Shoujo – Romance, drama, tragedy, fantasy, action, historical
20 Volumes (original), 10 Volumes (bunko) (complete)
Akita Shoten (Princess)
Arisa is a headstrong girl who does not get along with her classmate Shou. But Shou is actually the reincarnation of the god Hades, and he is waiting impatiently for his lover Persephone — now Arisa — to regain her memories. Meanwhile, Arisa can’t help but notice a lot of strange incidents seem to be happening around her.
Aries is basically Please Save My Earth crossed with Greek mythology.
Really, I think that line says it all. If you liked Please Save My Earth, I really don’t know why you wouldn’t like Aries. Yes, there are differences, mostly notably the facts Arisa and Shou are the same age and that Arisa is feistier than Alice. But both manga are dramatic stories of reincarnation with the male lead having strong psychic powers and wanting to be with his amnesiac lover.
However, while Please Save My Earth was more about individual characters’ emotions, Aries is full of political intrigue and power struggles. Rin of Please Save My Earth is consumed with revenge, but Shou would like nothing better than to be left alone to live a peaceful life with Arisa. Unfortunately, gods and goddesses keep targeting Arisa, so Shou is constantly forced to save her. And when I say “save Arisa”, I mean “SAVE ARISA”. It’s not that Arisa trips down the stairs; he has to save her from being kidnapped or even murdered.
Yes, while Alice is perceived as an untouchable almost-goddess, Arisa is an actual reincarnated goddess who is wanted — for some, dead and for others, alive. As you might surmise, the manga can get quite dark, and these creepy, tragic aspects appear in the very first chapter. However, the early chapters are pretty episodic. Lots of one-time characters are introduced, and Arisa often ends up a damsel-in-distress. Fortunately, even without her memories, she eventually picks up that something is going on.
The story then starts getting good as it shifts toward a two-/three-way battle. The main gods recruit allies in order to achieve their goals, and the whole world is at stake. Being a shoujo series, there’s not a lot of long, dragged-out action fights; most battles involve the typical blasts of energy. Shou, like Rin, also benefits from being one of the few who has powers, giving him a leg up on most opponents. Death often occurs in Aries, and not just because of Shou/Hades’ job description. Of course, it wouldn’t be true shoujo without some romance, but more of the dramatic tension stems from the struggle for Olympus (and Persephone’s life) rather than whether Arisa will fall in love with Shou.
Fuyuki did not just use Greek mythology as a loose inspiration for Aries like Takeuchi did for Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon; Greek mythology is an essential part of the series. Lots of characters from the myths drop by, and many of them end up following the same paths as their previous selves. Of course, there are some differences, which Shou and others attribute to the legends have been distorted over time. Zeus, for instance, tricked his brothers so he could take Olympus, but in mythology, he won Olympus in a draw. Myths are often explained by narration or through dialogue, but I think readers previously familiar with the tales will get the biggest kick out of the story. It’s not essential to know the story of Narcissus or Persephone’s birth in order to appreciate the manga, but if you are, you can appreciate its depth more. If you aren’t familiar with Greek mythology, just remember there are some… screwed-up relationships. (That’s putting it mildly.)
Since most of the characters were previously gods, they have already formed their personalities. Unlike other reincarnation manga, Shou and the others see their current lives as a temporary form rather than a part of themselves. Because of this, characters don’t tend to have a lot of depth or development. Whether good or bad, right or wrong, or even just or evil, most characters have a singular motivation. Some are loyal servants to another god, others are pranksters, and still more want to be free from their previous lives. Arisa, as the protagonist, definitely has the most personality, but this is because she believes herself to be a normal girl. She is a tomboy and rather quick-tempered, slapping Shou whenever she’s frustrated with him. She’s a tsundere from before we even knew what “tsundere” was. Shou, as the male lead, also gets a lot of attention, which makes sense because a lot of the story is from his point-of-view. He’s neither super friendly or overly cold. He will offer his advice, but otherwise he won’t get involved in others’ problems. He teases Arisa, not even trying to act like some idyllic prince in order to get Arisa to fall in love with him. Protecting Persephone is his personal mission, and everyone or everything else is secondary. I actually like Shou more than Arisa. There’s a few other major characters, but I’ll let you discover which gods appear.
The art is definitely old-fashioned. Many readers will have to adjust to the big (and long) hair and sharp noses as well as styles like blank eyes and plus sign looking teeth. If you see the Aries bunko covers, don’t expect the art to look much like what is inside. A few of the characters look a lot alike, so it can be confusing to remember who is an enemy and who is an ally. To help with this, Fuyuki uses a lot of close-ups, so there isn’t much to the backgrounds. Older shoujo titles tend to be much more fast-paced than modern ones, often making the story confusing for some readers. That’s not the case here, as Fuyuki uses large-size panels. In addition, the manga has some awesome, eye-catching images, like a chapter with a spider infestation. New manga readers may find the art ugly compared to the crispy modern style, but Aries is easier to follow than some other older titles.
Chance of License:
Aries was serialized in Princess, a magazine from Akita Shoten. Princess titles have been licensed by several publishers over the years, including the now-defunct Go! Comi (Love Master A), Yen Press (Dragon Girl), and Viz Media (Requiem of the Rose King). Of course, all these series are much younger than Aries, which began its publication back in 1987. Classic manga has always been risky, but more companies are taking chances with titles like Queen Emeraldas and The Rose of Versailles. However, neither Fuyuki nor Aries are well-known in the U.S. Fuyuki has had a couple of her Harlequin manga adaptations published here, but her current style is quite different than her art from Aries‘ serialization. In addition, even if the bunko versions were to be released, that’s still 10 thick manga volumes, which is a bit on the lengthy side for non-AAA shoujo titles. Unfortunately, I would not expect this series to ever be picked up.
Unofficial scanlations have released part of the series, and the series has been dropped. For me, this is one of the more difficult series I’ve read because of all the Greek names and mythology references.
It’s not a character-driven reincarnation tale, but Aries is full of drama thanks to all the scheming characters. This is a shoujo well-suited to older readers (both male and female).
Aries inspired a one-episode OVA and several image albums.
The manga has a 10 volume sequel (Aries II ~Yomigaeru Seizakyuu~) and a three volume prequel (Aries Zero ~Hoshi no Shinwa~).
Fuyuki has drawn manga adaptations of several Harlequin novels, and two have been released in English: Passionate Fantasy (aka Chef to Dorobou) and Pregnant By The Millionaire (aka Okuman Chouja no Kakehiki).