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MANGA DOUBLE-DIP: 'Secret of the Princess' and 'Kase-san & Morning Glories'

By alicebg, Sep 20 2017 07:23PM

These two yuri mangas were released in the same week here in the UK, and they have an awful lot more in common than that. In fact, both share an identical premise: shy schoolgirl falls for athletic, vaguely butch superstar, with potentially devastating emotional consequences. The big difference, however, is that one of these titles is by the great Milk Morinaga, and the other isn't.

Secret of the Princess has the sort of ultra-cutesy setup that only Morinaga could get away with. When uber-cool volleyball star Nagisa Fujiwara accidentally knocks over a valuable vase belonging to the school principal, the only witness is Miu Nishie. In return for her silence, Miu extracts a bizarre price: she wants to use Nagisa as 'dating practice'. Thus the pair embark on an entirely bogus relationship, at least at first - gradually, however, the line between fake and genuine begins to blur, as both girls realise their time together is more rewarding and valuable than their time apart. But how does one progress from pretend dating to real dating, and what are the consequences when you do?

Needless to say, Morinaga handles all this with her trademark grace and elegance. The art is exquisite, there are supremely delicate erotic touches, and the emotional punches, once delivered, hit hard. The net result is pretty much perfect yuri manga: designed to make you laugh and cry in equal measure, whilst wholeheartedly cheering for the central couple to finally get it together.

Against this, even without its almost identical concept, Hiromi Takashima's Kase-san & Morning Glories is always going to come off second best. That's not to say it's without merit - Morning Glories consists of a series of short vignettes charting the steadily growing relationship between introverted Yamada and track-team heroine Kase, who are drawn together by the flowers of the title.

Morning Glories is fine as far as it goes - a sweet, slowly-blossoming love story that builds neatly towards its axiomatic first kiss. However, it is hampered by occasionally crude artwork, and it's a little hard to see exactly where the story can go from here (further volumes are forthcoming, unlike Princess which is a self-contained saga). It's biggest problem, though, is simply that Milk Morinaga does this sort of thing so much better - her light casts a mighty big shadow.

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