St. Dragon Girl, Volume 1 by Natsumi Matsumoto
This cute fantasy/martial arts manga is a good choice for the younger set. I seem to remember this title getting a few lukewarm reviews on other manga blogs. While St. Dragon Girl might not be for everyone, it will be a great title to check out for younger teens or anyone in touch with their inner 12 year old.
Momoka is the heir to a martial arts dojo. Ryuga is her childhood friend who happens to be a master of magic. Together, they fight crime! Momoka and Ryuga maintain the pretense that they are platonic friends, but there is obviously something going on under the surface. Momoka enjoys beating up peeping toms. Ryuga throws around paper spells like a dedicated litterbug. When a Serpent King threatens to make Ryuga’s cousin and Momoka’s friend Shunran his bride, Ryuga summons a dragon. The spell goes wrong and the dragon spirit possesses Momoka’s body, thus giving her access to incredible power. Ryuga and Momoka team up to fight an assortment of mystical beings.
I don’t expect super-enlightened gender politics in shoujo manga, but it was a little disappointing that for someone who is supposed to be a competent martial artist, Momoka needs to be rescued by Ryuga so often. Also, Ryuga controls Momoka’s access to the dragon’s power by sealing up the spirit that possesses her body so she can only draw on the dragon when he releases it. These quibbles aside, St. Dragon Girl is filled with lighthearted fantasy fun as the duo team up to fight demon cats, unexpected relatives, and a teacher with hypnotic powers. As Momoka and Ryuga spend more time together, their romantic relationship begins to progress.
Matsumoto’s art reminds me of a slightly less detailed version of Arina Tanemura’s style. Everyone has big sparkling eyes. Ryuga is Chinese, and Matsumoto uses this as an excuse to give the characters Chinese-influenced costumes. I thought some of the fight sequences were a little muddled, but the flow of events throughout the manga is clear and easy to follow. I’m glad I sampled this manga, but I don’t think I’m hooked enough to want to sign on for 8+ volumes of the series. There’s not a whole lot of dramatic tension, because Ryuga and Momoka clearly like each other so much. I’m guessing that a series of wacky events and misunderstandings will conspire to prevent them from really dating until the series wraps up. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to a 12-13 year girl old wanting to read something fun. This book is rated for teens, but there’s very little objectionable content in it, just some teasing about bra sizes and some kissing scenes.