MeruPuri: Marchen Prince
Shoujo – Comedy, fantasy, romance, shotacon
4 Volumes (complete)
Airi dreams of living a simple, cozy life with a devote husband. But her plans for an ordinary life take a turn when she meets a little boy who claims he came from her mirror. Sensing he is lost, Airi invites him to her house. But Aram really is a prince from a magical land — and now he’s been inflicted with a curse that ages him whenever he spends some time in the dark!
Long story short, brother tries to turn younger brother into an old man but fails. Younger brother tries to escape to another world, but now ages in the dark. The boy needs his maiden’s kiss to break the spell, but the girl he has chosen is old-fashioned… and much older than him.
Yes, that’s the obvious issue in MeruPuri: Marchen Prince. Airi is 15, a typical age for shoujo manga protagonists. The male hero? Seven to eight years old. He transforms into an older version of himself and is more mature than the average child thanks to his royal position, but Aram is very much a balloon-loving, sentai show-adoring kid at heart. The bulk of the story takes place within a few months, so don’t expect a time jump. But perhaps the even bigger issue is that the manga puts a lot of emphasis on marriage, and it’s brought up more than just in Airi’s dreams. So it may not be technically shotacon since the male hero often looks like a teenager, but it has elements.
So obviously the main couple is going to be hard to swallow for many readers, but that’s all I’m going to say on the subject.
But if the age gap isn’t an issue, is the story worth the purchase?
MeruPuri isn’t Hino’s first series, but it very much feels like a story written on the fly. The first volume is rather slow; even Hino admits that. But then the story suddenly starts jumping between Earth and Astale, between volleyball matches and magic curses, between comedy and drama. Jumping between worlds and crises isn’t necessarily a problem; in fact, it’s often a key part of a story.
However, MeruPuri is too short to explore both Earth and Astale. This is most notable in the final volume where manga just speeds ahead, suddenly breaks for some side stories, then makes one final time skip at the end. One part I found hilarious is that Aram’s attendant, Lei, ends up impersonating Airi for a long period of time. Unfortunately, because the manga spends the last quarter in a rush, we only get to see a few small panels of his misadventures. I’d rather read about this than suddenly meeting Jeile’s arranged fiancee.
This charging-ahead doesn’t help the characterization either. Jeile gets the story rolling by casting the aging spell on Aram. Yet he spends much of the manga doting and playfully messing with his younger brother. Even in flashbacks, Jeile seems to treasure Aram. So what caused this leader of a magic army to suddenly cast a mean spell on his brother and not know how to reverse it? Beats me. And if a manga can’t even fully explain the main conflict, it’s usually not a good series. He’s not the only one either: classmate Nakaoji is given a brief background towards the very end, and cousin Raz quickly swings from dislike to like with little explanation. I can’t help but wonder if MeruPuri would have been better if it had just focused on the brothers and Airi. Mend Aram and Jeile’s broken bond (or forge one in the first place), deal with the tension in Astale, and try to keep their secrets on Earth.
Another major complaint I have is that Hino absolutely did not know how to wrap up a chapter. The first chapter ends with Airi protesting she can’t kiss Aram because she’s saving her first kiss. It is an incredible awkward way to wrap up a scene considering she’s talking to both Aram and Lei. When it seems natural for someone to respond, that’s probably not a good spot to end a chapter. There are far better ways to pull this off. End with Aram’s first transformation. End with Airi running away upset that people see her as some random panacea. End with Airi struggling between sympathy for Aram and her own dreams. Something besides ending mid-explanation. Another chapter ends with Jeile breaking the fourth wall. A series like MeruPuri where a magical prince from another transforms shouldn’t have to rely on the endline for a laugh.
It’s a shame since at its core, MeruPuri is pretty cute. Magical boy series aren’t as common as magical girls, and combination of royalty, magic, and other worlds offer almost unlimited potential. Airi dreams of being a housewife, but she doesn’t skate through school and glomps onto any guy in hopes of getting married. Aram is also a nice change from the narcissistic, self-centered jerks that make you wonder if dating him is really a punishment game. The seven royal families and the mirror provide fodder for plenty of mysteries and political intrigue. The series never goes dark, but it has a good blend of comedy and drama. The main couple also shows actual progress in their relationship and try to work together to make it work. Again, ignoring the age gap, it doesn’t feel like one is putting in all the effort or being reduced to a green-eyed monster. If it’s one thing MeruPuri has, it’s definitely charm.
The art also helps add to its charm. Yes, Hino hasn’t quite settled into her later (often doe-eyed) style, but it’s far better than her earlier works. The Astale and magic scenes tend to be traditional (ruffled collars, long robes, pentagram symbols), but they look very nice and are detailed. Even Jeile’s roses add a lot of flair. From a visual perspective, Aram’s messy, curly hair is quite refreshing. Even fellow royal Raz is inspired by Middle Eastern culture, a nice addition to the often European-style people. Of course, MeruPuri isn’t without its issues. Nakaoji’s hair is full of spikes, and the height is as big — if not bigger — than his actual face. Airi in particular also tends to look flat and stiff, especially in splash pages. I can see Hino’s growth in the story, and it’s stylish enough to not look like cookie cutter shoujo.
Honorifics are used sporadically. The = and . in Aram and company’s names are kept. Nakaoji’s name has a macron over the o the first time his name appears, but it is never used again. Lei also mentions the mirror was owned by the Latleia family, but I believe “Latreia” would have been more appropriate. ラトレイア is the way of approximating “latreia”, which is Greek. A lot of the names from Astale are based in Greek.
Obviously, Aram’s age is going to make this series a definite must skip for many readers. Beyond that, while MeruPuri has attractive art and a lot of neat ideas, the manga isn’t long enough to fully develop its worlds or characters. Unless you want to the complete Hino collection, readers can safely skip MeruPuri without missing much. It’s not a bad read — in many ways, it’s a fun one — but it just didn’t live up to its full potential.
Viz Media has licensed all of Hino’s series.