Saturday, December 11, 2010

Millennium Prime Minister (manga, vol. 1) by Eiki Eiki

Spoilers below, as usual.

Synopsis:

Minori is an ordinary 16-year-old girl who likes nothing better than skipping school to go play video games at an arcade. Unfortunately, on one particular day she might have been better off just going to school - the handsome guy whose score she beats takes one look at her, decides he loves her hair, and declares her his future bride. It's not until later that Minori learns he, 25-year-old Kanata Okazaki, is Japan's new prime minister.

Suddenly, Minori can't go anywhere without people recognizing her and whispering about her. She keeps hoping that the whole situation will blow over, but everyone, even her parents, seems happy about marrying her off to Kanata. Well, everyone but Sai, Kanata's senior aide. Even after Minori has been declared Kanata's financee on TV without any noticeable public fallout, even though every one of Kanata's other friends and staff members likes and is protective of Minori, Sai still glares at Minori like he hates her.

Near the end of the volume, Minori finally learns the reason why: Sai is in love with Kanata. Distraught after being rejected by Kanata, Sai leaves...but he's still the prime minister's senior aide, so what's the country going to do without him?

Commentary:

This series requires ginormous amounts of suspension of disbelief. You have to be ok with/be able to ignore several things:
  1. A 25-year-old guy who apparently has a habit of skipping out on important things to go play video games at an arcade can be elected prime minister.
  2. Despite suddenly deciding he's in love with a 16-year-old girl, he had no past scandals that kept him from being elected.
  3. Kanata's senior aide is a doctorate-holding 18-year-old who is immature enough to run away from his very important job because his crush, Kanata, rejected him.
  4. Nearly everyone is ok with Kanata's declaration that Minori is his fiancee. No one comments about the utter lack of evidence that they had been dating prior to the announcement, and the age difference does not create a political scandal.
That's just a few things - I'm sure I could make the list longer if I tried. What it comes down to is that this is not a series that wants you to bring things like logic and reality to the table. Read it for the good-looking guys, the humor, and the romance, probably in that order.

I don't think I really went into this series expecting anything much. I got this as part of a used bookstore-shopping haul. It was in the Clearance section and only cost $1, so all I really did was flip through and decide that even though I didn't know what the series was about the artwork appealed to me. After I got home, I realized that I had read at least one work by the author before. This particular author is fairly well known for her m/m romance (hence this quote from the author's brother when she showed this book to him: "It's not gay!"), so Sai being in love with Kanata was not that much of a surprise to me.

Some of the kinds of suspension of disbelief that Eiki Eiki asks of her readers in this particular series put me off a little - I can't wrap my brain around the idea that Kanata even got elected in the first place, much less experienced no problems after declaring a 16-year-old girl his fiancee. However, I do like Eiki Eiki's sense of humor, and I could enjoy the overall situation as long as I accepted it as light, fluffy fun happening in some kind of messed up parallel universe (the word "millennium" in the title refers to Kanata's explanation of how he managed to become the prime minister: "It is the new millennium" - apparently, the millennium has magical powers in this parallel universe.). I enjoyed the very cute Makita, Kanata's S.P. (secret police), and his habit of threatening to shoot Kanata if he tries anything with Minori before they get married. I even liked Kanata's journalist friend, who ends up getting the short end of the stick a lot (being the "bad guy" who leaks Minori and Kanata's "relationship," having to take care of a pathetic post-rejection Sai, etc.).

As far as good-looking guys go, for the most part, Eiki Eiki's style is very pleasing to the eye (the exception being her sometimes awkward facial expressions), so all the guys look good. Eiki Eiki even manages to make several of the guys kind of sweet. For instance, it would have been very easy to turn Kanata into nothing more than a near-pedophile. Instead, I was left with the impression that, as much as he flirts with Minori and tells her he's in love with her, his intentions are actually fairly pure. What he seems to want most, even if he maybe doesn't realize it, is someone to have a comforting morning routine with, someone who will tell him to have a good day and be there for him when the day is over. Basically, Kanata wants a family. There's a bit in the latter half of the volume where Minori is looking at a photograph of what I'm guessing is a young Kanata, his mother, and his father. The woman I think is his mother is younger than his father and looks a bit like Minori. It wouldn't surprise me at all if it turned out he was trying to recreate the family he grew up with. So, rather than being icky, it seems like his relationship with Minori may actually turn out to be more sweet and a little sad.

So far, this seems like a "meh" sort of a series - if I were giving it a letter grade, right now it would probably get a C. The artwork is nice enough to look at (even if Minori usually looks like a cute boy with pigtails), but the characters and story, though far from bad, aren't great either. I would have been very annoyed with myself if I had bought this volume for the full price of $12.95, rather than the $1 clearance price I actually paid. The drama that I'm sure is part of Kanata and Sai's story should be fun, but plenty of manga and anime guys have drama and angst, so more than that is necessary for a really good story.

It's not entirely clear which couple is supposed to be the focus of this series. I imagine Minori and Kanata are intended to be the primary couple, but there's not really much chemistry between the two of them. Minori notices that Kanata is hot, and she thinks he might be a nice guy, but that's it - at this point, I'm rooting for Sai more than I am for Minori, even though I don't know much about Sai yet, simply because I imagine he has a deeper relationship with Kanata. Kanata may say he asked Minori to marry him because he loves her, but I don't see how that could be true. Unless he thinks love means thinking a person's hair is great. There's a stellar basis for a relationship.

I think I might own the first two of this series, which I believe is composed of four volumes total. I'll have to decide if I want to hunt down the rest of the series after I finish the next volume I own, but it's not looking too likely right now, unless I can get those other volumes as cheaply as I got the first two. This isn't the worst thing I've ever read, but there are too many other things I could be spending my money on.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Princess Princess (manga) by Mikiyo Tsuda; Princess Princess (anime TV series) - (There is also a live action adaptation I've never seen, but I imagine it's fantastically painful to watch.) I haven't read the manga, but I've seen the anime - one of these days I'll write a post about it. This series focuses on a boy who transfers to an all-boy school. In an effort to deal with the horrors of not having pretty girls around who can raise morale with a smile and be worshiped by the rest of the student body, the school has a long-standing tradition of having its prettiest boys dress up and act like girls. Of course, the new boy is perfect for the job and agrees to do it, once he finds out there's lots of incentives involved. This is another bizarre series that has lots of humor (I thought I was going to die laughing when one of the boys' family members were introduced), flirts with m/m romance, and requires a large amount of suspension of disbelief. Incidentally, this manga series is created by Eiki Eiki's manga soulmate.
  • Gravitation (manga) by Maki Murakami; Gravitation (anime TV series) - There are other incarnations I haven't listed. The anime is a very condensed version of the manga (quite a few characters were cut out) and, in my opinion, is a good deal less crazy (no giant panda robots, for one thing). The main character in this one, Shuichi, is part of a band that is just starting to take off, when he meets Eiri Yuki, a bad-tempered and sexy famous novelist. For reasons Shuichi can't at first explain, he can't get his mind off of Yuki, and so begins their rocky relationship. For those who liked the idea of a scandalous romantic relationship developing in the midst of media intrusiveness, this one might be good. Plus, there's plenty of humor, wacky characters, and angst-filled character pasts. Oh, and this one is definitely m/m romance.
  • Kyo Kara Maoh! (anime TV series) - The main character is a boy who's flushed down a toilet into another world, where he learns he is actually a demon king. His kingdom has a lot of problems, but at least he's surrounded by loyal people who are willing to help him out. Unfortunately, all he really wants to do is go home. For those who'd like another series that flirts with m/m romance (several guys seem overly interested in the main character, and the main character even ends up accidentally engaged to another guy) and has lots of humor, this one might be good. Plus, it's got some political problems that need solving, for those who found themselves wondering why political problems were strangely absent in this first volume of Millennium Prime Minister.

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