Manga Review: M #2


Author: Kyoko Hikawa

Manga genre: Shoujo romance

Number of volumes: 5(bunko) / 7 (original edition)

Still in print? Yes, but only in Japanese! E-books available

Angela here! We’re breaking our our rules again… Once more I’m bringing you a review of a series that is NOT published in English, but I really think should be. This is an old series, but still commonly available either second hand or in ebook format in Japan. I own the ebooks, hence the ‘high-tech’ cover image…
The story opens in the Wild West, with our heroine a precocious eight years of age, smartly tricking three rough young cowboys into helping her, and her ranch. Those of you who saw the words ‘romance’ in the genre heading earlier and just started backing off can relax, however. No loli-con here – ‘Miriam’ is a story of two parts. The first part, ‘Angel of the Wilderness’, is pure adventure – an indomitable little girl and three young wanderers foil a gang of bandits (with just a teensy bit of cross-dressing along the way) and in the process discover a home for themselves.
Personally speaking I think that first story, which comprises the first two volumes, is by far the strongest of the series. Eight year-old Miriam is clever, resourceful and funny, never letting anyone or anything get the better of her. The next three volumes are titled “To stop time and wait” and are sold separately in Japan, but I think should definitely be read as part of the full series – part of the joy is seeing the young characters of the first books all grown up.
This second half of the series picks up nine years later, with Miriam battling a case of amnesia while facing off against a new set of villains. The amnesia subplot is perhaps not the most unique, but works well to even out a relationship between a newly-adult Miriam and Douglas, the young man who insists on seeing her as still the little girl he met nine years ago.

“Who are you to me?”

Miriam herself is perhaps one of Hikawa Kyoko’s strongest female leads. Sweet, eccentric and unfailingly positive, as all Hikawa’s girls are, she also blithely kicks butt and runs rings around the men in her world. Douglas, meanwhile, is a strong, handsome, capable sharp-shooter. He’s also gentle – he may be a bit gruff at times (not to mention awkward) but you won’t find any “too cool to be kind” here. Their relationship develops sweetly – plenty of stubbornness, but no forced misunderstandings or unnecessary drama. The action provides more than enough excitement without it.
This series is from the 80s and in many ways is the style that formed the Western idea of ‘Manga’ – slender bodies and huge, sparkling eyes. However, don’t let that put you off. The true strength of the ‘shoujo’ manga art style is in it’s freedom of expression, and Hikawa Kyoko is an expert at it. The art of Miriam is unfailingly beautiful, using a loose and imaginative structure to express emotion, drama and action with equal panache.

…Not to mention some occasionally cartoonish but always apt comedy.

An exceptionally bouncy pig

In terms of plot… gritty and complicated it is not. If you’re looking for a satisfying, upbeat yarn, with likeable characters and a romance that in no way hinders the adventure, I think you will really enjoy this. It’s a straightforward story, in a very satisfying way – there’s no doubt from the outset that the good guys will win, the bad guys will get their comeuppance, and the girl will get the guy. The fun lies in the journey.

“IDIOT” … I’m pretty sure it’s not the horse talking, but I could be wrong…

This is by no means the only series of Hikawa Kyoko’s that I would like to see officially published, but if I’ve wet your appetite you might like to try the one series that is available to buy in English – ‘From Far Away’. Called “Kanata Kara” in Japanese, it clocks in at 14 volumes and is still fairly commonly available on Amazon. It’s probably one of my all-time favourites, so if you have the wherewithal, I highly recommend it.

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