Title: Lapis Lazuli no Oukan (The Lapis Lazuli Crown)
Author: KAWASE Natsuna
ISBN# 978-1-401-22120-1 US
ISBN# 978-4-592-18063-1 JAPAN
Hana to Yume Comics, 2004 (CMX 2009)
Hey, look, it’s another English-translated US manga release! Lapis Lazuli no Oukan (The Lapis Lazuli Crown) is a 2-volume manga that was originally published in 2004 by Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume line. Volume 1 was recently released in the US by CMX. I don’t actually own the Japanese volume this time, so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I have seen the cover of the Japanese version. I actually prefer the US cover of the manga this time around. More of the original artwork can be seen, not hidden behind the color frame that Hana to Yume usually uses in their cover designs. The image is larger and more close-up. I don’t often read manga in English first without already reading the Japanese, so this is a bit of a novelty for me! As you may have guessed, this is a fantasy/magic story with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. The artwork is cute and reasonably clean. Some panels are very simple, while some show more detail. The page editing is decent. There are no horribly messy places where the English dialog has been plastered over the original Japanese text. The author’s notes in her 7 sidebar dialogs have been edited this time to add an explanatory note whenever the author refers to things only present in the Japanese edition of the book (the dust jacket, etc.). Overall, this is a good job done by CMX on this release.
Our heroine, Miel, lives in an interesting land. There, magic exists alongside modern technology. About 20% of the population can do magic, and for those who are skilled, lucrative jobs as sorcerers await. Miel comes from a long line of magic users. At one point they used to be palace sorcerers for the royal family, but these days they are down on their luck. While they do live in a great mansion, they don’t have a lot of money. Miel is the 2nd of 3 sisters. The oldest, Sara, is a powerful sorceress who works as a magic instructor. The youngest, Renee, is book-smart and is also going to magic school. And Miel? Well, she can do magic, she just has a few tiny problems controlling it.
Miel actually has incredible magical powers, but any time she tries to use them, they spiral out of control. In this world, stones (such as the ones in jewelery) are used to channel a user’s magic. The harder the stone, the more magic it can take. Fragile stones may be powerful, but they can break easily under the force of great magic. Because Miel is so awful at controlling her own abilities, she is afraid to wear or use her favorite stone bracelet, a lovely lapis lazuli piece. Lapis Lazuli is a beautiful, powerful stone, but it is not hard, and Miel fears her lack of control will shatter it.
Miel is very defiant and angsty over her inability to use magic very well. She feels like she doesn’t measure up to her amazing older sister. Everyone keeps telling her she should study magic more, but Miel just can’t do it! She always makes a mess of things! Who needs magic anyway, she can just rely on her unusually great physical strength to make a living!
Miel’s pessimistic outlook on things changes one day when she meets a handsome boy named Radi. He claims to be a newcomer to the city, and he has no money. He begs Miel for help, and before she knows it, she is acting as a guide for him. Even though this boy calls himself “Radi,” the same name as Miel’s idol, the powerful Prince Radian, Radi couldn’t be more different than the gentle, suave prince. Yes, Miel can agree there is a slight resemblance, but the hair, clothing, voice, personality.. everything is completely different! Radi is a fun, outgoing, cheerful guy who seems to view his time with Miel as an adventure. He finds her to be extremely funny and entertaining. Even though he is practically a stranger, she treats him like a friend. She is honest with him, and not afraid to yell at him or show her displeasure.
Miel spends a very enlightening day with the fun but mysterious Radi. He is very interested in Miel’s magical ability and encourages her to keep trying to use her magic even when her control isn’t good. But something strange is going on in the city, something related to magic users. Miel’s strong ability make her a desirable target…
Each of the three chapters is an adventure that Miel has with Radi. They meet by chance in unexpected places, but with each encounter, they become closer friends. Will there ever be a chance they could be more?
This is a fun series. It can be predictable at times, but not nearly as much as some other series I have been reading lately. Miel is a funny character. I like how casually she treats Radi and their playful relationship. She learns a lot from him, and some of her outlook on life changes. Meanwhile, she surprises him with the way she can understand him. While I suppose I could take issue with her motivation for becoming serious about magic and romantic goals (aiming for the palace, and desire to marry a wealthy noble) she is, at least, very straightforward about it, and not afraid to explain her ambitions. This volume contains the first 3 chapters of the story. There is also a stand-alone short story at the end of the volume about a girl who encounters a mysterious thief, and another man impersonating the mysterious thief! I am curious to see how the main story will conclude in volume 2.
Both volumes of this fun little series can be purchased HERE!