Nina the Starry Bride Volume 1 Review

Readers may already be familiar with Nina the Starry Bride thanks to Kodansha having been releasing it digitally since early 2021. The series is also confirmed to be getting an anime adaptation and won the Kodansha 2022 Manga Award, which I suspect is what has driven the manga publisher to put this one into print. But does it live up to the hype that an in-coming anime generates? Let’s find out with Volume 1! 

Our story follows the orphan girl Nina, who has been living with two boys in the slum area of Dayah in Fortna. When one of the boys gets ill and passes away, Nina is betrayed by and sold into slavery by the remaining one. But these aren’t any ordinary slavers, they’re looking for someone to replace the dead Priestess Princess Alisha and Nina, with her rare and distinctive blue eyes, fits the bill perfectly! 

So Nina is whisked off to the court where she’s faced with Prince Azure, Alisha’s half-brother and the mastermind behind this replacement plot. Before her death, Alisha was due to be married off to the neighbouring country Galgada as a way of keeping the peace and that’s why Azure has been so desperate to find someone to take her place before people become aware of her death. As Alisha was training to become a Priestess, she hasn’t been in the public eye, which has bought Azure the time he needs to cover up her death. 

Now Nina has three months to learn how to dress and behave in a manner that’s befitting of a princess before she’s married off. Having been betrayed by the one person she cared about in the slums, our heroine doesn’t have anything in particular to return to so she’s willing to put the work into becoming Alisha. She spends her days being tutored and running around the court, often causing mischief with Crown Prince Muhulum, Azure’s younger half-brother who isn’t fond of Azure. 

Of course, it’s not all fun and games for Alisha. During her time at the court, it quickly becomes apparent that the current queen has it out for both Azure and Nina, something that has coloured Muhulum’s opinion of them both as well (although he does warm to Nina quickly). Could it be that she was the one behind Alisha’s murder…? 

Volume 1 of Nina the Starry Bride presents many questions that it’s not particularly interested in answering right now, but that’s not such a bad thing as most of its time is spent developing Nina. As a protagonist, she’s fun to watch over. She’s diligent in her studies, but also quite a tomboy with no interest in correcting some of her more troublesome habits (like jumping out of windows to go exploring while Azure’s not watching). The downside of so much time being spent on Nina is that we don’t get to see what makes Azure tick, which is a shame when he’s being set up as the love interest (despite the inbound marriage to Galgada).

Azure is one of the only people who knows Nina’s history and she often turns to him when she’s feeling lonely or upset that “Nina” will be forgotten as she becomes Alisha. He’s stoic and difficult to get a read on, which in turn makes it difficult for the reader to empathise with him. However, this was starting to improve by the end of this volume so I’m hoping this is a short-term issue. 

Mangaka Rikachi has quite a prolific history in Japan with more than a few long-running series under their belt with this one being their most recent and currently running. Knowing that, it’s surprising that Nina the Starry Bride has ended up being their debut in the English market, but also not a bad thing as this first title shows the experience Rikachi has built up since their debut series in 2004. This manga is set in a fictional country with a Middle Eastern influence, something the creator has put a lot of work into depicting. The outfits the cast wear in particular feel well-researched, with intricate designs. 

Of course, this is a Josei series (running in Kodansha’s Be Love) so there’s plenty of emphasis on Nina’s expressions, and on the romantic moments between her and Azure, although I will say that so far, they’re quite few and far between. On their website, Kodansha recommends this title for fans of The Ancient Magus’ Bride, The Apothecary Diaries and Snow White with the Red Hair. I’m not sure how this relates to the first one with it not being supernatural or set in England, but I can certainly see how Apothecary and Snow White fit with their lighter approach to the romance and respective settings. I think another good comparison would be Yona of the Dawn or Prince Freya. 

The fact there are so many recommendable titles that share similarities does speak to the fact that Nina the Starry Bride isn’t particularly original in its premise or execution, but that’s not a bad thing if this is the type of story you enjoy. For now at least, I think Nina’s character alone will hold your interest and I’m hoping as the rest of the story develops around her. this will become something quite special. 

As mentioned earlier, Nina the Starry Bride Volume 1 comes to the West, thanks to Kodansha. This release is translated by Steven LeCroy with lettering by Nicole Roderick who has taken over from Andrew Copeland who letters the digital edition. I’m not sure how it compares to the digital edition, which also has a different editor, but the print copy certainly reads well with no issues. No translation notes are included for this one, but there are some very pretty colour pages at the beginning. 

The series is ongoing in Japan with 12 volumes currently released there. Kodansha has released 11 of these into English so far digitally and in print #2 was released in December with #3 following in February. As is often the case for titles Kodansha has already released digitally, these are being released more or less bi-monthly at least up until #6 which is the latest in the schedule currently. 

Overall, Nina the Starry Bride Volume 1 is certainly not the most original series out there but it’s easy to see why it has been doing so well for Kodansha and was chosen for an anime adaptation. This is a work from an experienced creator, showcasing the attention to detail and skill that comes from that and making it a likeable work that will attract fans of the genre. One to keep an eye on for sure! 

A free preview can be read on Kodansha’s website here. 

Our review copy from Kodansha was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK. 

8 / 10


When she's not watching anime, reading manga or reviewing, Demelza can generally be found exploring some kind of fantasy world and chasing her dreams of being a hero.

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