Serialized in the monthly shojo and josei manga magazine Dessert, Mika Yamamori’s series In the Clear Moonlit Dusk debuted just last July. It’s already made its English debut however thanks to Kodansha who just published the manga’s first volume. It stars Yoi Takiguchi, a high school girl who is referred to as “Prince” by her classmates thanks to her short hair, generally charming demeanor, and the effortless poise with which she carries herself. This admiration comes not just from other girls but also from another prince in the form of Kohaku Ichimura, a popular boy who falls for her at first sight. Instant attraction doesn’t equal instant romance however, and the pair’s first meetings don’t exactly go smoothly. So, does Vol. 1 kick the series off to a good start?
One of this volume’s strongest aspects is the way it introduces Yoi. The manga’s premise hinges on how she carries herself and is perceived by others, making it essential to convey her princelyness while making it clear there’s still more to her that cool exterior. Her first appearance on panel could hardly be more perfect: holding the train door open for another girl while sporting a totally calm and confident expression, with flowers and screen tones aplenty surrounding her like a heavenly aura. It’s over the top, suave, and really sells Yoi as a believable, handsome (and I don’t mean that derogatorily) object of others’ admirations.
The use of floral imagery is not only notable in where it’s used, but also where it isn’t. It doesn’t pop up in Yoi’s scenes with Kohaku unless there are other people present for Yoi to play up a social role in front of. It also doesn’t factor heavily into panels centered around Yoi’s internal thoughts when it comes to her feelings of either love or self. In this way the flowers function as a great visual reflection of performance and societal expectations.
It’s not that Yoi violently rejects her prince status, and it wouldn’t be accurate to refer to it as just a persona, as something separate from a “truer” more internal, feminine self. Rather, Yoi just has some misgivings and complicated feelings about gender that aren’t fully formed. In other words, she’s a relatable young character navigating the interplay between the self as outwardly known and the self as inwardly felt. The great range in her facial expressions throughout further strengthens this as well.
That still leaves, of course, the other half of the romantic couple-to-be. Frankly, Kohaku’s character is a bit difficult to get a handle on but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Given Yoi’s status as the lead character, it makes sense to let the reader look on in intrigued confusion just as she does. The resultant picture we get it one of a character who acts fairly inconsistently, largely due to his being unsure of how to approach Yoi. He shifts considerably in likability from scene to scene, with the worse moments coming from how forceful he can be. With that said his brashness can also be endearing at times, such as when he calls some girls out about the way they’re discussing his and Yoi’s potential relationship. Time will tell how much this relationship proves to be one worth rooting for to succeed.
In terms of definite cons, there’s not much to note here. It’s difficult to assess the core relationship in terms of writing failures since there’s still so much development yet to be done, but there are some scenes that could have been improved with slightly altered pacing. Examples include the couple’s first lunch together as well as their first time sleeping together (literally, just sharing a bed nonsexually). These scenes aren’t bad by any means but they seem to fly by without mining them fully for their potential character exploration.
All in all, In the Clear Moonlit Dusk Vol. 1 is an enjoyable debut that effectively introduces Yoi as a likable, layered protagonist. The art is lovely to look at throughout, with classic flower motifs and screen tones utilized very successfully. Here’s looking forward to seeing how the romance develops from here.
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