Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Merry Month of Shojo Review #2: THE FIANCEE CHOSEN BY THE RING

 One of the few upshots of the rise in villainess isekai stories is that it's allowed a small but particular subset of romance manga to get licensed - frothy light-novel-based romances that are lightly fantastical, vaguely historical, free of any actual isekai tropes, and a welcome change of pace for yours truly.

THE FIANCEE CHOSEN BY THE RING (Yubiwa no Eranda Konyakusha), based on the light novels by Yue Matsuyuki and character designs by Yasuyuki Torikai with art by Jyun Hayase.  First published in 2019 and first published in North America in 2022.


Aurora el la Porta is a quiet young noblewoman with a deep love of embroidery but not much else to distinguish her from her peers.  That all changes when she's beaned in the head with a ring at a party.  The ring belongs to Felix il le Clavis, a promising (if anxious) young knight who threw the ring in a bid to stop his sister from trying to set him up with every young woman in their acquaintance.  He drunkenly declared that whomever caught the ring would be his bride, so now he and Aurora are caught up in an engagement neither really asked for.  As the two grow closer, Aurora learns not just more about Felix but that her and her embroidery may not be as ordinary as she always presumed.


The Fiancee Chosen By the Ring reminds me a lot of The Engagement of Marielle Clerac.  Both are basically romance novels where a plain-jane noblewoman with a novel hobby ends up by chance with a handsome, high-ranking fiancee who most would consider well out of her league.  The two are caught up in various intrigues and hijincks, all the while growing closer as a couple.  So does this series have anything to offer that you can't get from Marielle Clerac or any other series like it?  Well...yes and no.

Fiancee is a very down-to-earth take on this sort of story and the same can be said for its heroine.  If anything, she's a little boring.  She's pleasant enough, but she's also not one to seek adventure or defy any sort of social expectation.  Her favorite hobby is a very sedate one and she spends most of the volume calmly observing things.  In that sense, she's an excellent match for Felix, who is himself pretty dry.  His biggest issues are a bit of social anxiety and one mildly shitty coworker, most of which he is able to muster through with Aurora's gentle support. 

That's not to say that there isn't any conflict or story thread to latch onto.  There's the aforementioned shitty coworker, a fellow royal knight with a lecherous reputation and a bit of a haughty attitude.  Then there's the magic embroidery.  It turns out that thanks to some magical ancestry, Aurora is able to unconsciously embue her embroidery with basic magical charms.  If the romance here is a bit too low-key and functional for your taste, either of those should hopefully serve as sufficient narrative hooks to keep the story moving forward.


Based on what I can find for artwork for the original light novels, Jyun Hasase's art hues fairly closely to the source material.  I will say that I do prefer Yasuyuki Torikai's take on the character designs, which make them look a little more mature.  Hayase's versions are a bit more juvenile and basic in comparison.  Maybe that's just because Hayase seems to struggle more with faces in general, particularly with eyes.  They also struggle with drawing action, which is a problem when one of the volume's plot points revolves around a swordfight.  

About the only thing they do seem to have a grip on is the costumes, which clearly draw a lot upon mid-18th century European styles.  They clearly enjoy drawing all the fussy little details.  Even then, they miss out on one particular detail: the embroidery, most of which is done via screentone patterns.  This feels like a real blunder considering how important it is to the story and to the heroine. 


The Fiancee Chosen By the Ring is a quiet little fantasy romance...maybe a little too quiet for its own good.  It's possible that this picks up in later volumes but as it is it doesn't quite have enough of a distinct personality to make it truly compelling.

This series is published by Yen Press.  It is currently ongoing in Japan with 5 volumes available.  3 volumes have been released and are currently in print. 

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