I find myself facing a bit of a dilemma with volume 2 of Kurohime. It’s essentially the same as the first volume in the series, and I suspect a lot of that is due to outside factors — for one, the comic switched publications while these particular episodes were being created. For those reasons, I’m inclined to go a little easier on it, but I need to be honest: all the same problems that were present in the first book have simply been recapped.
The premise: In a whacked-out world made up of bits and pieces of Asian mythology and the Wild West, young gunslinger Zero has pledged to protect and serve the legendary gunslinger with Kurohime (“Black Princess”) — now stuck in the body of a little girl, Himeko (“Princess Girl”) and minus most of her powers. Kurohime was, and is, a legendarily heartless creature who wants nothing more than to bend the whole of the male sex to her scheming will. Heaven doesn’t suffer such overarching ambition gladly, and so she has been cursed to appear as Himeko … except for those few moments when she feels real love. As you can guess, this isn’t something that happens very often, except when she realizes the depth of Zero’s love for her. The end result is a sort of infinite plot loop: Himeko needs to do something that requires Kurohime’s power; Zero manages to get Kurohime to manifest; problem solved; Kurohime gloats at her prowess over the male libido; gloating breaks the spell of love; back to square one.
Again, it’s a little hard to tell how much — or-whether or not — the series is developing, due to the fact that the series was essentially rebooted during the stories in this volume. The biggest problem I flagged before, though, is still persistent. If anything, it’s all the more pronounced this time out: the fact that the series mixes elements that appeal to two very divergent age groups. Shonen Jump’s age rating for the title is “older teen,” which seems about right: there’s enough “violence and suggestive content” to keep it out of the hands of the younger set, but older readers are going to be mildly annoyed at how juvenile the series feels.
I will say there’s a few cute new wrinkles this time out, both of which are if nothing else examples of how the series works best as a distraction and not as something really ambitious. I smirked at a chapter where Kurohime clashes with another witch — the “Candy Princess,” with her Hansel and Gretel-esque castle of confections — and I confess more than a little of that smirking was due to Kurohime turning up in a maid-café outfit at the end of the chapter. I also enjoyed the appearance of Saika, another self-appointed hero who literally rides in on a white horse and competes with Zero for Kurohime’s attention — but he quickly goes from being an original story element to a mere tool of the plot. Oh, Kurohime, you terrible tease, promising so much and yet so rarely delivering …
I was iffy about Kurohime before, and I’m twice as iffy now. Originally, I was dubious about the way it freely intermixed things that seemed to be aimed at two entirely different age groups. Now I’m dubious about whether it’ll stop repeating itself long enough to add up to anything more than a cute diversion. Maybe next volume, after the series's reboot issues have been pushed out of the way, things’ll finally start to ramp up.