A fan of European fantasies, mangaka Keiko Ishihara has brought her very own to life in her most recent manga Prince Freya, which sees a young girl thrust into the aftermath of a treacherous plot. Prince Freya Vol. 1 is published in English by Viz Media and translated to English by Emi Louie-Nishikawa, with touch-up and letter design by Sabrina Heep.
In Prince Freya Vol. 1, the debut of this new series, we meet the titular character Freya, a simple village girl who has been protected most of her life by her childhood friends, Aleki and Aaron. But, the world around her is not as calm as the village she lives in. As a part of the kingdom of Tyr, the village and its inhabitants are caught between the kingdom’s battle with Sigurd, which has slowly been conquering all the lands that share its borders. Now, having turned its eyes Tyr.
Over the course of Prince Freya Vol. 1, her idyllic life is shattered when she is caught up in the aftermath of a treacherous Sigurdian plot set to kill the kingdom’s Prince, Edvard, who Freya bears a striking resemblance to. Dying from poison, Prince Edvard’s death will leave Tyr to be quickly be engulfed by Sigurdian violence. It’s up to Freya to take Prince Edvard’s place and lead his valiant knights in defending the realm.
There are layers to Prince Freya Vol. 1 that meets shoujo expectations while also exceeding them. There are hints of romance that happen early on but as the plot thickens in the second chapter, the gravity of the situation hits. Like the main character in any shoujo series, Freya is delicate, she cries, and she’s seen as someone to be in constant protection from the men around her. This is a trope that I don’t like and what solidified my move away from shoujo and into shonen or seinen titles.
That said, Freya’s fragility is something that she buys into because she’s been allowed to all of her life. She is the damsel, the girl to be won and cherished, and we that very clearly with the small romance happening around her. Then, the tone of the story shifts and Ishihara pushes Freya to change. First, Freya takes on her duty. Second, trauma pushes her to confront her weakness, and to learn how to overcome her fears. While this is just the first volume, there is a lot of set up for good character growth, and while there are the common tropes of the genre, there is so much more laying to be revealed as this series continues.
Additionally, Ishihara’s art is wonderful, specifically when it comes to illustrating similar pairs and differentiating them slightly. This comes from the two brothers, Aaron and Aleki who are near twins, with hair near enough to be influenced by each other and features clearly showing relation. That said, they’re not spitting images of each other, something that is an issue I have with some brother arcs in manga. Then you have Freya and Prince Edvard. Ishihara is able to illustrate an androgynous prince without relying on tired tropes of femininity. Throw in the small differences between Freya as Edvard, and what we’re shown from him, and there is a nuance that is executed that relies on more than using the same facial models and concepts of gender.
But what I’m most intrigued by is the future combat scenes. There are a few moments in Prince Freya Vol. 1 that show violence in a way that is both graphic and yet subtle. Ishihara clearly understands blood and dismemberment and I can’t wait to see how the series progresses in terms of action even if its limited two moments per volume, like in here. That said, there is a softness to each page that the mangka breaks up by inserting a tiny gruesome moment, grounding Freya in her trauma, and showing the audience what is at stake.
Overall, Prince Freya Vol. 1 is so good, very good in fact. As the debut for a series, it packs in romance, intrigue, and high stakes that I didn’t expect just by looking at the cover and reading a somewhat familiar premise. I’m interested to see what happens next and volume 2 can’t come soon enough.
Prince Freya Vol. 1 is available at bookstores and online. To find out where to by, check out Viz.com.
Prince Freya, Vol. 1
Prince Freya Vol. 1 is so good, very good in fact. As the debut for a series it packs in romance, intrigue, and high stakes, that I didn’t expect just by looking at the cover and reading a somewhat familiar premise. I’m interested to see what happens next and volume 2 can’t come soon enough.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.