Definitely not a star.
Viz recently had a sale on almost all of its digital manga, likely in an effort to promote e-book sales (although figures for their digital sales are, by Viz’s reports, on a pretty stable growth curve since they introduced the format). I somehow managed to not go totally off-the-wall, buying madly left, right, and center, but I did pick up a few titles I was curious about, Backstage Prince’s first volume included… and, unfortunately, I have to say that, even on sale, this one sure as hell was not worth the money spent.
Backstage Prince stars Akari, a typical high school girl who is happy to point out her typical, average, plain-ness to the read right off the bat. One day at school, her friends are chatting about a classmate of theirs who is a kabuki actor, Ryusei, and, since this is manga, this leads to Akari accidentally smacking him with her schoolbag. Later on, also because this is a manga, Akari ends up at the kabuki theater, despite not being into kabuki at all, and gets taken on as Ryusei’s assistant. Apparently Akari is the only person Ryusei can stand! Which is a totally healthy basis for a romantic relationship, let me tell you.
So, further stuff happens, largely driven by cheap stabs at drama and the characters ever develop beyond being concepts. Akari is a bit cute (but she’ll remind you she’s actually soooooooooooooooo plain! and so boring! and so undeserving of such a hot guy!), the cat is cute, but that doesn’t really a manga make. Akari fails as a character because, despite spending most of the volume with her, I can’t at all imagine what she does when not on-page – she probably just goes into stasis until she’s needed on-page again. Ryusei fails as a character because he’s nothing more than a symbol, not at all a fleshed-out person. Supporting characters suffer from the same symptoms. And we’re supposed to cheer for Akari and Ryusei, except that there’s barely anything there at all – sure, they kiss, but one doesn’t get any feel for a spark betwixt the two… probably because, again, these teenagers aren’t really characters in the proper sense at all.
And let’s talk about the “cheap stabs at drama”, too. Every single instance of ~drama~ here is cleared up within a few pages of being introduced, denying the chance for each situation to carry any weight whatsoever. Every time, too, is driven solely by Akari deciding Ryusei must not actually love her or that he actually thinks she’s a pest, followed by her fleeing without bothering to talk to Ryusei. Sure, most of the time interpersonal issues tend to, in real life, be caused by lack of communication, but it gets really boring when the same thing happens again and again and again in one volume of manga, particularly when its the heroine telling us she sucks and so the hero must secretly despise her each and every time.
This volume isn’t helped, either, by the fact that its digital edition is left-to-right while the physical release was right-to-left – two-page spreads are cut in such a way that it is impossible to view them as a whole picture. This is one of the earlier titles out of Viz, but its irritating nevertheless for that sort of sloppiness.
When you get down to it, this manga was pretty crappy. The characters are shallow, things happen for utterly contrived reasons, and there’s a serious lack of chemistry between the leads. Even at the sale price of $3.99, I felt like it was a complete rip-off. There are so, so many other shoujo romances to choose from out there that you shouldn’t bother wasting your time on something as inferior as this.