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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Harlequin Romance - The Manga Storm #mustread #manga #romance #harlequin

Harlequin Romance - The Manga Storm

As I’m sure everyone’s aware, there’s a hell of a lot of romance literature out there, because everyone and their dog has written a romance novel. That’s why the big publishers are quietly walking away from the genre. Sadly, the market has become saturated with it—small houses and, especially, self-publishing has taken control, which poses a dilemma for anyone who feels inspired to pen a romance. According to the stats, so far as of today’s date and time 1,443,059 books have been published worldwide, and almost 50% fall under the romance category. What does that tell us?
How do you market yourself in a world with too much romance? Do you find a niche?Finding a niche isn’t a menial task either, considering few exist. Fictional romance can be as down-to-earth or bizarre as you want, but I guarantee there is a book out there somewhere with a similar plot, setting or characters. Let’s face it; every plot, known to mankind, has been done. We’re all human and, unfortunately, sooner or later we all produce the same ideas. So now stories are regurgitated. What matters is how the plot's rewritten—the uniqueness of the characters and the world in which they live.
Should you go from novel to comic? Perhaps, but don’t get too excited because Harlequin Romance has been doing this for a while. They noticed that manga sales were on the rise not just in North America but worldwide, so they jumped on the bandwagon.
I'm not a big fan of Harlequin romance novels; most are too cookie-cutter for me. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t the odd gem. Harlequin authors follow a formula—a formula that has worked well to keep sales above average for the company. I won’t get into sales stats or the past controversies associated with Harlequin, but what I do want to address is Harlequin’s involvement in the manga industry. I wanted to know how the mangas held up against the novels and, honestly, I’m not impressed, and I’ll explain why.

The following list is a handful of Harlequin manga titles I’ve read to date. The only way to understand is to research, and that’s what I did. The stories are not in any particular order. Also, I’ve added my opinion of each plot along with art and story star ratings. Something else I should mention, and this is important, these manga titles are approximately 129 pages each, give or take a page.

The Italian’s Deal for I Do
Artist: Shion Hanyu
Story: Jennifer Hayward
Art: 4 Stars
Story: Predictable. 3.5 Stars

The Promise / Taggart’s Bride
Artist: Yukako Midori
Story: Sharon Sala / Allison Leigh
Art: 3 Stars
Story: Good at first but then trickled to boring fast. 3 Stars

Salzano’s Captive Bride
Artist: Banana Sarusuberi
Story: Daphane Clair
Art: 4 Stars
Story: Interesting, but the male lead was difficult to like. 4 Stars

The 200% Wife
Artist: Megumu Minami
Story: Jennifer Greene
Art: 5 Stars
Story: Charming story, cookie-cutter, yes, needed more at the end. 4.5 Stars

Married for the Tycoon’s Empire Brides for Billionaires 1
Artist: Kazuna Uchida
Story: Abby Green
Art: 3.5 Stars
Story: Nice story and down-to-earth characters. 4 Stars

The Best Man and the Bridesmaid
Artist: Yohna
Story: Liz Fielding
Art: 5 Stars
Story: Typical friend zone story, cliché as hell, but still a good read. 4.5 Stars

Claiming His Secret Son - The Billionaires of Black Castle IV
Artist: Takako Hashimoto
Story: Olivia Gates
Art: 3 Stars
Story: Not long enough for the amount of backstory, rushed. 3.5 Stars

Pregnant by the Greek Tycoon
Artist: Haruhi Sakura
Story: Kim Lawrence
Art: 5 Stars
Story: Good right to the end, with some interesting twists. 5 Stars

The Unmarried Bride
Artist: Megumu Minami
Story: Emma Goldrick
Art: 5 Stars
Story:  Feel-good read, and the lead female was tough and funny. 5 Stars

The Husband She Never Knew
Artist: Yutta Narukami
Story: Kate Hewitt
Art: 3.5 Stars
Story: Male lead’s actions are illegal and creepy, female lead too forgiving. 2.5 Stars

The last two books I’ve added for comparison are a Harlequin and a “love” manga.

I Can’t Help but Love Him (182 pages)
Artist and Author: Yoko Ito
Art: 5 Stars
Story: Funny, office slice-of-life romance with a perfect length HEA. 5 Stars

The Man Behind the Scars (145 pages)
Artist: Masami Shinohara
Story: Caitlin Crews
Art: 5 Stars
Story: Well-executed and in-depth with a perfect HEA. 5 Stars

Okay, now you’re wondering why I made this list. Most of the Harlequin manga I read were way too short. Period. The beginnings were quick, the initial meeting and inciting incident, and then the build-up as to whether the couple would get together was appropriately paced for most of the stories, which is standard for any romance. But then it was WHAM BAM THANK YOU, MA’AM! The stories ended abruptly in just a few pages, sometimes even less. Kissy-kissy, they’re in bed or walking down the aisle or popping out the kid, et cetera, and it was over. Of course, that isn’t to say the novels these mangas are based on conclude in the same abrupt manner. The written word is vastly different from telling a story in comic strip form. But that’s my complaint. These mangas were expensive considering the page count, an average of 129 pages, and the endings, as well as some of the plots, weren’t that great. In most instances, I felt cheated—I wanted a better ending--I felt even the characters got ripped off.
Now, I've come to the last two books on my list. The Man Behind the Scars is the best Harlequin manga I’ve read to date. And oddly enough Masami Shinohara, the artist, addressed the “abrupt ending” issue in her postscript message. She felt the book needed more to give it the ending it deserved, and her decision was perfect. The added sixteen pages made me smile. It gave The Man Behind the Scars a one-up on all the other books listed.
Page count shouldn’t matter, but it will if the story build-up doesn’t flow seamlessly into a satisfying “happily ever after.” There’s no room for excuses here. Come on, Harlequin! What’s a few more pages?
I Can’t Help But Love Him is a 182-page “love” manga. Love mangas are comparable to the HR mangas due to content. It cost a bit more to purchase, but the story was worth it. It had a funny HEA worthy of its characters. I’m not suggesting Harlequin has to get into hundreds of pages, but stretching the stories a bit more wouldn’t hurt.

Blak Rayne

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