Are two girls princesses or can they be a prince and princess?

Secret of the PrincessTitle: Secret of the Princess (Ohimesama no Himitsu)
Genre: Romance, Yuri, School Life
Publisher: Shinshokan (JP), Seven Seas (US)
Story/Artist: Milk Morinaga
Translator: Jennifer McKeon
Original Release Date: February 14, 2017

Miu’s mother, like many fictional and real mothers, has always insisted that it’s every girl’s goal to meet her “prince” (aka future husband) and Miu must be prepared for this moment to strike at any time! This seems rather unlikely to happen at an all-girls high school, although it was equally unlikely for the athletic and popular Fujiwara to break a priceless vase with only Miu around to witness it! Fujiwara begs Miu not to tell on her and that she’ll do anything Miu asks in return. So, Miu says go out with me so I can practice dating.

I believe this one-shot volume falls into what Erica Friedman of Okazu would call “a yuritopia” series. Men do exist but they are on the far far peripheries of this story, nowhere near Miu’s high school life. All-girls’ schools in yuri series come with their own batches of cliches and Secret of the Princess falls into many of them. You have one of the best known ones, the talented athletes with literal fanclubs of fawning classmates, and Fujiwara at least experiences an isolation for it as her schoolmates see her as an idol, not a friend. That’s the reason why she goes along with Miu’s odd request to start with — Fujiwara is hoping to gain a friend to hang out with (especially since it’s clear immediately that Miu has no idea what one does on a romantic date), while Miu wrestles with herself over what she wants to get out of this relationship. Is she looking for a real romantic relationship after all and if not why is she getting so jealous when their dates get interrupted?

One of the biggest, and I’d argue fair, criticisms of “yuritopia” series is that they feel rather unrealistic. The complaints are many of the same ones leveled against Yuri on Ice last year: it’s just too easy for the characters to get together given the real world socio-political climate that they supposedly live in. I don’t think that criticism should be applied to all yuri, etc series where the couple gets together easily but I was frustrated that Secret of the Princess went for such a surface level of “oh, but you’re two girls dating????” I feel that a series should either avoid that commentary completely (a la Yuri on Ice, I don’t think that this is always the wrong approach) or to engage it more fully, not to stand in a wishy-washy gray area. It’s unsatisfying and really doesn’t differentiate the story from so many of its kin.

In the end, I was a bit bored by this manga as it felt just a bit too typical “yuri” for me. I haven’t even read that many yuri series all things considered and yet all of the points felt too rote for me! There’s more and more yuri manga being published in the US each month so unless you really wanted to read a “generic” school girl yuri manga series (or read all of the published yuri in the US), I’d go looking for a more creative title. I personally like one of Morinaga’s other titles, Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossoms Pink much more since I feel that achieves the realistic depth that Secret of the Princess failed to do. As neither an imaginative nor spectacular title, this one was a wash for me.