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Nessa's Thoughts

Just a British girl who reads a bit too much.

Currently reading

The Dead Zone
Stephen King
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby
Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
Samuel Richardson, Angus Ross
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Piper Kerman
The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith
Stepping on Roses, Vol. 1 - Rinko Ueda Oh Stepping on Roses... You've got such a pretty cover and it makes you look just like a cheesy, silly romance manga. Aww, look at our pretty blonde heroine, embracing that stoic heart-throb with a marvellous jaw. They must be in head over heels for each other!...Far from it, actually.Now, even when I was a huge fan of shoujo manga, I never, ever understood why so many girls fell in love with the 'bad boy' characters. Typically in shoujo romance series, you'll have a love triangle, with one nice guy and one guy who is a bit of an arse, really. The guy in the latter category will casually insult our heroine, who may or may not run off and bemoan the fact that she can't just cut this idiot out of her life, because she's so certain he's her fairytale Prince Charming, or something like that. And of course, the nice guy always tends to finish last. Go read Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers) if you don't believe me. Don't worry, I'll wait.Back yet? Wow, you read fast. :PWhatever the case, I thought I was in for a silly, fluffy shoujo romp when I first picked up Stepping on Roses, also known by its Japanese name, Hadashi de Bara wo Fume.Set in the Meiji period, our main character is a girl named Sumi Kitamura. She's your average girl from the era, but unfortunately her brother is a bit of an idiot. He has a habit of rescuing orphans... and gambling. This means the Kitamura is not only large, but also extremely poor. One day, she cannot afford medicine for one of her sisters, and is reduced to begging on the street. That is, until a kindly stranger hands her the money to buy the medicine. Soon after this, a loan shark then comes to Sumi's house, demanding money from her brother, and he threatens to come back in the morning and sell all the young children into slavery if Sumi or her brother haven't raised the money by then. In her desperation, Sumi heads to the red light district. But just when she thinks all hope is lost, a rich man named Souichirou Ashida shows up. But he's not just buying her for the night, oh no, he's buying her hand in marriage and basically giving her a good monthly wage and anything she wants so she can pretend to be his wife. While this may seem like a dream come true to a poor girl with many mouths to feed, Sumi is not allowed to return home and must be a good wife to Souichirou. But on no account is she allowed to fall in love with him.I suppose it's an interesting take on your typical romance tale. Sumi is introduced to a world that is completely different from anything she has previously experienced. It's every girl's dream to marry an extremely rich man, but of course not to be pulled out of the gutter and forced into it to satisfy some business deal. (If I remember correctly, Souichirou was not allowed to inherit his family's business unless he found a wife.) This creates some amusing scenes of culture shock. In the Meiji era, lots of Western ideals were brought into Japan and Stepping on Roses makes us aware of quite a few of them: living in European-style houses, eating with a knife and fork, even wearing Western clothes and having a Christian wedding. Sumi is absolutely hopeless at all of these, and it's actually funny and appropriate for the time rather than being an annoying character trait.However, soon after Sumi is married to Souichirou, another character named Nozomu enters the fold. Nozomu actually felt a lot like your typical 'nice guy' in a shoujo. Always friendly and polite, always has something positive to say about the heroine... but Nozomu also happens to be horribly obsessive. Yeah. That's what I'd expect Souichirou to be like, but Souichirou is actually quite sweet once you get to know him. It's certainly a compelling role reversal, with the nice guy being a creep and the bad boy is being a sweetheart. I give the manga points for that, I haven't seen that kind of relationship done before... at least not in the shoujo manga I've read.The art is also gorgeous. I particularly love how Sumi's eyes are drawn, and the attention to historical detail that Rinko Ueda has included – whether it's a kimono, a Japanese-style house, a European-style house, or just the landscape of 19th century Japan in general. I've read her previous series, Tail of the Moon, and that had all the right elements of action, history, and romance, so I'm really interested in reading the next few volumes to see how the story pans out. My main problem with the manga is that it's just too fluffy. While I like historical romance as much as the next person, once Sumi and Souichirou are married, there's a lot of filler when I feel that a little bit more story would have benefited the general flow of the manga. Ah well, the first volume's going to be getting a 3.5/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://book-wyrm.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/hadashi-de-bara-wo-fume-stepping-on.html)