Nina the Starry Bride Volumes 1 and 2 by Rikachi
I’m really bad at buying digital volumes of manga and then totally forgetting to read them, but I got a new tablet recently so I’m hoping to start getting caught up on some digital series that have been out for awhile. Nina the Starry Bride is likely one of those series that I would have glommed onto immediately if it had a print release, but I’m coming to it a bit late.
Royal duplicate plots are fairly common in fantasy manga, but Nina the Starry Bride is a solid example of the genre, helped a great deal by charming and detailed art. Nina is an orphan with unusual blue eyes who has found a family of sorts with a couple brothers. They spend their days hiding out and stealing occasionally to support themselves. When they fall on hard times, Nina is betrayed and handed over to slavers and her unusual eye color leads to her being recruited to be a stand-in for a recently deceased princess by the amber-eyed Prince Azure.
After some initial resistance, Nina works hard to develop her knowledge of etiquette and ability to behave like a princess. As only Azure and a few trusted servants know her secret, Nina grows closer to the second prince as she learns more about the royal family. Azure has a younger brother who is the acknowledged heir, a snarky stepmother, and his mysterious father is king. Nina and Azure share a certain loneliness, and it is nice to see how they begin to open up to each other. This series is fairly fast-paced as by the second volume Nina has a strong grasp of geopolitics and decides to save Azure, even though he’s attempting to prevent Nina from being sent off to a neighboring kingdom as part of a political alliance.
Rikachi has attractive character designs, with Azure looking particularly cool with his standoffish manners and asymmetrical earrings. Nina shifts from orphan to princess, and the lush detail of her life in the palace contrasts with the sparseness of her previous life. While Nina might not have the royal background of the people surrounding her, she’s true to herself in a way that makes it easy for her to deal with the political and family issues that she she encounters. While the elements of Nina the Starry Bride aren’t used in a particularly novel way, it is overall a strong fantasy manga that should appeal to fans of Dawn of the Arcana