I’m a big fan of Manga (Japanese-style graphic novels), especially romantic Manga, so when I heard last year that Harlequin had contracted with Darkhorse Comics to produce a line of Harlequin Manga for the US market, I was psyched! Two HQ Manga lines launched in December – “Pink” for age 12 and up and “Violet for “sophisticated readers age 16 up.” Neither book appeared on the shelves of my local teen Manga store, so I turned to Amazon. Pink wasn’t available, but the first Violet title, Response, was. At first glance the cover art didn’t appeal much – it looks like a Harlequin Presents cover gone cartoon, and both characters have their eyes closed! If you read any Manga at all, you know that a character’s eyes are a big part of what gives Manga art its appeal. Once I opened the book, however, I was very pleased with the artwork. First of all, I want to point out that the age rating has nothing to do with risqué artwork. The drawings are very beautiful and have an appealing, dreamlike quality. The pages are drawn entirely in violet ink, which takes a little getting used to. But the overall effect is lovely. I was a bit disappointed with the traditional tone of the plot, which included amnesia and a temp secretary's forced marriage to her rich CEO boss. I was hoping for a more modern story, I guess. This tale is classic Harlequin. If Response is a taste of stories to come, it will be interesting to see if Harlequin will gain a niche in the American Manga market, especially with the over-18 crowd. The book’s Japanese right to left format is sure to daunt older women who are unfamiliar with Manga. Will the classic Harlequin category novel story line appeal to Manga-reading young women and teens? I don’t know. And what about the single-volume format? A typical teen Manga appears as a multi-volume series with continuing characters. This format allows for more secondary characters, skillful character development, slower pacing, and a complex story line. It also keeps kids coming back to the store again and again for the latest volume in their favorite series. Will the quick Harlequin read catch on? Again, the jury is out. Verdict: If you like Manga, Harlequin Violet: Response is worth a look on the strength of the artwork alone. If you’re unfamiliar to Manga, but like a traditional Harlequin romance novel, you’ll like this book, too. Don’t freak out over the right to left format. There are instructions for Manga novices in the back (front?) of the book. You’ll catch on quickly enough.
See ya next week,