You know what zombie Bruce eats for breakfast? Traaaaaiiiinnns.
We think that’s a hysterical joke, so feel free to laugh like you understand it. Now, while you’re doing what I say, enjoy this special Halloween Guest Review by Booooo~ce.
There are no zombies.
I actually used to believe that. It was a matter of logic and rational thinking. But on a recent rainy morning in Tokyo I was forced to confront the darker truth. Because there, in a Lawson convenience store in Ikebukuro, next to the puffed potato cubes, rising up from the grave, was a brand new bargain-priced 2013 imprint of the manga R+ Princess (ロケットプリンセス) by Anzai Nobuyuki. Originally serialized in 1994, R+ Princess was one of the first Yuri manga I ever read. When I buried it in the backyard so many years ago I figured it was gone for good. Its creepy reappearance has no rational explanation. If you see it, run. If you read it, it will eat your brain.
Anzai Nobuyuki is not an obscure one-shot wonder. He achieved considerable success in the 90’s as the author of the 33-volume manga Flame of Recca, and later with 15 volumes of MÄR. R+ Princess came earlier, before the art lessons. If there ever were any art lessons. But he had an important story to tell–complete with a Rocket Princess and a Caterpillar Queen and so much more–and learning to draw takes, you know, effort.
Kohime, part ditzy high school girl, part ditzy cyborg, suddenly shows up in town. She appears sketchy and oddly proportioned, but in this neighborhood no one notices. She’s equipped with a rocket backpack and has a right cross that can flatten Kango, the toughest lug in the school, whose dysfunctional family Kohime ends up moving in with. This pair is the love interest. They hit each other a lot. And at school they have to deal with Komura-san, the student council vice president and head of the Committee for Discipline. She has an armband, a whip, and a slavish hench-geek, everything needed to make her girlish heart flutter. Komura-san is delighted to hate Kohime on sight. Psychotic fascists require a rival they can lose to and she knows it.
The Yuri arrives in the form of Mikado, who rollerblades onto the scene with her spiky hair and old-school sukeban outfit, beating up punks who get in her way and planting a big kiss on Kohime. And why wouldn’t she? Kohime has lovely big eyes, sometimes drawn the same size, is able to demolish any guy in the school, and has a cool rocket backpack. Mikado repeatedly bursts blood vessels at the thought of their future life together. Her relentless (and unrewarded) pursuit of the rocket girl touches the heart of the school’s creepy principal, Kango’s grandfather, who likes nothing better than to see his students beat the crap out of each other. He sets up a school-sponsored super no-holds-barred battle, rocket propelled Kohime vs. rollerbladed Mikado. If Mikado wins, she gets to take Kohime home. Mikado, let’s just say, is incentivized. If Kohime wins, she only gets to go home; not much of a prize, but at least she can hit Kango again. Komura-san, who is unable to stay out of anything involving interpersonal violence, has her hench-geek provide Mikado with monstrous diesel-powered caterpillar track rollerblade boots, the better to stomp rocket girl. They do look pretty diabolical, as footwear goes.
But really, Mikado doesn’t qualify as an Evil Psychotic Lesbian. Though proudly lesbian, and happily psychotic, she’s not evil, just highly enthusiastic. Komura-san on the other hand is both evil and psychotic, if not lesbian, so together they make a complete package. When Kohime finally triumphs in the Rocket Princess vs. Caterpillar Queen battle, Mikado and Komura-san are just as happy to get back to plotting future outrages, so everyone wins. It’s… heartwarming.
The story and the characters in R+ Princess could potentially be a lot of low-expectation fun, if handled well. They are not handled well. The art really is nasty–don’t be fooled by the cute cover, apparently subcontracted. Much of the art struggles hard to attain an Ed Roth Rat Fink style, guaranteed to appeal to low/sub-teen boys. This is in fact the audience, which explains the abundance of embarrassing firecracker-in-the-butt type humor. It possibly also explains the manga’s unnatural second life. As long as everyone is getting beaten up and there’s a lot of funny snot coming out of people’s noses, 13 year-olds will love it, literary merits notwithstanding.
Art: A lot of drawing, but no noticeable art.
Story: 4. It had wacky potential until hijacked by the kids who made noises in the back of the class in 8th grade.
Characters: 7. They’d make for a fascinating lunch group, disputing and squeaking in their gurneys.
Yuri: 7. Mikado is actually pretty cool, less of a caricature than you might expect from someone named the Caterpillar Queen. Well, not much less, but still.
Service: 4. Not as much as you might expect. Which doesn’t mean that the non-servicy parts are any less embarrassing to look at, they’re just embarrassing in a different way.
Odor: Substantial. Quite natural after 20 years in the ground, but the first incarnation was no better.
Overall: 4. The cover is cute.
To be fair, R+ Princess was never meant to be read by anyone older than 15, much less treated to an extended analysis. But being fair is no fun at all.
Erica here: Look what I found! You can read at least some two dozen pages of this manga on the official Shounen Sunday Web Manga Museum where, clearly, they think this series is a zombie series, as well. ^_^