Sugar Princess: Skating to Win, vol. 1
Story and Art by Hisaya Nakajo
Translation and Adaptation by Anastasia Moreno
Original Japanese edition: Hakusensha, 2005
When middle schooler Maya Kurinoki takes her little brother to the skating rink, she inadvertently draws attention to herself when she attempts and manages to land a double-axel jump. One person who witnesses Maya’s feat is a coach, and he invites her the join the local figure skating club. And before long, he’s encouraging Maya and Shun Kano, a skilled high school skater, to become partners for pairs.
It’s hard to think of a milieu better suited for the shojo manga treatment than figure skating. Beautiful people! Ridiculous costumes! Dramas of competition, interpersonal rivalry, and romance! The only wonder is that it hasn’t already been done extravagantly by another series.
However, Sugar Princess does not do for figure skating what Crimson Hero does for volleyball or Hikaru no Go does for go. Nakajo is obviously not trying to tell that sort of story. Rather, volume 1 gives us the beginning of a small personal narrative centered on one local skating rink with a small cast of characters. This is not about a heroic quest to win Olympic gold, but rather about one girl’s discovery of something she loves.
As such, its appeal depends largely on the main characters, and that’s where Sugar Princess falls short. Maya and Shun are both extremely generic. Maya is predictably genki, while Shun is just another sullen bishōnen with a tragic backstory. The bland characterization is especially disappointing because characterization is actually a strength in Nakajo’s better-known series, Hana-Kimi. The pacing of that series may be problematic (see my review of vols. 1-2), but the three leads (Mizuki, Sano, and Nakatsu) are all interesting and likable.
Sugar Princess isn’t a bad read, but it is a highly forgettable one. Figure-skating fans might enjoy it–there are a lot of details aimed at those readers, such as the bonus sketches of famous skaters–but those of us in search of high quality shōjo can find better fixes elsewhere.