2015 was a pretty good and diverse year for shoujo. It certainly got off to a good start with this charming little series.
METEOR PRINCE (Otome no Meteo), by Meca Tanaka. First published in 2013 and first published in North America in 2015.
Hana Natsuno is cursed with bad luck. Everywhere she goes, something around her manages to break, fall, or attempt to hurt her somehow. Things are so bad for her that the only people willing to be her friends are the kids in the occult club. They at least will look out for her while they try to find some ritual to reverse Hana's luck. It's during one of these rituals that a strange naked blond boy named Io appears. He's an intergalactic prince in search of a mate and he insists on mating with Hana immediately. Hana and her friends eventually convince him on the importance of love before such things on Earth, so Io is determined in turn to make Hana fall in love with him. Has Hana's luck turned around at long last or will Io just bring more chaos in his wake?
You know, I wouldn't blame anyone for being a little freaked out by Meteor Prince's opening considering that it starts out with a strange boy demanding sex from a hapless girl. Amazingly, it manages to turn things around and becomes an incredibly innocent and oddly charming series.
Much of Meteor Prince's charm comes from Io himself. He's just a giant puppy-dog of a young man. He's always eager to learn, eager for approval, and loyal to a fault to those he loves. That makes it all the more shocking when Io shows off that he can transform his body into all sorts of sharp, pointy things and will use them at will at anyone who dares to threaten Hana. In that sense, Io is a variation on the perfect fantasy boyfriend - completely nonthreatening and darling around you, but will willing cut anyone who looks at you funny. That not to say that Hana is a slouch in the personality department, either. She may be more sedate than Io, she balances out the generic sort of kindness that comes with being a shoujo heroine with a tinge of sadness, regret, and even resignation at her lot. It's never explicitly noted but it's clear from her behavior that she's had to adapt her life to minimize the damage from her unluckiness and that she still feels regret over the relationships her bad luck have cost her. Thus it's pretty easy to see why someone like her would open up to a giddy boy like Io. He reaches out to her without any concern for her luck, opens up to her, and tries to help her and cheer her up. What girl wouldn't fall for someone like that?
Even the Occult Club kids are charming in their own way. None of them are deep in any fashion and they're mostly there to be overprotective of Hana and to spout off crazy stuff about UFOs and the like. Still, their unwavering support of Hana is endearing, and a couple of them have their own little romance going on in the background. Plotwise, the story starts to lose its way midway through as it devolves into your standard seasonal landmarks: summer at the beach, the local festival, that sort of thing. The plot doesn't come back into play until the very end of the volume, and honestly it felt more like Tanaka was trying to wrap things up entirely. Truth be told, it wouldn't have been a bad ending, as Io and Hana had reached enough of an understanding amongst themselves to satisfy the audience. Then it pull a character out of nowhere to end on a cliffhanger. It's kind of a cheap move, but then I guess it does mean that there will be more adventures with these charming kids and their alien friend, and that might be Meteor Prince's greatest achievement. It's not revolutionary or deep, but it is enjoyable and charming on its own terms and sometimes that alone is enough.
Meca Tanaka's art is just as unaffected and charming as the story it tells. The characters are on the cartoony side with cute, simple faces and enormous eyes. I will admit that I was totally charmed by the fact that Io literally has stars in his eyes. It's not only a nice way to reinforce his unearthliness, but it's also a rather nice reflection of his own bright and shiny outlook. That same simplicity can be found all over the book. The framing is simple and focused mostly on our leading couple, and the backgrounds are simple with sparing use of screentones. It's just a very clean yet adorable look that fits the story perfectly.
Meteor Prince is a short, sweet and simple shoujo story that overcomes its slightly sketchy opening and becomes something perfectly enjoyable. Those looking for a quick and fun shoujo fix would do well to give this one a look.
This series is published by Viz. This series is complete in Japan with two volumes available. Both volumes have been published and all are currently in print
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