Hisaya Nakajo’s shojo manga Hana-Kimi is, at this moment, my favorite manga series of all time. When I first finished it, I binged the Taiwanese drama adaptation (loved it) and eagerly picked up her next series, Sugar Princess, when it was released.
And, though it’s been a while since I read it, I remember two things about Sugar Princess.
1.) It’s about figure skating.
2.) IT WAS TOO SHORT.
Needless to say, #2 enraged me, because I recall being charmed by this series and drawn in by its potential, and was so disappointed to discover that it ended at 2 volumes and was left feeling incomplete. So, let’s see if I still feel that way, shall we?
YEP, STILL ENRAGED. I do understand that sometimes, creators no longer feel the allure of a particular story and decide not to force themselves to continue, and perhaps that was the case with this series. However, I really wish this series had a solid ending… even now, so many years later, I want to know what happened to these characters!
Sugar Princess follows determined eighth grader Maya Kuroniki as she embarks on a journey to become a capable figure skater with her reluctant partner/coach, tenth-grader Shun Kano. Will the pair be able to work together to soar to new heights, or fall flat on the ice?
Much like Hana-Kimi, this series has a bright, happy protagonist who is very dedicated to her goal, and cheerful almost to a fault. Maya definitely puts the “sugar” in Sugar Princess, but does so without being too grating or obnoxious. Her counterpart, the gloomy but meticulous Shun, is the typical “brooding” hero without being too morose or cruel. Their chemistry as a pair is evident, despite the series ultimately tapping out at 2 volumes, though there’s very little romance besides a few hints here and there. The supporting cast come across as somewhat underdeveloped – but, considering the length of the series, that’s not much of a surprise, though it is a bummer.
The plot is pretty unique, as it focuses on ice/figure skating and even attempts to teach some terminology about the sport, though it also features some standard staples for a shojo title. Boy/girl don’t get along at first, but discover they must work together to reach a common goal. Lead boy has mysterious past. Sabotage threatens to take down an ice-skating rink. You know… the usual drama. Nakajo does an excellent job of balancing the humor with the drama, making for a well-rounded story… well, other than the fact that is is unfinished. It’s especially a shame because I was really drawn in by Shun and Maya – they are similar to other shojo protagonists in their personalities and mannerisms, but each of them also felt incredibly distinct, and I’m still bummed that readers don’t get to see them grow as a pair both on and off the ice except for a 2-volume glimpse.
I remember that Nakajo’s artwork changed pretty noticeably over the course of Hana-Kimi, but the difference never bothered me. I’m a big fan of her art style and the way she draws characters and their expressions, and that rings true for this series as well. She also does an excellent job showing subtle moments via artwork – a portion of the story shows Shun hesitating outside the door to his sister’s bedroom, with no dialogue bubbles, and the atmosphere of the scene is portrayed clearly through the art. The skating segments are also drawn very well, showing shades of moves I’ve seen from skaters in the Olympics.
Honestly, this series is great for what it is, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless someone is a fan of Nakajo’s other works or has an interest in figure skating. Volume 2 does end on a note that feels as though it could be the end, though I’ve read that this series was, in fact, discontinued. There are a lot of dangling threads never tied up by the end, and several avenues left unexplored. Though Sugar Princess features a promising premise, a compelling lead duo, great artwork, and a balanced blend of humor and plot, it’s probably not worth getting invested in a short, if charming, 2-volume series that does not have a satisfying conclusion.