In Morinaga Milk-sensei’s Ohime-sama no Himitsu (お姫様のひみつ), Miu has been given some really questionable advice by her mother. Her mother has repeatedly expressed the need for Miu to care about her looks and be as pretty as possible in order to attract a prince and live happily-ever-after. Worse, as Miu attends an all-girl school, there’s no opportunity to even meet a real prince.
When cool, dashing, athletic Fujiwara-sempai is thrown into Miu’s path, she comes up with a plan to at least try out being a princess for a while, and asks Fujiwara to fake date her. It’s a great idea, only Miu forgets to account for the feelings of the students around her who admire Fujiwara-sempai, sempai’s teammates, Fujiwara herself and ultimately, her own feelings.
As cute as the art is, and as sweet as her writing is, the fundamental flaw here is the plot device I think of “I’m with you anyway, so I might as well fall in love.” We’ve seen it time and time again in romance media where two people, when placed in proximity, find themselves attracted to one another, no matter what actual obstacles could potentially arise.
What if Fujiwara was totally straight and played along only because Miu had power over her? Obviously, there would be no book, but its way more likely than the two of them falling in love just because. Is it likely at all that Fujiwara would fall in love with someone who blackmailed her into dating her? No, not really, but it makes for a more fun book than if she was sulky and resentful for 200 pages, then shed Miu like a winter coat at the first opportunity.
On the positive side, Miu starts to break out of the “must look cute to succeed” mold and starts to become more of a person mid-way through the book. It’s her best friend who lays it out for her, that by monopolizing Fujiwara, she’s effectively stolen her away from her fans. Yumi in Marimite talked about having a “fan’s pride” as well. And I think I can relate. We want to have the right to squee and bounce and maybe even glom on our favorites, but we also acknowledge the need for distance. Should someone cross that DMZ and enter our admired person’s life, we demand that it be real and not just some empty relationship. If a fan, or the admired person breaks that unspoken pledge, it hurts the other party.
Of course by the end, the relationship in this book is not empty at all. Both Miu and Fujiwara have come to realize that they actually love each other as they are and they go on to live happily ever after, after all.
A short extra story “Houkago Kanojo” is (to my eye) a fan story about Honoka and Nagisa from PreCure. ^_^ Smart nerdy girl and cool girl in science club, bond over killing bugs.
Art – 9
Story – 7 Problematic in the beginning, by smooths out over time
Characters – 7 for Miu, she also smooths out over time, but Fujiwara gets an 8 for being real throughout
Yuri – 7
Service – 3 bits here and there
Overall – 7
“I’m with you anyway, so I might as well fall in love,” will never be my favorite romance plot, but it is undoubtedly a popular one. If I were Seven Seas looking to do more Morinaga releases, I’d choose this over Himitsu no Recipe, definitely.