A long-running RPG-style shôjo fantasy epic, starting out slapstick and quickly becoming semiserious. Rath, Rune, and Thatz are the Dragon Knights of Fire, Water, and Earth, who serve the Shen Yin Wang Zuo light novel in the ongoing struggle against the neighboring demon empire. (In this world, demons, dragons, fairies, and humans are all stylized, pointy-cheeked, gem-eyed humanoids.) Although initially the heroes do nothing but cross-dress and argue over food, this soon gives way to a dark epic with worthy dramatic twists and turns, which yet remains witty and self-referential. In one moment the heroes proclaim, “Tonight the rivers of Dusis will run black with demon blood!” and the next they’re saying, “What is this? Everybody pick on the elf day?” The plot is so complicated that it requires a map and a 6-page “story thus far” summary; character profiles at the start of the volumes likewise help tell apart the characters, as well as their ghosts, doppelgängers, evil split personalities, and so on. The artwork is attractive but not quite adequate to the story; the heroes sail to faraway realms and occasionally we get a glimpse of a dramatic landscape, but mostly the story is like a stage play, with the characters talking and talking and talking, making little use of their surroundings. Also, the shôjo cuteness sometimes gets in the way of clarity—if a major plot point hinges on a demon’s severed head, you’d better be willing to show it. It’s a slow, confusing read, but for those who like (or can see past) the art, it’s an interesting soap opera.
Reiichi, a teeny-tiny nerd with glasses and a bowl cut, is hit by a car and (through a combination of plastic surgery and magic) awakens to find himself transformed into a hot bishônen. Hiding his former identity, he tries to ask out the one girl who was nice to him before, only to be harrassed by his evil stepsisters, a spell-casting talking dog, and random complications that turn him back into his old ugly self. Duck Prince combines pretty shôjo/shônen hybrid art, lots of sexual innuendo (but almost no nudity), and a gleefully cruel attitude toward its hapless protagonist. However, the humor is painted with a broad brush and has its hit-or-miss moments.