Slow down, friend. The following content is incredibly perverted.
This manga is 18+, not safe for work, and is really rather sexual.
Should you be pure of heart, avert thine eyes.
This manga is “about” many things, but this right here is probably my favorite aspect.
Joou-sama no Eshi (女王様の絵師, Queen’s Artist) is a strange manga by author Watashiya Kaworu (私屋カヲル), a rather (in)famous mangaka to be sure. Undoubtedly, her best known work is Kodomo no Jikan, but this isn’t a Kodomo no Jikan review (that link is), so just consider that my acknowledgment of facts. Besides, the two series just about only share “surface” elements of “lots of sexuality” and “teacher/student dynamics”. Joou-sama no Eshi kind of defies me when I attempt to describe it. It’s not a complicated series, per se, but rather there are quite a few simple and easily relatable elements to it. Like, really, it’s a lot. It’s a lot, and the direction wanders… You see, Watashiya-sensei is an author without any reservations. This means that she can create very unique stories simply because she’s not worried at all about breaching uncomfortable subjects. It also means she shall do as she pleases with her manga, such as switch narrative perspective and plot direction in a whimsical manner. As a result, even though I’m going to launch into review of this series in just a moment, I’ll tell you right now that I’m not quite sure:
- Where the manga is going, to date.
- Who the main character is.
- If there is actually a “theme” at all.
- Whether or not it’s actually a yuri series.
I enjoy this manga very much. It’s surprisingly emotional — especially to myself as a writer, since the subject of motivation is regularly addressed — and it’s incredibly funny, I think. The things the characters say and the ways they act are so bold and insane that not cracking a smile is very difficult. But god damn, this review is going to be tricky.
The manga begins with our four major characters, who I have only just realized were perhaps never formally introduced — offhand, their names almost escaped me. They are Fujimaki (Fujii), Sarina, Yukimori, and “Miyaji” — respectively, they are a fledgling and horrible artist, a rich girl who is a “fashionable” poseur, a sadist high school girl who is the titular character, and an…interesting teacher.
Like I said, I don’t know who among these is the main character. Most of the time, I’d say it’s Miyaji, but that’s certainly not clear from the beginning. The series starts with the two “queens” of a high school class, Sarina and Yukimori, who both are vaguely sadistic (or so it seems), giving you an impression that perhaps the series will be about the clashing between these two. Fujii shows up as well, and in a way that might make you think he’s the protagonist (he declares a dream/aspiration he has (to be an ero (porn) mangaka) before a scene change), but this is all wrong. Miyaji looks like a complete side character and remains such until about chapter 6. So, if the story and cast are so unclear for what is presently about a third of the series, what can I say about this third?
I can tell you that the beginning of the series primarily works to set up the atmosphere of the manga, because the premise it sets up, while it is followed through, it’s not exactly followed through in anything like a typical manner. Before I get into that: the atmosphere. The four major characters of Miyaji, Fujii, Yukimori, and Sarina all make big and notable impressions shortly after they’re introduced. You immediately get a sense that there is more to Sarina than her gal/gyaru-ish, “popular girl” ways, you see that Yukimori is a huge sadist and is very perverted (see above, where she is actually in school), you see that Fujii is a dumbass with much too much a wealth of passion, and you see that Miyaji never gives a fuck.
However, these things are all just not quite right, and however still it takes a bit of time before we get the truth of matters. Honestly, the “plot” of the first few chapters did nothing for me with this series, and it is still not really an appeal. The characters, too, seemed like they may be too simple or something. These impressions were exacerbated by things not changing terribly much and for a while. Do note, though, that what I am saying here isn’t actually complaint. Instead of being bothered by these impressions, I just thought they weren’t really remarkable. What kept me reading was the character interaction, specifically basically any time Miyaji was on-page. Certainly, the premise we get from chapter 1 is a little bit of an amusing idea, but Miyaji’s casual dismissal of his students is riotous. The premise is that Fujii will start making porn for Yukimori with the intention of arousing her. This could be a titillating prospect, except Fujii’s artistic prowess is abysmal.
And now to try to twist things and explain what I think Queen’s Artist is really about without using too many words. I’ve implied with what I’ve written so far that there is more to this premise and to these characters. That is so. In actuality, Sarina has a crush on Fujii and a desire to be considered “normal”, and Fujii (while still foolish) comes at his dreams with entirely earnest intentions — wanting to help his poor family by making millions in the manga industry (the unlikelihood of this cannot pierce his barrier of naivety). Yukimori and Miyaji will take more talking about. Honestly, although Sarina looks like a main heroine and Fujii looks like a protagonist, early on a shift occurs and it’s incredibly obvious that Yukimori and Miyaji are the most important members of the cast. Yes, sure, Yukimori’s the title character (the “queen”), but it’s not as if she had much interest in Fujii, so the relationship proposed at the end of chapter 1 doesn’t feel like much. Really, she only demands porn from him in exchange for helping him not drop out of school from bad grades.
Now her relationship with Miyaji, that’s interesting. To give you some context before I initiate full analysis mode, after Yukimori makes an art slave out of Fujii, the two want to make a manga club at school to get money for art supplies. Miyaji (who is secretly only a temp teacher, not a staffed one) is someone they go to hoping he’ll back them up and make the club legitimate by being their adviser. They know Miyaji would never agree to it so they don’t ask at first, but by happenstance they manage to discover that he’s actually a professional-tier artist. He seems to be keeping this a secret, although staring at the fledgling Fujii and the slavedriving Yukimori who spurs him casts a few stray sparks into the teacher’s heart, alighting once more some old and long-faded flames.
Miyaji is a cynical failure (a mangaka who enjoyed success and then fell, hard) and Yukimori is a cynical outcast (a lesbian, something which becomes increasingly obvious, who had to leave her last school because of her sexuality). Whether they admit it or not, through their actions it’s shown that the two are attracted to one another — not necessarily romantically or physically, but just raw chemistry and interest. I think there’s a strong reason that although chapter 1 ends with Yukimori and Fujii, the cover of volume 1 shows Yukimori and Miyaji (furthermore, volume 2 pairs Sarina and Fujii instead). I believe if you could call anyone main characters, it would be Miyaji as MC (and the titular “queen’s artist”) and Yukimori as the main heroine. That said, this part of the series is such a tangled web I almost don’t want to set about unraveling it for explanation. But, well, I’ll try to do my best.
First I’ll say that soon enough Miyaji decides to advise the new manga club secretly (he has especially good reason to keep it secret — I’ll suggest what that is later), with Sarina bringing the member count to three by joining as a writer (by the way, Yukimori basically does nothing, but it’s hard to not follow her very commanding presence). With this happening, we learn 1) of Yukimori’s homosexuality (although she says she’s actually attracted to “cute”, so young boys are favored as well), which manifests as an interest (a very aggressive interest) in Sarina 2) about Sarina’s crush on Fujii, which arises in the form of rape fantasies in many cases (she apparently would like to be dominated) 3) that Fujii used to crush on Sarina but doesn’t exactly now 4) that Sarina is starting to return Yukimori’s interest, maybe and 5) that Miyaji is kind of interested in Yukimori (who may be interested in him??), except he has erectile dysfunction.
These relationship shenanigans are at once pretty significant and also completely made light of (except when Yukimori and Miyaji are together, the two that are basically stated to have the least likely spark of romance). I feel I have to mention them because this unignorable ball of one-sided or otherwise unspoken crushes in contrast really make it clear how special Yukimori and Miyaji are. Yukimori recruits Miyaji allegedly because he’s a “born loser”, and Miyaji is fascinated by Yukimori who seems so very free and unfettered, and also strong as hell in spirit but clearly physically weak (a contrast that really hits him for some reason). The two of them reveal a lot of secrets to one another and often chat about many problems with themselves or society, and a unique bond seems to form. Miyaji, who…well, still mostly doesn’t give a fuck about things, now gives more fucks because with Yukimori’s plans and pushing and prying into his past, Miyaji has basically felt alive again. As for Yukimori, she starts the manga as a recalcitrant bitch, but is presently a very happy and somewhat more sociable bitch after this whole manga ordeal.
There is a lot I am ignoring by focusing on these two, by the way. I didn’t speak lightly when I said there was a lot to this series. For example, there’s the enormously amusing ever-present task of Fujii trying to understand what’s arousing so he can draw better porn — and his evolving sexuality. For that matter, there’s Yukimori and Sarina getting weirdly close and making me think “yuri?” but Sarina still possesses her feelings for Fujii. OR there’s the fluctuating social dynamics of masculine and feminine types (Fujii often acts “girlish”). The reason I focus on Miyaji and Yukimori is not only because I think Miyaji is bloody fantastic and I want to see where he and Yukimori ultimately go with their curious bond, but also because with these two, and specifically Miyaji, we can find the closest thing to a “message” in this series. Because yes, beyond the fanservice
beyond the completely off-the-wall humor
and beyond the lesbian tangents
we have a warm and beating heart, thumping out the idea of “pursue your creative goals and grasp them; push through the stagnating cling of failure and down the walls of stifling censorship formed of misguided benevolence; pump blood through your veins to feel, once more, the elation and bliss of putting pen to paper”.
Holy fucking shit this series is motivating.
You would not expect this from starting the series, although you get hints of it around chapter 6. Watashiya-sensei is a mangaka, yes? So by default she’ll have experience in the industry. What she also is, though, is a very controversial mangaka. It’s probable that few others have quite the experience with creating what you really want to create so much as her. Kodomo no Jikan is an excellent manga, but it contains a swell of content many would find offensive, even if it serves the themes and characters well. Queen’s Artist is much less controversial, sure (it has its moments), but once Miyaji and Fujii really start getting into the swing of things with their artistic pursuits, the criticism and shitflinging toward the (ero)manga industry, and the society that shaped it into its modern state, comes fast, hard, and brutally honest.
You can tell very easily, through all of Queen’s Artist‘s questionable pacing and breaks for humor, that Watashiya loves this manga, and really that she loves manga in general. That she loves creative pursuits and the ideal of making something, no holds barred, by your own hands. Queen’s Artist is about many things, but this right here — this love and want — is certainly my favorite aspect. This is a series where an artist who thoroughly got chewed up and spit out through the system attempts to once more remember why he’d tried all of that in the first place, and seeing this mostly cynical dick getting all happy and joyful that he’s making manga again might make you want to make something, should you be a creative sort (worked on me). Furthermore, his recognizing of the problems holding back true expression just stokes the fires of that motivation, serving as a reminder that you really shouldn’t let anyone dictate what you want to make or do, from drawing controversial works to drawing at all.
It feels as if Queen’s Artist is Watashiya-sensei’s rallying cry to everyone else to basically be like her and do whatever you want, damn the consequences (and that there shouldn’t even be consequences in the first place). However, explaining that is, as you can see, very difficult. This message is definitely here, and it’s loud and clear, but there are many distractions — worse, amusing distractions that almost make the series lose focus. Even after all my writing just now, I can’t say even I’m convinced of my own argument. The manga is somewhat schizophrenic. I like it, seriously, do not get me wrong because honestly it’s almost all highly entertaining even when it’s not trying to motivate me to get off my ass and create something, but I wish I was able to sell it to others with more ease so they, too, could see what they’re missing by not picking this series up. Well, that’s what this review is, I suppose. I really do hope that it helps.
In summary, I want to say that there are many things to like about Queen’s Artist, and that even if the voice of motivation doesn’t reach out to you, there’s much more here that can make you laugh or feel things (in your heart or even in your pants). That art is extremely good, for instance. I may not be sure where this manga is headed, but I have liked near all I’ve seen so far. It goes without saying; I highly recommend this.
Right now Watashiya Kaworu-sensei is, in conjuction with an English publisher, trying to get her series Kodomo no Jikan onto Western shores via a Kickstarter campaign. Check that out if you’re interested; Kodomo no Jikan has some interesting history with Western publishing. Maybe I’ll talk about it one day.
But yeah, that’s that. I’d like to apologize to any readers who have noticed that I have a consistent release schedule of 5pm on release days, but today I am releasing with an hour left until tomorrow. I am sorry about this, but I was busy starting up a visual manga podcast show, and it took away my attention. I was not going to rush out this review, however, and so have spent the last long while writing it. I really do hope you enjoyed it. I am hoping my next review will be timely. Next time, it’ll be something EVEN MORE perverted. Now, until then, tootles.
Watashiya Kaworu’s Bookwalker author page: [link]
Kodomo no Jikan