Readers may recognise author Koushi Tachibana and illustrator Tsunako as the team that created the light novel series Date A Live, which has numerous anime projects under its belt and ran for 22 volumes. Now the duo return with the new series King’s Proposal, but does it prove an entertaining read? Let’s take a look!
The story follows Japanese high school student Mushiki Kuga, who is on his way home one day when he stumbles across a beautiful wounded woman. Having been attacked, this stranger is mortally wounded and the culprit still lurks in the shadows. Unfortunately for Mushiki, now he’s a witness he’s also destined to meet an untimely demise and ends up being stabbed before he even knows what’s happening.
Luckily for Mushiki, the woman is Saika Kuozaki, the most powerful mage in existence and to save both their lives, she merges her body with Mushiki. When he regains consciousness he finds himself in her body, in a room he doesn’t recognise and is told he’s the headmaster of an academy for mages! Worse still, Mushiki learns that the world is regularly attacked by “Annihilation Factors”, events that could destroy the world if left unchecked. In fact, the Earth has been destroyed many times; it just turns out that for aeons, mages have been working hard to thwart the Annihilation Factors – if done in time, any damage and human deaths are reverted to before the event, so people are none the wiser that anything ever happened.
Mushiki might have inherited Saika’s body and her powers but, understandably, he has no real control over them yet. This means the world is at considerable risk of being wiped out. If that wasn’t bad enough, Saika’s killer is still out there somewhere and once they learn their target didn’t die, they’re sure to come back to finish the job! To keep Saika’s body safe until they can split apart, Mushiki is enrolled in the academy so he can learn how to use his magic but that brings with it its own trouble as he must flawlessly pretend to be Saika. And that’s hard enough as it is, but it just so turns out that Mushiki’s sister Ruri Fuyaioh (their parents divorced when they were young hence the different last names) is also in Mushiki’s new class and she both loves her brother and admires Saika, so there’s every chance they will realise the truth…
I have never seen or read Date A Live, but reading King’s Proposal, it’s easy to see why Koushi Tachibana’s work is so popular. On the surface, this is your fairly average magic academy and/or body swap story, but there’s a lot of detail here in terms of world-building that rewards the reader for sticking with it for the whole book. I like that this is set on Earth, but magic is an unknown quantity that the masses know nothing about. It’s a trope the likes of which many of us will have seen before (Harry Potter, anyone?), but it helps us get used to Mushiki and his new environment because he has an excuse to be clueless and learn about all this alongside the reader.
Mushiki’s personality is fairly earnest and while it would be reasonable to be overwhelmed when your world is turned upside down like this, instead he pushes onwards, eager to protect Saika whom he’s fallen in love with. Yes, it was love at first sight when he first stumbled upon her bleeding out in the street and he doesn’t want to see the world lose someone so beautiful (and important). This exasperates Kuroe Karasuma, Saika’s attendant and the only one who knows about Mushiki’s personality, but it makes Mushiki a likeable lead.
The main issue with Volume 1 is that it’s largely set-up and only gets to the most interesting stuff 50~ pages from the end when the situation changes quite dramatically. That’s forgivable since I was enjoying myself the whole way, but it does mean that if you want to see what King’s Proposal really has to offer, then you have to be willing to be on the hook for another volume. Another problem is that Ruri appears to be quite in love with her brother and while it’s clear Mushiki only has eyes for Saika, that’s still an element I think we could have done without and will put some readers off, even if it’s clear that ship isn’t sailing.
King’s Proposal Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press under their Yen On imprint. It’s translated by Haydn Trowell and the translation largely reads well, although there are repeated instances early on where the female characters are introduced and the description focuses on their eye shape and lips in exactly the same vocabulary. It’s quite repetitive in a short space of time and while that’s an issue with the author rather than the translator, I do think some small variations in wording would have alleviated the issue. But that’s just as much on an editorial team to figure out too, so there are a few different places this could have been fixed.
As usual for Yen Press, this release includes colour pages. Tsunako’s art is largely limited to character profiles for this volume, but given it’s a school setting and there are a lot of characters in the mix, it’s nice to have visuals for the main cast.
This series is ongoing in Japan with five volumes so far. Yen Press has released three in English, with #4 currently not scheduled which suggests a significant break ahead of us. Still, having that much available already is going to offer more than enough for readers to make up their minds on how they feel about this one.
Overall, King’s Proposal Volume 1 gets off to an interesting start. Fans of Koushi Tachibana’s work and newcomers alike will certainly not be disappointed with what is shaping up to be a polished fantasy series. This release may be largely set-up, but it’s clear that our patience will be rewarded in the books to come.
Our review copy from Yen Press was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK.