Readers of First Love Sisters will recognize the name of Shinonome Mizuo. Under Shinonome-sensei’s care, the story of Chika and Haruna, which had begun life as short text vignettes and had migrated to Drama CDs, became a three-volume manga series.
In Carbonard Crown, (カルボナードクラウン) Shinonome tells the story of Aiko, a girl who attends an exclusive island-bound school.
Aiko is heading to school from the dorm when she comes across a beautiful girl standing in the forest. She quickly finds herself helping out and becoming involved with a family of foreigners – the Royal Family from Spinel. The beautiful, but sharp-tongued Ruby and her younger sisters Pearl, Beryl and Garnet, her older brothers Sapphire and Lazurite and older sister Emerald.
Aiko finds herself sucked into the Spinel Royal Family’s life, from finding Garnet when she goes missing, to telling off Lazurite when he’s a jerk to his younger siblings. And, the girls at their school – who have never been her friends – start treating her even worse than before.
But what concerns Aiko most is Ruby. Ruby is beautiful, scornful and hurtful. She’s derisive and rude and looks, Aiko thinks, heartbreakingly alone. Aiko’s fallen for Ruby, but she can’t even get so much as good morning from the other girl.
And then there’s the *family secret* which is (at least to me,) not all that traumatic, but to them it’s pretty bad. Aiko learns the secret, but isn’t really sure what to do with it – or how to reach Ruby’s heart beyond it.
As the semester comes to an end, the other girls in Aiko’s class sort of inexplicably warm up to her and her own family situation is never resolved and she says she wants to be friends with Ruby and there’s a party and fireworks and Ruby kisses her while she’s asleep and then the book ends with some of the Spinel royal family leaving never to return.
The biggest handwave – the one that made it impossible for me to really get behind this story composed of handwaves – is that Aiko fell for Ruby. Okay, she’s pretty in that Nadesico Yamato kind of way, but she’s a spiteful little wretch that needs to be slapped. Because of emotional trauma and loneliness and all the usual, but still, even Touko has friends. Ruby’s mean to her sisters, even Pearl who is bubbly and cute and cheerful.
Which is not to say that this manga is intolerably bad. There is a moment about halfway where Ruby does something nice for Aiko. Up to that point, she has flatly refused to speak Japanese with her family (signified by vertical writing, where “Spinelese” is written horizontally,) and at that point, she speaks to Pearl in Japanese. Aiko realizes that she had no reason to do that, except to keep Aiko in the loop.
And, at the very end, after Lazurite has issued an ultimatum, Ruby asks Aiko what *she* wants to do. Aiko eventually answers this with a plea to become friends.
It is at the after-semester party that Ruby’s true feelings are revealed. Aiko, exhausted from her exertions (not least on behalf of the Spinel royal family,) falls asleep. Ruby quietly kisses her as she sleeps.
Sadly for those of us who like a story past this point, there is none. We see Emerald and Beryl sailing off as fireworks sparkle above the island and we’re told through narration that the family leaves to go over the waves…and no one really ever knows what happened to them.
…it was all kind of unsatisfying.
This tends to be a quality of Shinonome’s work. There’s a lot of gently unfinished endings, gently bittersweet moments; things that are over before they’ve begun. Plenty of people like that. Just not me.
Update: Thanks to a tip from Anonymous, I’ve learned that this is a on-going cell-phone manga (and a quick glance at the Futabasha mobile manga site tells me that Ruby and Aiko eventually reciprocate feelings) so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Thanks, Anon. Much obliged.
Art – 8, for what it is. It’s detailed, rich and totally moe. Plenty of shoujo-stylings on the clothes, the boys, the backgrounds, but the girls have round, nearly featureless faces.
Characters – 4 We never really get to know anything about them, especially not Aiko
Story – 5
Yuri – 3
Service – 1
Overall – 5
My sincere and undying thanks to Okazu Superhero George R. for his purchase of this book off my Japanese Yuri Wish List! I just wish it had been a better choice on my side!