Genres: Humor, Manga, Young Adult
Toru Kouno has lost his parents and been adopted by his aunt and uncle. But in the face of tragedy comes the opportunity of a life-time. He's been accepted to the prestigious all-boys Fujimori High. It'll be tight-budget living, but he plans to give it his best. But from day one he gets a LOT of attention! That is because of his beautiful, feminine-like appearance. Soon he is invited to become a Princess for the school. A Princess must dress as a girl, and appear at all school functions. But they also get loads of free stuff and excuses from classes. How can Toru refuse!? What awaits him is an experience he won't forget, and friends he'll cherish for years to come. As well as a lot of classmates clamoring for pictures of him in a dress.
Hello! Welcome to Manga Mondays. This time we’re looking at the series Princess Princess.
Princess Princess was written and drawn by Mikiyo Tsuda, and was first published in Wings magazine in 2002. After the first manga series ended, a sequel, Princess Princess +,began in May 2006, and finished in January 2007. The series spawned an Anime and a live-action drama.
Time to look at the cover! In the first issue we see a young man with greenish hair posing in front of a decorative backdrop. Not complicated but effetive, especially with the rather delicate and beautiful face the young man has.
This is Toru Kouno. He has recently become an orphan. He’s just moved in to his aunt and uncle’s house, but Toru has a very good opportunity. He’s been accepted to Fujimori High School, an elite all-boy’s school whose alumni go on to successful futures. Toru needs this opportunity, and goes in to high school life with hope. But he draws a lot of unexpected attention and popularity due to his looks. He also finds out that there is a special program for boys with his ‘unique’ form of beauty. The Princess System!
Fujimori High elects special students among the first years, due to their lack of classes and lack of development in bodies, to dress as girls. They are called The Princesses, and their duties range from appearing at sporting events to attending special school functions, and even getting photos taken for the Photography club to sell. All the money made is split between the Princesses and the club, and Princesses get special vouchers for school meals (essentially free food), and when Princess duties conflict with classes, Princesses are allowed to leave on ‘vacation’ and don’t have the missing class counted against them.
Toru is suddenly nominated to join two others as a Princess, and at first he’s completely shocked, but then he decides to join it as a means of getting free things. However, he gets a scolding from fellow Princess Yuujiro Shihoudani, who likes dressing as a Princess and performs his duties with pride, and ire from Mikoto Yutaka, who hates being a Princess but cannot refuse the position (once you are nominated to be a Princess, you have to be one). Eventually the boys all find common ground and Toru begins to genuinely enjoy his Princess duties.
This is a rare gender-bend comic (a story that is about someone pretending to be of one gender when they are another) that isn’t a shounen-ai, or yaoi, manga. The boys are all straight, and dress as Princesses for their own reasons. Heck, Mikoto even has a steady girlfriend (who appears in another of Tsuda’s comics as a boy who turns out to be genetically female and transitions from being a boy to a girl…But that’s not covered in-depth in this comic). The boys all have hopes, dreams for the futures, and Yuujiro and Toru have their ideas of what sort of girl they’d like to date. There is also a large supporting cast that is humorous.
I liked the manga, and the anime had gorgeous animation, but in truth, this series was more about seeing effeminate guys dressing in beautiful dresses, looking lovely as either men or women. I like that it didn’t make them compromise or suddenly swing their sexualities, and showed that one can be a cross-dresser and enjoy it without being labeled as gay or be discriminated against. The boys actually find out that a lot of very important and powerful men were once Princesses at their school!
The downside, this series is a bit bland for all the good points. And many of the supporting cast, including Mikoto’s girlfriend and the ‘average’ looking class president, Akira, have their own series with their own stories, and to read them all to get the whole of the universe would be… time-consuming. Plus the gratuitous fanservice for the boys in their Princess outfits and the exploitation factor is a bit of a turnoff.
In the end, we have a middle-of-the-road title that I think would be better seen in its anime form, or given to someone who is a casual manga reader. 3-stars for good art and outfits, but a ‘meh’ story and plot.