Manga Review: A Tale of an Unknown Country

A Tale of an Unknown Country is the story of Rosemarie, the young princess of a poor but stable kingdom. Her older brother, Mache, believes their land can improve by aligning with the wealthier kingdom next door, so he betroths his little sister to that nation’s prince Reynol.

But Rosemarie is not happy with this marriage arrangement as rumor has it that Prince Reynol is a mean and nasty boy. So she devises a plan to disguise herself as a maid to enter the palace incognito. Once she’s inside and spends some time with the prince, she can find out if the rumors are true about Reynol’s bitterness and she can find a way to pull the plug on the marriage.

This is CMX’s second comic release from Natsuna Kawase after they have just released her Lapis Lazuli Crown only a few months ago. I didn’t formally review Lazuli for this blog, but I did read it and found it to be a very enjoyable shojo comic. So I had high exceptions going into Unknown Country, Kawase’s debut series from 2001.

But unfortunately, Kawase just hadn’t developed the right skills yet to make this as good as Lazuli.

My initial impressions of the comic were very positive. The cover art is featuring Rosemarie in her maid outfit in the front and the two leads in their royal attire in the back are very colorful and beautiful. In fact, the art and character designs are superb through out the entire volume.

I was also digging the characters of the tsundere prince and the kind and helpful princess. These characters seemed to the be prototype of the recent “moé” movement in anime and manga culture, though since the comic was published in 2001, I believe it predates the fad.

But the good set up of Rosemarie’s spy mission wraps up in the first chapter, leaving the whole rest of the volume with repetitive and uninspired shojo plot filler. Both leads have already made up their mind on if they want to marry each other or not, but now just how confident are they with this choice? And what happens when rivals and others are added into the mix?

A Tale of an Unknown Country feels like a one-shot comic that was suddenly turned into a serialized story. Either Kawase was not expecting anything after the first chapter, or her long-term plan for the narrative was seriously screwed up. Either way, I just cannot recommend this book no matter how much I wanted to.

* * *

The Good: Great character designs with moé character archetypes.

The Bad: Main story line wraps up in the first chapter leaving the rest of the volume dangling with little point.

Final Verdict: A Tale of an Unknown Country is a great 34-page comic that, unfortunately, lasts for around 100 pages. I recommend skipping it and picking up Kawase’s later series, The Lapis Lazuli Crown, instead.

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