Sugar Princess: Skating to Win, Volume 1
written by Hisaya Nakajo
Maya Kurinoki had never skated before someone at the rice shop gave her a free pass to the local ice rink, but it turns out that she’s a natural at the most difficult moves. By happy coincidence, a coach from the local skating club is on hand when she tries a double axel turn, and he recognizes her innate talent and invites her to join his club.
On her first day, Maya spots a beautiful young man skating alone. To her surprise, Coach Todo calls him over and tells them both that he wants them to skate together as a pair. The boy, Shun Kano, is decidedly unfriendly toward Maya, dismissing her as a novice and refusing to have anything to do with her. Like the good shoujo heroine that she is, though, Maya decides the best way to win Shun over is to practice hard and become a good skater, and since this is a shoujo manga, that effort eventually pays off. But although Shun agrees to coach her, he remains cold and standoffish.
This could only be the result of a secret sorrow, and sure enough, Maya eventually learns that Shun used to skate with his sister, Aya, until she died two years ago. Now that she is gone, Shun only wants to skate alone. Will Maya be able to win him over? That question goes unanswered for now, but as this is only a two-volume series, the suspense won’t go on too much longer. Meanwhile, another girl shows up to compete for Shun’s affections. The final plot twist, introduced close to the end of this volume, is a tried-and-true one: The owner of the rink announces that he is closing it down because it’s not making enough money. But there’s a big skating competition coming up, and Coach Todo and his skaters persuade the owner to make a deal—if they win the contest, the rink stays open. Fine, says the owner, but only if the designated contestant is the least experienced skater on the team. That would be Maya. With one final twist, Shun is chosen as her partner, giving us something to look forward to in volume 2.
Sugar Princess is what I think of as immersion manga; you read it just as much for the atmosphere as for the plot. There are lots of drawings of the characters skating, and each chapter opens with a drawing of a real professional skater or skating pair, which is a nice touch. The page layouts are simple and easy to follow, and the characters are attractive. Nakajo stresses Maya’s youth by giving her a childlike figure and girlish hairstyles, while Shun is cold and angular. Maya’s sweetness suffuses the whole book; this is not a hard-driving sports manga but a pleasant story about a girl who is eager to please. Sugar Princess is an entertaining, girl-centered escapist read that should hold plenty of appeal for the 8-to-10 set.-- Brigid Alverson