Tatsuya Endo has enjoyed a great deal of success over the last few years due to the enormous popularity of Spy × Family. However, Endo has been an active mangaka for over two decades at this point, with numerous series predating his famous spy comedy series. While his earlier works may have had a darker tone, you can see his spark in earlier works bringing them to life, which brings us to Blade of the Moon Princess. In my review of Blade of the Moon Princess Vol 1, you’ll see the beginnings of an underappreciated earlier work of his, for better and for worse.
Endo Knows How to Make a Lovable Protagonist
Blade of the Moon Princess begins taking place on the dark side of the moon in the Silver Court, where Princess Kaguya Takenouchi is next in line to become the Empress. It’s not an ideal situation for the Empress or her retainers, who are concerned by Kaguya’s irresponsible behavior. But she’s a teen who is only about to come of age, and you begin to see things from Kaguya’s perspective. She is a free spirit born with the misfortune of being expected to inherit the enormous responsibility of leading her people.
She’s not a prankster in the vein of Uzumaki Naruto or a kindly pirate like Monkey D. Luffy. Instead, she’s a royal heir who is aware of her difference in class from regular society, yet she still sees it as her responsibility to protect them as her subjects. When betrayal strikes her mother, Fujiya Takenouchi, with a rival branch of the ruling class staging a coup, Kaguya steps up and vows to become a worthy heir despite having to be sent away. In this, Endo knows how to make a lovable protagonist whose journey you can eagerly follow and relate to. It’s a coming-of-age tale with lots of action and comedy balanced in.
Blade of the Moon Princess Follows Some Familiar Story Beats
Focusing on the plot now, you might notice that the story is familiar when compared to certain other Western classics. The plot follows Kaguya, an irresponsible youth not ready to take leadership but yet is next in the line of succession, but is forced out of the kingdom when the Umenouchi branch attacks her mother. The coup is an effort to prevent her from passing down Futsunushi, the divine sword and symbol of the Silver Court, and seize it for themselves.
Kaguya escapes with this sword the only place far enough away from the court to be considered safe, The Tainted World, which you might recognize: it’s Earth. Here, Kaguya interacts both with Imperial Guard contacts stationed on the surface, and her royal subjects being harassed and exploited by the local nobles.
It’s here that Kaguya’s heroic journey begins, and numerous details of the plot might ring a bell. Blade of the Moon Princess follows some familiar story beats, particularly the plot of The Lion King, and both stories borrow elements from the premise of Hamlet. It’s not overt enough to call it derivative, but familiar enough to feel like an homage. The interesting part is how despite all this comparison, there is an intentional parallel throughout this manga, linking it with The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. Yet, this story still puts a wild twist on it, with Kaguya being attacked by “The Pursuitors” who are flamboyant assailants modeled after the five suitors of Kaguya-hime in Bamboo Cutter.
Exposition Can Weigh the Experience Down
Blade of the Moon Princess Vol 1 is great, but upon review, some aspects take you out of it as the reader, namely the exposition. It’s loaded with dialogue and explanation that is somewhat necessary for building this world and its story, but its execution was a touch overwhelming.
Much of the plot summary from above takes place in Chapter 1, with other chapters being lighter and shorter, yet still highly enjoyable. For readers looking to get into more manga from a great mangaka, exposition can weigh the experience down. But this is simply part of Tatsuya Endo’s charm, among other qualities.
The Art is Strong and Loaded With Personality
Endo’s characterization of Kaguya is evident in so many panels due to highly expressive body language and facial expressions along with her lines. She is undeniably the standout, and you see imprints of her personality in future Endo characters like Anya Forger, while aspects of her design shine through with Yor.
You see similarly expressive characters like the strong and loyal Miyatsukomaro, the scheming members of the Ume branch, and villagers like the young Tamakichi. It’s certainly Endo all over, but just from an earlier period with uneven, yet eager footing.
Blade of the Moon Princess is a fun read even if you’re unfamiliar with Tatsuya Endo’s recent work. Fans will enjoy this look into a previous series as well, with Princess Kaguya getting the attention she deserves in the West. It can be a bit tough getting through the first chapter, but you begin to see the winning combo of comedy and meticulous plots we all love from modern-day Endo as the story continues.
This review was made possible by VIZ Media, along with a complimentary copy of Blade of the Moon Princess Vol 1, available physically and digitally as of September 5, 2023.
- This article was updated on September 16th, 2023