Earl and Fairy: A Gentle Proposal

By Mizue Tani and Asako Takaboshi. Released in Japan as “Hakushaku to Yōsei” by Shueisha Cobalt Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Alexandra Owen-Burns.

If you’re looking at that subtitle and thinking to yourself “Oh good, we’re going to move past the shoujo “bad boyfriend but so hot” tropes and have them get together, I have some very bad news for you. This series is 3 volumes into a 33-volume run (in Japan, I’m not expecting miracles from JN-C), and the closest you’re going to get in this volume is Lydia saying she will “think about” falling in love with Edgar. And honestly, it would be far too fast right now, given where the characters are. This is an old series that came out back in the day when you could greenlight something long, so the development is slow and languorous. Edgar is still trying to figure out where to prioritize getting revenge for everything that’s happened to him and what he feels for Lydia. Lydia, meanwhile, cannot fathom ANYONE being interested in her, and still regards everything Edgar says as false. Which is not 100% true – but is not quite a lie either.

Edgar and Lydia’s back and forth, will-they-won’t-they is soon joined by a new inhabitant of Edgar’s house: Paul, an artist who Edgar has decided to give a bit of patronage to. They seem to have a past history, which is very interesting given Edgar’s past. Indeed, Paul is not even sure if this is the same boy, given that the last he’d heard the boy and his entire family were all dead. There’s also a fairy with a moonstone ring, trying to get Edgar to accept it so that he can be married to the Queen of the Fairies. Unfortunately, the ring has been stolen by a kelpie, who has known Lydia a long time and wants to use the ring to have HER return with him to Fairyland forever. As for Lydia, she mostly just wishes everyone would go away and let her get on with her work.

The frustration is the point, of course. At many points in this volume you want to strangle both Edgar and Lydia. Crucially, it’s rarely at the same time. Edgar ends up coming across much better when he stops pressing so hard, but he simply can’t find it in hiself to keep that up, and when he presses too hard he comes across as a bit scary. Lydia is already a girl who rarely dealt with real humans as a kid, and the one party she went to had the classic “boy who likes her pretends he asked her as a joke because it’s too embarrassing” plotline, and it’s twisted her entire viewpoint of herself. (The red hair doesn’t help – remember, redheads are still abused in this period.) But when push comes to shove, they will both sacrifice themselves to save the other, and that’s what really matters.

I don’t think it will take 30 more volumes to get a confession, but I suspect we’ll have the status quo for a bit. If you like old-school shoujo with good worldbuilding, this is perfect.

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