Playing the Dutiful Wife (Manga Edition)
Sometimes you get a D read that is so absolutely crackerpants that ultimately, it brings almost as much joy into your life as a DIK. Playing the Dutiful Wife is that D read.
Meg Hamilton is flying from Oz to LA to work for her parent’s real estate company, and her business class seatmate is Brazilian billionaire Niklas Dos Santos. In a blink of an eye we go:
- First meeting
- Heroine’s declaration of saving herself for marriage
- Mile High Club fingerbang (to distract the heroine from turbulence! Duh!)
- Diverted flight and Las Vegas quickie marriage.
- Wedding night
- Morning-after declaration by the groom that he never intends to see the bride again.
No joke, that’s what happens (the artist even comments in an epilogue, with admirable restraint, “It’s actually one of the most outrageous stories I’ve ever come across.”) Moreover, it happens in just 48 pages.
Flash forward a year and we find Niklas in prison for real-estate fraud, necessitating conjugal visits to smuggle in information, and before we get to the end we will meet a mistaken-identity identical twin and witness a murder. I spent most of the read like this:
We not only have a story that’s bananas, we have pacing that’s insane. Since graphic novel adaptations have less plot per page than a text one, they always fight an uphill battle not to be rushed in pacing. Harlequin brass dropped the ball here. A book with this much crammed into its first third simply isn’t the right choice for a manga adaptation.
What of the graphic/illustrations part of the read? I don’t hate the appearances of the main characters. I’m grateful the hero isn’t as scrawny as some manga heroes, and his wavy hair is distinctive. However, the artist didn’t do anything memorable or technically impressive. As far as sensuality level, there is upper-half female nudity but otherwise nothing graphic in the art.
I don’t like what Harlequin is doing with its layouts. Typically, Western graphic novels open like a regular book and read left to right – you start at the panel in the upper left and proceed across the page, then down. Japanese comics open starting with what would be the last pages of a Western book and read in reverse, starting with the upper right corner. In this book, Harlequin went with a mishmash: the book opens like a Western book, but you’re supposed to start reading in the upper right corner like a Japanese book. It’s confusing to be turning pages one way but then reading starting from the opposite corner, and it really prevented me from getting into a reading ‘flow’.
As AAR’s resident graphic novel fangirl, I felt I needed to check out the Harlequin comics. Much of the problem here was in the story, so I won’t give up on them just yet, but Harlequin has some work to do to convert me into a Harlequin Manga fan.