Sakura Hime is a Shojo story that you may not have heard of. It’s not a completely obscure title, but it’s still not very well known. It tries to delve into the action genre while also keeping the romance in, which makes for a tricky balance. It’s definitely no Shonen Jump title, but I suppose that it is certainly better than most of the other Shojo series. I can’t give it a passing grade, but the fight scenes were pretty cool.
This story takes place in a land filled with monsters and kings. The setting is a fantasy land that seems pretty primitive by today’s standards. There are certainly no electronics to speak of. A young girl by the name of Sakura is found out to be a Yokai. She is one of the legendary monsters that hails from the moon and she is able to wield the legendary Chizakura blade. Prince Oura is sent to destroy her, but he decides not too since he naturally falls in love with her at first sight. The government still doesn’t trust her so Prince Oura is in a tricky spot.
Not wasting any time, the denizens of the moon decide to attack in full force. Their leader is immensely powerful and he seems to have some history with Sakura. The plot developments and twists will give Sakura some doubts as to what side she should choose. Both of them have shady pasts and many people will feel the effects of her decisions. Luckily, she is Princess Sakura (Did the title just spoil the series?) so she is always ready for action!
Sakura is the main character so it was interesting to see how cool she would be compared to Cardcaptor Sakura and Sakura Haruno. It’s safe to say that she comes in third place from this trio. (At least manga wise) She isn’t a bad character though and she certainly has her moments, but she has a tough time going all out. She always feels bad for the villains and she refuses to fight more than once. She is easily one of the stronger characters in the series since her blade can destroy any yokai with a single hit. This just means that there will be many excuses for her to miss the enemy. Her romance with Prince Oura is definitely one of the low points for her, but another one is that she lets so many guys hit on her without putting up enough resistance. She should just tell them to go away and slice them down with her sword if they do not. She has to put up with a lot of negativity from the villagers. (At least she gets to use intro lines that would even make Sailor Moon proud when she does get to fight)
Another problem is that she’s a little too gullible. She lets the government capture her with ease, which was pretty awful. It’s really a good thing that Enchu was there that time since her mind would have quickly broken under the government’s trap. That situation should have definitely been avoided and she should have known that something was up. It’s just sad to see someone as powerful as her be defeated by the government so easily. In the end, she may not be a bad main character and she beats some of her Shojo counterparts, but she definitely isn’t one of the better ones out there.
Prince Oura is the main guy in this series and he’s definitely an unlikable character. He was terrible when he first appeared, but he definitely got better as the series went on. That being said, he went from terrible to just unlikable as he never became a good character for me. He always seems ungrateful and he decides to keep secrets from Sakura right up til the very end. He certainly doesn’t make things easy for her. He’s a part of the government so he should be trying to make things better, but he usually just goes along with what the higher ups want. When it comes to matters involving Sakura, he quickly stops them, but he doesn’t do much more than that. He just seems like a pawn of the government when he could be an instrumental figure in changing them. Maybe someday…maybe. Either way, he lost his chance at being a likable character a long time ago.
Asagiri is a little snow fairy who helps Sakura out during the series. Things definitely get dicey for her in the climax since she is captured and the heroes are too slow to really do anything about it. By the time they get to her, it’s almost too late. “Almost” being the key word of course and we have Sakura to thank for her rescue. She is definitely a good character and I’d say that she is one of Sakura’s best allies. As with another one of Sakura’s allies, Asagiri has a super form at her disposal.
Byakuya protects Sakura and acts as her mentor. She used to wield the sacred sword and she’s pretty powerful when she fights in her true form. Typically, she fights under the guise of an old woman, but this is just an act to make the opponent lower their guard. She’s pretty good and she has a twist at the very end of the series that is pretty intriguing. It’s definitely impressive for her, but it also does undermine the final villain to an extent. She doesn’t live up to the Byakuya name that we know from Bleach, but she is a talented fighter and a loyal companion.
Kohaku is a ninja who works for Sakura and she places the Princess’ safety before her obligations to the main house. That is a good thing since it means that Sakura can actually trust her. Unfortunately, she starts to develop feelings for two other ninja, which creates another subplot that we didn’t really need. It doesn’t help that both of them are constantly running away and making themselves scarce. Kohaku doesn’t get a whole lot of closure as the series ends, but she does get her own fight during arc 1. That was pretty good, but it was the only action that she really got in the series. She’s a good ninja though and certainly better than her partner.
Hayate is a very confused man who doesn’t really know what he wants. He thinks that he likes Kohaku, but then he starts to like Rurijo before trying to get back together with Kohaku in the final chapters. I definitely wouldn’t accept him if I was her since Hayate can’t make up his mind. Hayate was cursed to be a frog for a very long time so he misses out on most of the series. He can turn into a human when the full moon is out so he does try to get some fight scenes in, but mostly he is just a bystander. I’m glad that he didn’t rat out Rurijo to the corrupt government and the heroes, but he certainly didn’t do it for the right reasons. This is definitely one shinobi that I didn’t like.
Rurijo was made out of tree branches as a clone of Sakura. This way her very existence can remind Enju of the princess and how he needs to save her from the pesky government and Prince Oura. As such, she gets a pretty sad character arc since Enju only sees her as a substitute. She must constantly go to water to replenish her strength and everyone always seems to get upset at her when she tries to destroy Sakura. By the second half of the series, she is still learning to cope with this, but it’s slow goings. Things temporarily grow brighter for her when she gets a new master only for everything to go sour once again. This is one character who never really got to be happy. She can definitely be likable and she was a fun villain during the first half. Alas, she always longs to be with Enju, which hurts her character. She’s oblivious to Hayate, so I’ll give her some credit for that, but she should have stuck to being a great warrior who mows down the heroes.
Enju is the big villain and he lasts for the whole series. He has a pretty traumatic past, which led him to betray the government and become the big villain. Deep down he mainly wants to help Sakura, but he loses sight of this goal from time to time. He’s definitely a villain no matter how sympathetic the series tries to make him. That being said, you could call him a villain of circumstance as the government turned him into what he is today. It’s all pretty tragic for him although his last minute change of heart was more than a little hard to swallow. His personality just did a 180 in the span of 2 chapters. The series was ending so I’m guessing that the author just wanted to wrap that part up. I appreciate his loyalty, but he’s still not really my kind of villain. I do like the fact that he is a great fighter though and he works pretty well as a serious villain.
Shuri is a ninja who really tries to play all of the sides. On the surface he appears to be working for Enju, but this is actually a mission that the government gave to him. He also helps Prince Oura and the others when it is convenient for him so he really can’t be trusted. You could say that he’ll help Kohaku over his obligations to the other places, but I’m not really sure about that. This is one guy that I definitely would not trust. His ending is definitely emotional, but I didn’t care for his character from the start so it definitely wasn’t a big loss for me.
Maimai’s role felt much smaller than most of the other villains. He cares a lot about looks and exteriors, but he’s actually a “tough” villain when things get serious. I really couldn’t take him seriously and Maimai just isn’t a great villain. Maimai doesn’t really have any grand ambition or good reasons to help Enchu. As a result, he comes across as having no real character so he never stood a chance of being a cool villain.
Kaguya is the ultimate villain and the final one to take the stage. It comes as no great shock that she is pretty powerful. She doesn’t have much in the way of character since her screen time is so brief, but she still manages to be a pretty cool antagonist. She’s someone that you can certainly root for and she’s probably the best villain in the series. She also gives us our first fight where Sakura gets a speed feat. It’s not an incredible one, but it’s a speed feat nonetheless. It’s too bad that Kaguya couldn’t last a little longer, but she served her purpose of being a good villain.
The series definitely has quite a few flaws that keep it from being a real contender in the manga ranks. Naturally, the biggest obstacle is the fanservice. Seeing as how this is a Shojo title, it’s surprising that it is so prevalent in this series. Particularly with Rurijo since she is constantly at the hot springs. The plot reason for this is that she has to constantly go somewhere where she can be in the water because she is made of tree branches. Nevertheless, that plot could have been changed so that this wouldn’t be necessary.
Another factor is the romance. For the record, I haven’t actually bashed the romance angle in many of my recent reviews, but this one definitely deserves the harsh treatment. For one, Prince Oura is a really cheap guy, although you already know that from my earlier writings of him. I disapprove of Sakura going to him, especially after his threats and decision to destroy her in the beginning if not for her quick thinking. It goes a little far and this naturally lasts until the very end of the series so it continues to appear no matter how much you want it to go away.
Again, I do have to give the series props for the fight scenes though. For the first half of the series, we get to a point where 3-4 volumes in a row are composed of action scenes. We get to take a break from the typical slice of life moments to actually get a Shonen feel. Everyone splits up and chooses an enemy to face. It’s pretty fun and if the whole series was like that, I think it may have had a chance to creep all the way up to a 6. The characters on both sides were pretty well developed so the throwaway fights felt like real ones as well. The enemies were probably a little too strong compared to the heroes, but such is the fate of the humans in their war against demons.
One thing that’s pretty sad is that the government is pretty awful. They’re totally corrupt and they get away with just about everything. They naturally dislike the Yokai and they force the main villain into a water tank, which repeatedly destroys him until his mind breaks. They are the reason why he is evil and they nearly do the same to Sakura before that same villain arrives to save her. After that, you really don’t want the heroes to help the government, but they do and the higher ups never really get what’s coming to them. Enju takes out quite a few of them, but there are always more. One of the side characters is going to become the next leader of the place so maybe he can help right? The problem is that he’s also pretty corrupt so he won’t be much of an improvement.
With traitors like that as allies, there really aren’t many characters to root for. You can’t root for the villains either since they want destruction as well. It just makes everything hazy and while you can sympathize with Sakura’s desire to help everyone, she tends to make problems even bigger at times with her inability to really make a decision. Imprisoning the government officials and taking the Yokai down seems to be the best bet, but with a prince as one of the main characters…that will be difficult.
The art is definitely pretty good for the series. I won’t call it downright amazing, but it’s certainly better than I had expected it to be. It’s very clear and the fight scenes occur pretty smoothly. It definitely made everything a little more enjoyable than it could have been and I think the author must have read a lot of Shonen manga since the action scenes have the epic zoom ins and classic dialogue that we’ve come to expect. The art perfectly captures these moments and I definitely give the series a big thumbs up there.
Overall, Sakura Hime is a series that is plagued by the fanservice and romantic plots that tend to overwhelm it at times. If the series had stopped after arc 1, it definitely had a decent shot at landing a solid 6. As it is, I think that the second arc basically cut this series in half. You can blame at least 90% of that on Oura, but I suppose that we have to blame the Emperor and some of the other characters as well. How the government is allowed to continue their rule is certainly beyond me. Just about all of the higher ups are fairly corrupt so you really can’t trust anyone on either the human or the yokai side. If you want a romance series with some action, this is definitely the right series for you. As it stands, I can’t really recommend this title and would turn you to another Shojo like Kitchen Princess or Sailor Moon for a better experience.