Once upon a time, there was a ruler of a small Kingdom who was burdened with the task of running the Kingdom at an early age. This ruler was the ideal monarch who was a natural leader. This ruler's only fault, if you can call it that, was a fetish for women with long straight luscious black hair.
Now imagine that the setting is the present, and that this ruler was a young beautiful Queen.
Welcome to the party, you have just entered the world of Iono-sama Fanatics! Come and lose yourself in a world of dazzling women as a Queen sets out to add gorgeous Japanese women with long straight black hair to her collection of lady escorts! With guns, swords, cars, politics, beauty pageants and exotic women, there's no way you can lose!
Everyone has a series or two that, by rights, they should have no reason to enjoy yet, much to their surprise, they find the opposite is true. Iono the Fanatics (or Iono-sama Fanatics), is one of mine.
The manga was created by Fujieda Miyabi, a well known shoujo ai and yuri mangaka, and originally serialised in Dengeki Teioh, the now defunct special edition version of Dengeki Daioh, from April 2004 to November 2006. Fans of the series were pleasantly surprised to find that Iono the Fanatics was far removed from the stereotypical shoujo ai or yuri setting, and that the series as a whole was a
far cry from the likes of Strawberry Panic or Maria-sama ga Miteru.
This is not your typical yuri or shoujo ai manga.
The story is, to be completely honest, nothing special at all. The idea of the ruler of one country going to another to find a new wife/concubine is fairly common after all (think "knight in shining armour"), however where Iono the Fanatics starts to deviate from the norm is in making the ruler a queen. This is no ordinary waif who's inherited the throne though. Iono Mito Archeline (which for some reason is sometimes written Arshurain), is a very different queen, and is more reminiscent of Tamaki Suoh from Ouran High School Host Club.
Since this is quite a short series (only 13 chapters - yes, I know it says 12 but there's a chapter 0 as well), I won't go into any real detail about the story. Suffice to say that, whilst the initial premise is quite common, Fujieda has added various twists to it, with the finished item being very quirky, funny, and enjoyable. The stereotypes are all there, but how they're used is one of the best things about this manga.
The artwork is very simple throughout the manga. There's a certain clinical feel to the finish of what few backgrounds there are, especially as the detail on them is on the spartan side. That said, this method does focus the readers attention of the characters who are very well drawn, and have a unique feel to them. There are a number of characters here, the goth-loli, the meganekko, the ninja maid, the trap, etc, and all are presented in a very simple manner that serves to increase the charm of this series.
As fo the characters themselves, they are without doubt the biggest plus for the series. I absolutely adore Iono. Her sunny disposition, together with her poise and indefatigable spirit make for some extremely funny moments, especially during her attempts to woo sobame (kind of a cross between a maid and a concubine). My one problem with her though, is that I can't decide whether she's as haplessly innocent as Tamaki Suoh, or the most ingenuously evil character since Guu.
Her entourage in Japan are individuals in every sense, and the 4 koma from chapter 0 simply adds to their charm. Each of the characters is fleshed out to a small degree, however the main focus of the series isn't to develop the character, but simply to have fun with them. In that respect it succeeds.
I have to admit I had some trepidation about this manga when I first came to read it, especially as I wasn't familiar with any of Fujieda's work. It's both surprising and pleasing to find that the series pushed many of the right buttons with me with it's quirkiness, humour, and overall feelgood attitude. The tongue-in-cheek comedy is coupled with some slapstick, and some dryness which, when added to the depiction of the characters or scene, makes this possibly the most charming yuri/shoujo ai title I have read to date.
This is definitely one for fans of yuri, shoujo ai, or harem romances of any kind. Fans of the more charming slice of life stories like Amanchu, Aria, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, etc, as well as those who like a their comedy a bit more quirky than the norm, may also find themselves enjoying the manga.
You don't have to like yuri or shoujo ai to appreciate this manga, and that's one of it's biggest strengths. The story is accesible to anyone, and there is virtually no ecchi, with any sexual content being either inferred, or mocked entirley.
And for those of you who can't stand yuri or shoujo ai, give this a try. It might not be what you expect at all.
A short and (mostly) sweet yuri series for which you have to crank your suspension of disbelief pretty high, but it's entertaining if you can. The titular Iono is the young Queen of some small nation somewhere who is constantly on the hunt for more young women to bring back to her nation as her concubines; she already has hundreds if not thousands, but her appetites are insatiable. Deciding she doesn't have enough dark-haired beauties in her harem, she visits Japan and is captivated by young Eto; the series follows her pursuit. Iono is a very aggressive suitor indeed.
The series features no
men in other than background, and little angst about the characters' homosexuality. There's a certain degree of fanservice, but given the genre, surprisingly little; we always cut away before anything remotely racy is shown, and a lot of things are left implied rather than explicit.
As a short series, there's a little disappointment that there's not more; one gets the feeling of caring about the characters by about the point where the whole thing comes to an end. I was especially left wanting more of Iono's driver and the noodle girl, and other supporting cast.
Within limitations this series is a lot of fun although not all that serious or believable.