Gleam has a lot of potential thanks to its heroine, but the way the world and its large cast of characters are introduced hurts Volume 1.

Gleam Volume 1 ReviewTitle: Gleam
Genre: Action, mystery
Publisher: Cross Infinite World (US)
Story/Artist: Aya Shirosaki
Serialized on: Manga Airport
Translation: Charis Messier
Original Release Date: March 15, 2017
Review copy provided by Cross Infinite World

My first thought after finishing Gleam?

“Hmmmmm…”

Did I like it? Did I not like it? I wasn’t sure. It’s as vague as being told to make something 20% cooler. So I reread Gleam to get my second first impression. The result:

“Hmmmmm…”

Set in modern times, the popular and gifted princess of the fictional kingdom Steliol, Salia, goes to Japan to study abroad. The school she attends includes student Lei and teacher Tomo, CIA agents now assigned to protect Salia. They and others around her all wonder the same thing: why has Salia come to Japan? What does she know that they don’t?

While the official summary makes it seem like this is going to center around Salia and the two men who guard her, there are a lot of characters and a lot of thorny situations. It’s a lot to take in.

I’ll start with the former. While Tomo and Lei grace Gleam Volume 1‘s cover, two other guys also seem like they’re going to be playing large parts in the story. I guess Gleam is also going to be a reverse harem and not just a love triangle. In fact, the only other female of significance is a maid with a special ability.

In addition, the list of potential antagonists is already pretty large. At least three people (who aren’t working together) would love to shake things up without Salia interfering. It would be one thing if Salia knew a strange organization was targeting her life and was suspicious of everyone. Here, though, it’s obvious she knows everything and is keeping things to herself. It’s just a lot to take in considering this is only the first volume.

Salia is pretty much someone every little girl and boy has dreamed of being: a beloved royal heir with beauty, brains, bravery, benevolence, and probably bestowed with special abilities. In fact, she already did a darn fine job of defending herself when confronting a couple gunmen. Her one weakness? Another b: blood.

Gleam Volume 1
Don’t mess with Salia.

But while it would be easy to dismiss Salia as a Mary Sue, I think she really shines when she’s thinking about her younger brothers. A lot of the conflict may be around Steliol’s politics, but it certainly isn’t because of tension between a good and evil heir to the throne. Lots of heroines treasure their families, but it physically pains Salia to be separated from her siblings.

Out of all the guys, Lei seems to be the main male character. He’s the youngest CIA agent in history and is a capable bodyguard despite his seemingly lackadaisical attitude. Other characters remark that he and Salia are alike, and I hope we do see a couple who aren’t total opposites. Tomo also appears to be a no-nonsense type of guy, but his interactions with Salia’s aide are hilarious. It’s this type of characterization I hope we get to see more in other people. I really want to get to know them, not just identify them.

The art looks like a blend of George Asakura’s (A Perfect Day for Love Letters) and Jun Yuzuki’s (Gakuen Prince). While Gleam has some humor, the atmosphere is rather serious. Salia, like characters in those series, has sharp eyebrows and determined expressions.  I do admire how the author subtlety shows the difference between high school girl Salia and royal princess Salia. She goes all serious without losing the spark in her eyes. (See the previous image.) The only minor note is that noses are often simple and seem lower than normal; combined with the narrow eyes makes faces look like they have a blank space sometimes. Any other hiccups are pretty small and easily attributed to early volume syndrome.

Gleam
From right to top left — Salia, Shuri, Yuza, and Lei

The translation may seem a bit formal at times, but it isn’t too surprising since most of the characters are royalty or involved with royalty. However, I loathed the font used for foreign languages. While it looks cute on top of an invitation for a party, it’s not the kind of lettering I want to see in full sentences, let alone repeatedly.

All in all, Gleam has a lot of potential, but I think it would have been stronger if characters and the world itself were more gradually introduced. But if you’re longing for a heroine who can actually stand on her own two feet, then you would be remiss to not check out Gleam. If nothing else, it’s rather nice not having to wait volumes for a protagonist to grow up and accept her destiny.