A mysterious and beautiful young woman with a hypnotic singing voice named Ai finds herself waking up lost on the cold, hard streets of Tokyo with no memory of who she is or why she's there. She must go on a journey to search for her identity and salvation in this world and beyond. She must piece together clues about who she is, why she's on earth, and the secret of the seemingly deadly heart-shaped box she carries.
Princess Ai Monogatari was created and co-written by American musician and singer Courtney Love and Stuart Levy, the founder of North American publisher and licensor Tokyopop. Mangaka Ai Yazawa provided character designs. The series is a loose adaptation of Courtney Love's life story.
Tokyopop published the series in English as Princess Ai from July 6, 2004 to February 6, 2006. A sequel titled Princess Ai: The Prism of Midnight Dawn has been published since December 9, 2008.
This manga was made at the time when companies like Marvel, Tokyopop, and others were trying to break into the manga craze with titles like Peach Fuzz and the X-Men manga. They imitated Japanese manga, did not understand manga, nor its appeal to western manga fans. Most of these titles were a cross between manga and comic books that were not really either, revolting both American comic book fans and manga fanatics alike. This left little to no audience willing to purchase these products as they lacked both eastern and western identity, possessing only an awkward, uncanny mash-up of something in between. Thus, most of
these titles, were both critical and financial failures.
Princess Ai, on the other hand, was not. Most western manga was imitative, but Ms. Love brought her own voice to this manga. A blend of fantasy, lolita fashion, and autobiography, she writes about Princess Ai, who is the thinly-veiled authoress herself, and Kent, based off of her late husband, Kurt Cobain, as they work to figure out who she is and how she came to Tokyo, all the while falling and love and becoming idol-singers.
It was in turns, to my young self, interesting because of who wrote it, a well-known, controversial figure, its lolita fashion, its music, its art, its magic, and most of all for its seemingly doomed, but deep love story, which I, even then, knew was written based off an entirely true and tragic story of a talented, young singer's suicide.
It has been over 10 years since I read this manga, and though I no longer remember most of the details of it, I do remember the feelings I felt while reading it and for that, I believe it to be a great book. So where all others failed at making western manga, I believe Princess Ai, Ms. Love, and her talented artist, Kujiradou Misaho, all succeeded. It is a truly touching tale that I recommend to anyone in the mood for something very different from a very unlikely person. Courtney Love may be a controversial figure, but for this manga, I loved her as a child.