By Keiko Ishihara. Released in Japan as “Itsuwari no Freya” by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine LaLa DX. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Emi Louie-Nishikawa.
One of the habits that I’ve noticed a lot of creators have, particularly in series that have afterwords, is that they can sometimes apologize for the flawed behavior of the main character. Rarely is this an actual apology, it’s more to let the reader know that yes, the author did in fact plan for this character to be weak/annoying/overpowerful/perverse, and that it is a function of the plot, so don’t worry too much about it. We get that here as well, as the author tells us she is aware that Freya is a bit of a crybaby, but to hang in there because the story is about her character growth. What makes this amusing is that the author also starts the book with a startling image of Freya leaping off a giant cliff. Again, this is a fakeout (she looks tragic and doomed, but it turns out was gathering herbs that grow in dangerous places) but it does set up up to see her as bold and fearless… THEN shows us what she is is coddled.
Freya is a teenage girl in “fantasy medieval Europe”, whose mother is sick and whose adopted brothers are part of the Prince’s elite guards. We get a chapter or so showing us her life, where she tends to be sweet but also shy. Fortunately both brothers are awesome, so she need not worry (her mother is also awesome, we are told, despite now being ill). That said, there is a problem. Their kingdom is under threat, and the prince is actually dying. A prince who, it turns out, is a dead ringer for Freya. The brothers have been sent to get her so that she can imperso9nate the prince, but neither of them want this outcome. Unfortunately for them, Freya overhears them and decides to follow them to the castle. She may regret this: by the end of the volume the country is still in great danger both from without and within, and her resolve to impersonate the prince is derailed by personal tragedy and her own skittish personality.
It feels a bit strange, particularly from this publisher/magazine, to have a first volume that is almost all setup. I’m so used to one-shots that slowly turn into series, or stories that appear to be complete but then we get more of when they get popular. Prince Freya, though, is designed to run for a few volumes, and it shows. Freya is an interesting heroine, who is instinctively very brave and bold, but when she thinks about things she locks up and falls to pieces. It’s not helped that she suffers a horrible trauma halfway through the book (I’ll just say that one of her adopted brothers is incredibly cool, nice, loves her, etc. and let you take a wild guess) and that those in the book who aren’t her family are a lot less patient with her hysterics given that the country is in danger. Fortunately, the end of the book sees her acting instinctively, jumping off a building (she really does jumping from great heights)… and ending up accidentally kidnapped. Whoops.
It’s just a start, but there’s a lot here to make readers want to read more. We’ll see how Freya does as prince next time around.