo series. There is not much of a sense of time or place; the backgrounds which aren’t left blank are standard-issue vaguely European fantasy. At the most basic level, however, the art gets the job done. The panels are easy to follow, and the characters are easy to identify and distinguish.

All that said, I’m pretty sure that most of this manga’s target audience will either not notice or not care about the issues I’ve just described. The series is rated for all ages, and I think it would work particularly well for tween and younger teen readers.

Volume 1 of The Lapis Lazuli Crown also contains several pages of notes from the creator and a bonus short story “Daisy Romance.” The latter is most notable for showing that Kawase has a tendency to reuse the same character designs over and over again.

(Review copy was checked out from the library.)