by Ai Morinaga
Reiichi Swan is short, with coke-bottle glasses and a dumpy bowlcut hairstyle. His troubles are only compounded by his social awkwardness; Reiichi is not only ugly but incredibly shy and socially awkward. The only girl willing to talk to him is Yumiko, a classmate who shares Reiichi's love of plants, but she's moving to America. Before she leaves, Reiichi wants to see her one last time, but before he can say goodbye he's hit by a car – and ends up in a coma for a year. While he's out, a plastic surgeon makes completely remakes Reiichi's face and body. But even with his new, pretty face, he's still the same old Reiichi on the inside. Transferred to a new school and given a second chance at high school, can this ugly duckling truly transform into a swan?
This mangafied version of the “The Ugly Duckling” is a lot of fun. From the first page, it revels in silliness. Reiichi is absolutely ostracized by his classmates, for no good reason that we can see save his awkward appearance. He's not a pervert like the class otaku, and yet Reiichi seems to be lower on the social ladder. It turns out that one of the reasons Yumiko is so fond of him is because Reiichi resembles her beloved pet dog Mister...who is a second-rate sorcerer trapped in the body of a dog by one of his enemies hundreds of years before. It is thanks to Mister's magic that Reiichi is able to have his new body – as the dog sarcastically points out, “It would ave been impossible to change your old face into this one by plastic surgery alone! Modern medicine isn't that good!” But in the high school classroom of a more-or-less real world, the inclusion of enchanted dogs and reincarnated magicians doesn't quite mesh with the rest of the story. It's humorous, but a little odd.
Ai Morinaga's drawings fit the story perfectly. Whether using broad, thick pen strokes to create the stocky pretransformation Reiichi or delicately waving lines for the hair of beautiful women, Morinaga tells the story in an easy, clear style. The art is occasionally flowery, as is typical in the shoujo genre, but it's never cluttered or baroque. It's not one of the great, memorable series, but it's an entertaining spin on a classic fairy tale.
The company that was publishing Duck Prince in America went under in 2009 after publishing four volumes of the series, but I do not believe this is the entire run. I think there were six books in Japan, but I don't have a firm confirmation of this yet.
3.5 out of 5 stars
To read more about Duck Prince, Vol. 1, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.