Prince Freya 偽りのフレイヤ (Itsuwari no Freya) ISHIHARA Keiko Shoujo – Action, drama, fantasy, gender bender, historical, war 4 Volumes (ongoing) VIZ Media
Crybaby Freya is delighted to see her dear friends Aaron and Aleksi drop by their village for a visit. But once they leave, she overhears the prince is on his deathbed and Tyr is in danger. So Freya sneaks to the capital to warn them. There, she sees an eerily similar face with a request…
Prince Freya is a bit like Yona of the Dawn with some Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) inspirations.
Freya is the type to burst into tears easily, but she’s trying to keep them at bay even though her mother’s health is declining and there’s news of how the Sigurd kingdom is torturing a neighboring village. But her day brightens when brothers Aaron and Aleksi get some time off work to visit. After being rescued by Freya when she was small, the two were raised by her mother. So the three are childhood friends and almost family. While the younger Aleksi is still a normal soldier, Aaron is one of the top knights and a part of Prince Edvard’s personal guard. While their stay is short and interrupted by trouble, a sweet moment with Aaron lifts Freya’s spirits.
However, as they depart, Freya overhears that Prince Edvard is on his deathbed and soldiers are targeting Aaron. She tries to find Aaron or Aleksi to warn them, but instead she finds a young man who looks so much like her: the dying Prince Edvard. Aaron and Aleksi were sent back to Tena Village to bring Freya so she could impersonate Edvard, but they lied that they couldn’t find her. Without knowing this, Freya agrees to take on Edvard’s name, but can a crybaby act like a haughty, mischievous royal? Especially when tragedy strikes?
Prince Freya is a series that’s hard to have strong feelings about right now. There are several parts where I’m not sure it’s due to poor storytelling or part of an overall mystery. Let’s start with the most obvious: why Freya and Edvard look so much alike. Is this really one of those The Prince and the Pauper things, or is there a reason their faces and body types are carbon copies of each other despite being different genders? And the minister knew there was a lookalike named Freya, so how did he find out? Freya quickly pieces it together that the dying young man is the prince, but we have no indication that anyone has ever mentioned that she resembles Edvard.
Another example is that Freya seems to talk to the deceased Edvard. I wasn’t sure at first if his recurring visage a hallucination or if she really was talking to a ghost. I mean, she’s emotionally depressed, so it could have gone either way. I mean, assuming that is Edvard’s ghost and not a psychological delusion, can anybody talk to ghosts? Just Freya? Why just him? Or do only those with a strong will manage to contact the land of the living?
As of volume four, I am pretty sure there are supernatural elements in Prince Freya, but the lack of hints and setup just start to wear on me after a while. Like, if Freya had learned that Edvard and/or his royal advisors sought a mystic who looked into a crystal ball and said to find a body double in Tena Village from the first or second chapter, at least readers would be in the mindset that at least some magic exists in this world. And it would have provided an explanation for the brothers to have been sent on the mission to find her. Two birds, one stone.
Prince Freya does have some shock value to it, so this isn’t a manga where all the characters are going to skip happily along to the end. I think how long until the end is also going to be a factor into how good this series is. Ishihara’s longest series previously was four volumes, and Prince Freya is up to at least volume 6 in Japan. So this is uncharted territory for her, and I hope she can deliver. The characters don’t ever discuss any plans for Freya post-war, so we’ll have to see if “Edvard” will just abdicate his position, have his (fake) death announced, or what. For now, though, the fourth volume gives Freya a clear mission and goal to help turn the tide. I would think this means Prince Freya is going to be around a while since almost this assuredly involves traveling to multiple places across the continent.
It would be natural to assume that, since it is hard to make a convincing manga about war and rebellion in a short number of volumes. Otherwise… it probably wasn’t that much of a life-threatening conflict. Prince Freya has already covered a few battles — some skirmishes, some significant battles. Freya has some physical capabilities thanks to her time spent gathering medicine for her mother, but even with the training she receives, her (and “his”) closest allies don’t want to put her/”him” in the front line. Both those who know the truth and those who don’t want Edvard to be the source of inspiration. Freya will give some speeches and rallying cries, but she is too kind and sensitive to let her soldiers easily sacrifice themselves for her. This especially bothers Julius, the White Knight who is Aaron the Black Knight’s counterpart. Aaron and Aleksi want Freya to be able to express herself, but Julius doesn’t want Freya to be coddled. Much to his bewilderment, he finds himself softening his stance — and about Freya herself.
Yes, while Freya’s mind isn’t on romance right now, she’ll likely have several men competing for her affection. The manga could be considered a reverse harem because she’s certainly outnumbered by men! It’s not like every person in a harem story has to be romantically interested in the protagonist, so even though it’s really only her main options that know he’s a she, yeah, the manga has reverse harem vibes. Readers will likely already choose to be partial to one of them the men try to suppress their feelings. Aleksi especially is frustrated, as he believes Freya and Aaron should have soon been celebrating their wedding, and that would have helped close the door on his feelings. As the sulky younger brother, he’s not very good at expressing his feelings. The manga hints at someone else who is going to be attracted to Freya, and with a mission and plenty of chances for new allies to come aboard, Prince Freya could turn into a full-fledged reverse harem.
While Freya finds herself taken aback a couple of times in that regard, right now, she wants to prevent more lives from being lost. That sounds noble, and Julius is sometimes frustrated by her ideals, there are times where it’s rage and hatred helping her push forward. That internal conflict will likely come to play in later volumes. She does get perhaps a little too lucky a couple of times, particular when facing off against an experienced — albeit aging — swordsman. I hope the shock values aren’t going to be limited to these early volumes. I don’t expect this to become a dark, bloody series, but Prince Freya should keep the feeling of war is a tragedy and not make this about a small but plucky group who overcomes all odds.
That may be slightly difficult with Freya’s compassion, of course. But while she is still partial to breaking down after a fight, she manages to take on Edvard’s personality extremely well. Even the next-in-command soldiers don’t seem to sense anything, and any differences are chalked up to the situation or changing for the better. Tyr is led by several nobles some who’d rather join with Sigurd for one reason or another, so of course they find the stubbornness of “Edvard” aggravating and a threat to their own plans. This was not a series where I found myself remembering everyone’s names, but even if you don’t read the volumes back-to-back, the manga finds ways to remind readers of who is being an obstacle to Freya’s plans.
I can’t remember if it was Ishihara or her editor that said it, but they felt like Ishihara’s art is better suited toward a Western style. And the art is going to be a reason people are drawn to Prince Freya. The fact Freya is in male clothing and everyone else is in armor means she can’t show off her full artistic style, and of course people are going to wonder how a young woman can look so much like a young man, but of course, if she didn’t, there wouldn’t be a story. Still doesn’t explain how someone sees her topless and still assumes Freya is male, even from a distance. But I like how Julius and Aaron, as top knights, physically look like they’ve bulked up for training. Aleksi’s later look is interesting, and while so far there have been no signs of other species, the supernatural elements could prove to be an interesting twist. I have already expressed my frustration about Ishihara not making it clear, but she certainly has some interesting and visually impressive positions and expressions. Ishihara loves to play around with body angles and darkness/light in eyes. There is some graphic violence, but of course the blood and gore isn’t constant. The author mentions she switched to working digitally as of volume four, but it’s not much different. A little more shoujo-y at times, but maybe it was because of the post-battle stress lifting.
No honorifics are used, which isn’t surprising because a) this is VIZ Media and b) the setting is European-like. On the Japanese covers, the English title is given as Artificial Freja, so I was surprised that the protagonist’s name was romanized as Freya instead of Freja. I also like Artificial Freja/Freya as the title since the manga repeatedly talks about a “false star”, an “artificial me [Freya]” and other stuff. Of course, the English title plays into it a bit since, of course, there is no Prince Freya (he/she is a fake), but maybe VIZ Media thought artificial in the title made readers think of homunculus or something? I will add I think I prefer the layout of the logo on the English covers better than the Japanese, but it lacks the changing color for each like in the Japanese.
I noticed at least one typo in the fourth volume.
Prince Freya has some strong aspects with a heroine both growing and staying true to herself, handsome men, and deadly war, but the series is hampered by its lack of explanations for some significant parts of the story.
VIZ Media released Ishihara’s The Heiress and the Chauffeur while Seven Seas published The Bride & the Exorcist Knight.