MANGA REVIEW | "Nina the Starry Bride" - Volume One
How far does one go to keep a secret hidden? What if it’s a secret that must be kept in order to save a kingdom? And what if it requires playing a role that requires you to erase your past life from existence? In Rickachi’s Nina the Starry Bride, such a situation is at hand. How it’s presented is where some of the story’s biggest surprises can be found.
A rags-to-riches kind of tale, Nina the Starry Bride focuses on the titular character. Despite being born under a poor star, Nina is gifted with the eyes of a goddess, which makes her a target for slave traders. For most of her life, she is protected by her parents. But when a plague kills them (and a plethora of others), she starts pretending to be a boy and living with brothers Saji and Colin. They survive as best as they can, in a world that throws every form of bad luck possible at them.
When Colin becomes ill, Nina and Saji attempt to find a way to afford a doctor. Sadly, Saji makes a desperate move, and leads Nina to be captured by some suspicious men. That’s where Nina meets Azure, the second prince of Fortna. Azure reveals why she’s being held: his sister, priestess-princess Alisha, has died in a wild carriage accident, and they need a replacement. Alisha had the same deep-blue Lapis Lazuli eyes as Nina, making the orphan the perfect person for the task.
For the next three months, Nina must learn how to act like Alisha, and will then be married to the Crown Prince of Galgada. At first, the plan goes exactly as one would expect. Nina is stubborn, as well as quit too early into a lesson. But when she learns that the fate of Fortna rests in the plan going well, Nina sucks up the tough parts and takes the task at hand. What follows is the tale of the least-likely girl having a seat at a royal table.
The narrative of Nina the Starry Bride has enough uniqueness that makes it stand out from other similar stories. Nina may be rambunctious, but she has a sense of nobleness in her thanks to her upbringing. That feeling of wanting to help is strong in her, as it ties to both her youthful upbringing and how she lived each day with her two friends. But with Azure in the picture, Nina finds someone that she not only can confide in, but also go toe-to-toe with in witty banter and retorts.
It’s that element that makes this a manga an enjoyable read. Although it takes nearly the entire first chapter to reach that level of enjoyment, said level doesn’t tone down for the rest of it. Whether it a quarrel with a Queen or an adventure with a young prince, Nina’s days are filled with experiences that never dull her day. And with us as her readers, we have the pleasure of witnessing every wild hurdle that’s thrown in her direction.
One thing it does right is showcase how Nina has been a victim of circumstance her entire life. It’s not her fault she was poor; it’s just the way that society treated her parents and ancestors in the past. Azure knows this, especially when one incident has Nina running back to her old hideout. The sight she discovers is a cold one, and while the whereabouts of her old friends is still up in the air, the fact that they’re nowhere to be found isn’t a good sign. As such, Nina feels like her past life is all but gone.
Thankfully, Azure is in Nina’s corner. Sure, he can be shrewd with tasks and orders, but he’s in the same boat as our titular heroine. It’s in incidents with a nasty queen or a troublemaking prince where Nina sees a good side to Azure, and vice versa. These moments open the door for something more special to occur between Azure and Nina, even if such a thing could literally cost them their heads.
There’s a lot of great potential that can be found in Nina the Starry Bride. The situations on display may not be new, but the characters and their attitudes aid in making them feel fresh. Although the series opens with a grim look into the future, one hopes that Nina and Azure find some way to make this plan work in the right way possible. Until then, Nina the Starry Bride is one royal ticket that any shojo fan would gladly punch to see where this tale takes them.
Promotional consideration provided by Kodansha Manga. In stores October 24!