The Heiress and the Chauffeur, Volume 1 by Keiko Ishihara
It is interesting that there are a couple new two volume series (Shuriken and Pleats being the first) coming out from Shojo Beat now. I feel like publishes backed off super-short shoujo for a little bit in favor of mid-range 5 or 6 volume series. Heiress and the Chauffeur is a conventional shoujo series with attractive art that is livened up by a historical setting.
The heiress in question is Sayaka Yoshimura, who is the daughter of a wealthy family. Her chauffeur is Shinobu Narataki, and they were raised closely together as children, resulting in a friendship that is entirely unconventional for a mistress and her servant. Sayaka has to deal with the behavioral rules and rumors swirling at her all-girls school, while running a gauntlet of all her admiring classmates who enjoy staring at Shinobu while he patiently waits to pick her up. Sayaka has a bright, spunky personality and she isn’t afraid to stick up for Shinobu when his habit of barging in to rescue her gets them both in trouble with the school authorities.
I enjoyed the historical aspect of the manga, and seeing the life of an heiress in the Taisho era portrayed, because that’s a type of setting that I don’t usually see in shoujo manga. I was a bit worried that each chapter would be a replay of the dynamic where Sayaka gets in trouble, Shinobu rescues her, and they have to find their way out of the aftermath, but towards the end of the volume it is made clear that their odd friendship has given Sayaka the tools to stand up for herself independently. That being said, overall the manga was a little bit dull. The art is pretty, but not terribly distinctive, and while the premise and setting is interesting, there isn’t much to distinguish the main characters from any other shoujo series. This is Isihara’s first series though, and it certainly is well executed enough that I’m curious to see what she could do given a bit more space to develop a manga. I think younger teens would enjoy The Heiress and the Chauffeur in particular.