TANAKA Rika (story), KODAKA Nao (art)
Shoujo – Adventure, fantasy, romance
5 Volumes (complete)
Kilala hopes someday her prince will come. But like once upon a dream, she stumbles across Rei, a boy searching for a belle of a princess. Then Kilala’s friend is kidnapped, but a dream is a wish your heart makes, and so Kilala and Rei find themselves in a whole new world. And not just that — they’re a part of Snow White’s world!
Kilala Princess has been described by… well, practically everyone as “the shoujo Kingdom Hearts“.
Well, what do I say?
It’s a shoujo Kingdom Hearts and a proto-Sophia the First.
That description needed a little fixer upper. You’re welcome.
I mean, girl uses a magical, legendary item to travel to other worlds and meet with Disney characters in order to save a friend? Sure, stuff like House of Mouse had crossovers long before Square-Enix’s game series, but Kingdom Hearts really popularized the idea.
So be my guest as I dig a little deeper.
First, Kilala Princess first started to be released many years ago in half-volumes. The series was dropped, so while we could see what and when will her life begin, the bulk of her adventure was missing… until now
Kilala’s got a dream or two: to see her parents again, and to find true love like in Disney movies. While Kilala is a tomboy who is constantly scolded by her teachers, her best friend, Erica, is graceful and the kind of girl who could melt a frozen heart. In fact, Erica is the favorite to win the school princess contest. The day before the event, Kilala stumbles across a boy in a deep sleep. After almost going to kiss the boy to wake him up, Kilala learns that he’s searching for the princess destined to wear a special tiara. Believing Erica is the one Rei is searching for, Kilala realizes some mysterious group is one jump ahead in that deduction. Well, love is an open door, and one sends Kilala, Rei, and the tiara he holds to various worlds as they try to find the legendary princess and bring peace to Rei’s world.
Again, very Kingdom Hearts-ish. Friends on the other side of the magic gates (aka six Disney princesses) help out Kilala and Rei, and like in the games, they are summoned in different parts of the story. Snow White, for instance, is already married, but Ariel is still living pretty happily in under the sea. She doesn’t even recognize legs! Plus like Kingdom Hearts, hearts and emotions play a big role in the story. But unlike Sora, Kilala knows exactly who all of these princesses are. Like in Sophia the First, magic gems are important, and the six princesses remind the heroine about why it’s important to listen to your heart.
So the story is pretty steady as the beating drum: the tiara gonna take them there to a new world, find something there that eventually causes them to see the light of one of the tiara’s gems, and repeat. The Magic Mirror and Rei basically confirm there are seven princesses (coughKingdomHeartscough) in the first volume, and there are seven points on the tiara. This means the manga has a clear destination point, but the pace generally picks up in the second half. Not only do Kilala and Rei spend less time in the Disney worlds, but a new rival-type character comes along for the ride. Considering how interesting the whole situation is involving Rei’s country, I found her pretty unnecessary. I’d much rather have the time spent explaining how the revolution and the ones leading the coup came to be.
For many of my readers, I know who you are — or at least the type of readers you are. Some of you are interested in drama in being a girl worth fighting for, others in gore and savages, still others in realism and the mistakes we make when we’re human. Kilala Princess is very much a Disney tale, with an animal sidekick, messages about being true to your heart, a love interest who is stubborn at first, and then Kilala realizes so this is love quickly. (Again, Rei is just as determined to be with her as she is with him.)
Anyway, Disney stories are generally for kids and can be loved by all ages, but I don’t know how far I’ll go in calling Kilala Princess a fun read for all ages. This is basically a huge self-insertion fic or metastory, one very idyllic for young girls. Girl loves Disney, girl meets Disney. Kilala may not be as adored as Erica, but this is hardly the story of a beauty and the beast. Kilala is just as pretty, and she is quite the adventurer, diving head-first into the action while also managing to find true love. We even get to see quite a bit of her happily ever after and how it’s not always as easy to be picture-perfect. That was a nice touch.
The biggest draw is, of course, the princesses. The nostalgia of seeing Belle, Aurora, and the others for the first time in forever outside of being plastered on clothes, mugs, and trash buckets is a feeling that’s hard to just let it go. If you don’t care about seeing the princesses, then surely just around the riverbend is a better option for you. I just don’t know if I’ll make a man out of you and force to read this decidedly-girly manga.
There’s another thing to consider though: TOKYOPOP rates the series for all ages, and I would add that is probably in old Disney rating terms. At one point, a gun is held directly to Erica’s head, and Rei’s companion is understandably shocked when it looks like his charge has just pinned a girl down on the couch. Younger readers probably won’t fully understand the connotation, but there’s always someone who is ready to kick up a fuss and start a mob song. Maybe a PG/E-10 rating just to be safe, especially since this released in right-to-left reading format. Also never knew I needed to say this in a kid’s book, but DON’T GO UP AND START KISSING STRANGERS!
Magic is also surprisingly downplayed in this series. Obviously, Kilala and Rei can go to other worlds, but those two unfortunate souls can’t just cast Cure when they’re injured. Transformation magic is also iffy, as they transforms into dwarves in the first world but nothing happens in Atlantica. I’m wishing the artist had Kilala change clothes or forms in every world. Heck, even the whole Paradiso conflict actually stems from science!
The art focuses on being cute and beautiful: frilly dresses, shiny tiaras, and, of course, pretty characters. Kilala’s world is also a blend of Japan and the U.S. Names, school uniforms, and the fact Kilala can live alone are decidedly Japanese (or at least Japanese manga-ish), but the architecture looks more Western. (Despite Disney movies existing, this isn’t just another reflection of Earth; floating bikes and a pet flying mouse are normal. A small fact to note.) No color inserts are included, but you don’t really need the colors of the wind to fully visualize the scenes; most readers know what Agrabah and Belle’s village look like. With the large panels, though, I could see parents giving kids a copy and saying, “You’ll bring honor to us all if you start coloring!” because of all the whitespace and lack of inking. That’s not a putdown; it’s just typical, simplistic art for a children’s manga. Light colors as if in summer except in the scary scenes.
It’s Disney. Not much to say. It’s the same as the original for those curious, but I’m sure most of the rules were determined by Disney or made so that younger readers could understand.
Aren’t you glad to have a friend like me who wrote all this just to say “it’s a girl version of Kingdom Hearts” again? It’s like I am just one song on repeat. If you’ve managed to make it to these fathoms below, congratulations!
Okay, Disney otaku: how many song references are there in this review?
- All are titles, not lyrics.
- Some minor rewording was necessary.
- Only songs from Disney’s animated movie line are included.
- Furthermore, they’re all Disney Princess (or female protagonist) titles… with one exception.
- The exception is, of course, because one of the six princesses in Kilala Princess is not the star of her movie.
- The songs are all available on their respective movie soundtracks.