Platinum Garden, volumes 1-6 / by Maki Fujita
Translated from the Japanese by Egan Loo. English Adaptation by Sarah Dyer.
Published in English by Tokyopop, 2006
First published in Japanese by Akita Publishing Co., 2001
1598163612 (volume 1)
Rated: 2.5/5 Stars
When Kazura is sent to live in Mizuki’s house, she learns that she’s really there to become his wife! Furious, Kazura tries to leave, but discovers that she was given as payment for her deceased grandfather’s debts. But things aren’t what they seem to be in this household–Mizuki can call back people’s souls, and Kazura wants him to bring back her grandfather! Maki Fujita’s shojo comedy is filled with delicious family secrets, dreamy high school romance, and plenty of spirited fun!
I picked up Platinum Garden to read because it’s on the next shelf that I’ve picked for my monthly bookshelf tours (video will go up beginning of April). My sister owns this series, and neither of us have finished reading it. Which I guess is okay, considering how it was dropped at the half-way point. There are still 7 volumes which never got an English release. She owns the first 6 volumes, which is what I’ll be discussing:
I remember picking up the first volume years ago… probably when she started buying it (in 2006) and being too bored to continue. I thought it would be a good time to try this again.
It was. I was pleasantly surprised by how good this title was. Was it great? No. It’s pretty average. But it’s better than I remember… and everything from story, art and translation improves as you progress into the later volumes.
The first volume is a train wreck. Here you are introduced to the characters, and the scenario. Poor writing, expected scenarios, weak art, and I’ll even say awkward translating. If this was all I judged the series on, I would say it is barely worth looking at.
It doesn’t help that the back cover (detail from GoodReads) is also completely misleading.
The surprise in the title (despite it being in the summary on the back) is Mizuki’s spiritual powers. There are no hints of it (except on the cover) that this title is going to have anything spiritual or fantastical in it. It suffers from a severe case of “tell” instead of “show”. There should have been hints, or some lead-up in the body of the series so that despite the “surprise” of the revelation, you aren’t also left feeling like it’s a lie. There’s no reason for Kazura to believe Mizuki has spritual powers at this point. And, it just isn’t believable for his character.
The other part of the scenario which is mentioned on the cover, is that Kazura wants Mizuki to revive her dead grandfather. I’ve read up through the first 6 volumes. There is no hint that this is even a remote possibility in Kazura’s mind. There are some reasons that Kazura wouldn’t consider asking Mizuki for this favour. I would discuss them, but they jump into spoiler territory.
So basically, the summary that was supposed to sell you the book, was completely misleading. Reading that, and jumping into the first volume, I can see why I was bored and uninterested to continue the first time around.
But, I’m glad I did continue. Though, none of the volumes rate higher than 3/5 stars for me, I did have fun reading it. Story, Art, Characters, and translation all improve significantly from volume to volume. And hidden among the expected scenarios, and tropes, there were a few surprising character-reactions and secrets that made the experience worthwhile.
What’s great about this series are the characters. The main two characters aren’t terribly likable in the first volume, and Mizuki seems downright abusive. But, they develop and gain a more believable reason for being the way they are by the third volume.
The heroine, Kazura’s personality wins people over. Because of her, they see the bad in themselves, and then want to change it. Kazura is a shining light. Surrounded in the darkness of Mizuki’s past, she is still able to reach people, and make true friends.
Over the first few volumes, she changes from a weak, undefined, and unlikable character and becomes a strong character who is both traditionally “girly” but also can stand up for herself… and the people around her. She’s not quick to judge, or to feel depressed. And despite the fact that she’s the quintessential shojo heroine (complete with failing grades) she’s not frustrating to read about.
But more so even than the main characters, the side characters, the enemies, the family members are all interesting and likable with their own quirks and special gifts. They are the primary reason I would recommend this series. Some of them, like Mizuki’s great-grandfather are truly wonderful creations.
Overall, I’d say there are some major flaws with the series. The worst offense, is that this 15 volume series was dropped (went defunct) at 8 volumes. It has major flaws, and there are significantly better series out there, but I had fun reading it.
I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to finish. I’m doubtful any publisher will be rescuing this series (even digitally), and if they did I would hope that they give it a bit of a makeover with a rewritten summary, and a new modern translation.
Is it worth your time? Maybe. If you don’t have high expectations, and you like standard 90s high school setting shojo manga, this might appeal to you. But incomplete at 8 volumes, I wouldn’t go out of my way to pick this up.
If you like this, you might also like:
- Fruits Basket / Natsuki Takaya *especially the supernatural content, and the scenario (incurably optimistic girl gets involved in/heals a family with deep hurts due to a cursed fate)
- Secret Sakura Shares / Akira Hagio *especially for the scenario (girl gets sold to wealthy young man to pay her family debts)