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Review: Captive Hearts, vol. 1

Megumi Kuroishi’s father is a butler, but Megumi’s never had to worry about working. The Kogami family his father worked for disappeared in China years ago and all their wealth was left to Megumi’s family. So he’s a carefree student…right up until Suzuka Kogami is found in a rural Chinese village and Megumi discovers the truth about his family. They are cursed to serve the Kogami family in any way possible. But can the growing feelings between Megumi and Suzuka survive Megumi’s manservant tendencies?

Captive Hearts, vol. 1
Matsuri Hino
VIZ, November 2008
978-1-4215-1932-6, $8.99
Grades 7+, ages 12+

This is the first manga by Hino, popular creator of MeruPuri and Vampire Knight, and that is abundantly clear in both the plot and the art, neither of which are as strong as in her later volumes. The main problem with Captive Hearts is that it can’t decide if it wants to be a humorous, silly romance or if it wants to be a struggling-against-the-odds romance. There’s no reason, of course, why it couldn’t be both, except that it never manages to be strong enough to realize even one of those goals, much less both of them.

The first part of Captive Hearts seems like a complete one-shot, which it probably was originally. It sets up the idea of Megumi having to serve Suzuka, but fails to fully develop their relationship, so their feelings for each other come too abruptly to be believable. The second half of their story begins to feel more like a wacky comedy, but the introduction of a subplot about Megumi being forced to obey any orders from Suzuka is too scattered to be fully understandable.

The last half of this volume is comprised of two short stories, “Real Love” and “Let Time Freeze.” “Real Love” is a cute story about a student with a crush on her teacher. It is sweet and ordinary, until the very last line. That line turns the story in a creepy, spooky direction, which was probably unintended, but which does give an interesting spin to the tale. “Let Time Freeze” is about two childhood friends who begin to realize a deeper feeling for each other. It’s not anything out of the ordinary, but it’s competently written and drawn and paced nicely for a one-shot.

The art has an older, late 1990’s feel to it, appropriate for its original publication date of 1999. It also feels slightly stilted, which would fit a new manga artist just making her debut. It isn’t badly drawn, but it’s not as strong as Hino’s more recent works. There isn’t much in the way of content issues, other than the teacher-student relationship in "Real Love" and even that is just feelings being shared, rather than anything physical. There is some mild violence, but that’s about the extent. Overall this is a title that will mostly appeal to those looking for more works by a favorite author, though the attractive cover will attract interest. Fans looking for supernatural romance titles like Vampire Knight, though, will not be thrilled with this one, even if it is by Hino, so libraries looking to meet the needs of those readers can pass on this title.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © VIZ Media LLC.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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