By Yun Kouga. Released in Japan as “Renai Crown” by Sobisha, serialized in the magazine Comic Crimson. Released in North America by Viz.
It’s interesting to read a manga that features three protagonists who I dislike, yet still manages to hold my attention and makes me want to read more. Crown of Love is such a manga.
Its publisher, Sobisha, seems to be a Shueisha subsidiary. This manga ran in the late-90s in Comic Crimson, which was then sort of what Cookie is now – a magazine that straddles the line between shoujo and josei. The old manga Planet Ladder (put out by Tokyopop back in the day) also ran here. The magazine folded in 2003, and I wonder if the original art wasn’t saved very well. The art in this volume is good, but gives that feeling of ‘second to third generation copy’ to me. Of course, that might also be the style, which is pretty old fashioned.
It’s also apparently a retelling of a story from the late 80s, Ren-Ai, which ran in Akita Shoten’s Princess magazine. It was cut off at 3 volumes, and the artist wanted to retell it and give the characters more depth. Of course, this manga is only 4 volumes (did it end with Comic Crimson folding?), so I’m not sure how successful she was.
The basic premise of Crown of Love is that Hisayoshi, a musical prodigy and son of a famous classical orchestra player, meets an idol singer, Rima, on a train and falls instantly in love with her. This bothers him, and he seems to be well aware what this makes him look like to her, but he continues to try to get close to her, ripping apart his rather cloistered life in order to do so.
You could argue, looking at Hisayoshi, that he needed this sort of kick in the pants. Certainly his father’s violence towards him makes you realize that moving out is a good thing. Unfortunately, he’s pretty much an emotional zero. He has lots of inner monologue musing on his feelings, but that only amplifies the fact that he’s very closed off.
As for his crush, she’s also dealing with unresolved love feelings, and like Hisayoshi, she is fully aware that they’re not the healthiest thing. Her crush is on the man who ‘discovered’ her. Sadly, he seems to be married. Or gay. Or, this being Yun Kouga, probably both. She also has parent issues, namely a mother that wants nothing more than to sponge off her newfound idol fame. The combined pressure of this plus her career is making her a bit twitchy.
As for Ikeshiba, the manager, until we get a better backstory he’s the biggest cipher of all. (His sarcastic, cynical daughter was probably my favorite character). Clearly he has a mysterious past going on, and his ambiguous gayness is pretty hot, I suppose, if you’re into ambiguous gays. He comes across as a manipulator, though. I’m hoping the two leads tell him to get bent at some point.
Despite my criticisms, the impressive thing about this manga is that I really want to see what happens next. The leads aren’t likeable, but they are human, and I want to see them overcome their problems and find love. I also like the message this manga seems to be giving, which is that you can have as much common sense and intellect as you want, but love will come along and stomp on that and there’s little you can do but try to hold on tight.