Other associated names: 上原希美子 (Chinese)
UEHARA Kimiko (上原きみこ) is a prominentJapanese shoujo and josei manga artist. She is best known for shoujo series such as Maiko no Uta (“Maiko’s Poem”), Lovely Mari-chan, Marybell, Honoo no Romance, Lolly no Seishun, and Yumedokei (“Sweet Memory”).
She received the 1990 Shogakukan Manga Award for children’s manga for Lovely Mari-chan.
Uehara is cited by Naoko Takeuchi, author of Sailor Moon, as an influence, especially her dialog in Lolly no Seishun and Honoo no Romance. Her current manga is Inochi no Utsuwa, published by Akita Shoten since 1991 in the josei magazine For Mrs. and collected in 43 tankōbon volumes as of January 2008.
This page looks at mainly Uehara’s older series, many (if not all) of those are already out-of-print these days, though re-prints of some of her more popular series, such as Honoo no Romance, would still be released from time to time.
Honoo no Romance – First edition and reprints
Uehara’ stories truly represent the kind of shoujo manga that is dreamy and romantic (to the point of being cheesy but in a positive way), hence I often brand her works as “the most classic retro shoujo” above all (not all of them though! ^^)
Her signature style of using squares instead of stars for those sparkling eyes is magnificently remarkable even to days, though that has changed since she started working on josei.
Noticeably also, most of Uehara’s (earlier) works were often associated with ballet and occasionally other sports, such as ice-skating (Seishun Hakusho) and horse-riding (Lolly no Seishun). The mangaka is also well-known for her Mari-chan series (「まりちゃん」シリーズ) of which consists of 6 mini series running over 10 years.
Lastly, a gentle reminder to those who are unfamiliar with Uehara’s trademark style of stories:
Look away now if you are not prepared for a dreamy and cheesy romance story, with dramatic twists and plots added in everywhere, i.e. MELODRAMAS.
But if you are someone who enjoy seeing some old-school retro manga arts feeling nostalgic, and have the ability to overlook those exaggerated melodrama-cheesiness, then Uehara’s (earlier) shoujos are definitely for you! (NB. Note the word “earlier”, i.e. I do not mean her late josei work)
- Tenshi no Serenade (天使のセレナーデ)/ The Angelic Serenade (天使夢幻曲/ 天使小夜曲、翠堤春夢、小佳人 )
Story: A puppy love it might be, as the 5 years old Lotti and 6 years old Johnny made the pledge that they would enroll to the Royal Music Academy together when they grew older. Sadly, the two were soon separated as their nation was divided into East and West countries by the two conflicting governments (implying East and West Germany at the time).
Some years later, Lotti finally arrived the Academy against her parents’ wishes. There she encountered the bad boy George with bad impression. Originally, Lotti was not going to be accepted by the Academy as she failed the entrance exams…. until the Head of students, Carl, came in and told the headmaster that she was actually his fiancee..
Even the Academy was divided in two separate wings (i.e. East and West wings), each representing the group of students from the two different countries. Carl was the Head of students of the West wing and George, to Lotti’s great surprise, Head of students of the East wing!
In the Academy, Lotti soon sensed the intense conflicts between the two wings. Though she was concerned for Johnny, she was unable to find him in the Academy… and long after, she began a relationship with Carl at their friend’s match-making “services” ^^
Eventually, the three of them (Lotti, Carl and George) joined force together in order to ease the conflicts between the two wings. As a matter of fact, Geroge was THE Johnny whom Lotti had been searching for! At first he wanted to tease her, being a little mad with her failing to recognise him at an instant as he did. But as it turned out, he had given her a bad impression instead; he knew she would refuse to believe in him even if he were to tell her the truth! Moreover, George was convinced that Lotti and Carl loved each other, as he saw the pair of them being together – it was already too late for him…! Later he also found out that Carl was in fact his twin brother, thus more the reason why he chose to hide his feelings from her.
George chose to remain as a dear friend to Lotti; watching over her and protecting her became his passion. Little did he realise that Lotti had also been developing strong feelings for him all those while but was afraid to tell the truth….. until there was the great fire accident one day, when they finally poured their hearts out to each other…..
BUT, as expected in every Uehara’s “classic” shoujo, there deemed to be dramatic twists somewhere!…
So, not long afterwards, George was somehow involved in some evil plot and was later tricked and trapped. As he tried to make his escape, he was shot and wounded seriously……
- Uehara Kimiko Kessakushuu (上原きみ子自選集)（１）
Consists of 3 short stories: Anzu no saku oto (あんずの咲く音 ), Waga Inochi no Sanka (わが命の賛歌), Kaki no Ki no Aru Ie (柿の木のある家).
All stories were tear-jerking tragedies with sad endings, so sad that I don’t even want to waste time reviewing them here.
- Uehara Kimiko Kessakushuu 上原きみ子自選集（２）タヒチアン・ロマンス
Again, another collection of short stories selected by Uehara. All of them her works from the beginning of her career.
- Uehara Kimiko Kessakushuu 上原きみ子自選集（３）スペインの花嫁
Consists of three short stories about the passionate love and romance (no, not smuts!) with the Spaniard bull fighters. Also includes a short story of the featured title Bride of España (スペインの花嫁).
Story: Gilberto, the young and famous Spaniard bull fighter, was jokingly betting with his friends that he would marry the first girl appearing on the street corner at his count of ten. As the beautiful Catarina appeared on the corner “just in time” for his bet, Gilberto was determined to marry her. But his proposal for marriage was soon rejected by Catarina’s (step)mother when she told him that Catarina was already engaged in a serious relationship with her childhood sweetheart. However, in order to cure her mother’s serious illness, Catarina agreed to marry Gilberto in return for the money for her mother’s therapy. When Catarina’s boy friend, Carl found out, he challenged Gilberto in the next bull fight in order to win back Catarina! Despite of Gilberto’s kindness and tenderness to her, Catarina thought of returning to Carl however finding herself attracted to Gilberto gradually…..
Later Catarina discovered that her step mother was in fact Gilberto’s biological mother, and that Gilberto had actually fallen in love with her long before he “jokingly” placed the bet with his friends on THAT day. Gilberto, however (*wait* THE twist is coming!!!! ^^), was convinced that Catarina was still deeply in love with Carl. He decided to let her go and injured his hands intentionally on the eve of the crucial bull fight…..
- Gokigen Charmy (ごきげん ★チャーミィー)/ Cheery Charmy (可愛的珊珊)
Story: Charmy (チャーミィ)’s mother suffered from amnesia after an accident many years ago. During her amnesia, she fell in love and was married to Charmy’s father, then gave birth to Charmy; it was as if the mother had been living in a different identity since the accident.
As Charmy turned 13, the family was going to Europe for a long vacation. But in the last minute, Charmy injured her leg in a bike accident involving the “bad boy” (forgot what his name was on top of my head….-__-)…. Alsa, Charmy had to pull out from the family trip!
Unfortunately, both of her parents were killed as they were caught in a plane crash in Austria. In sadness and trauma of losing her family forever, as if it was her being abandoned to live alone, Charmy turned her anguish to that boy instead.
Anyhow, as it turned out, Charmy’s mother was still alive and had been in recovery in Austria. Charmy was heartbroken to find out that, albeit her mother regaining her long lost memories after the plane crash, she could recall her memory of Charmy at all.
Story began to unfold – Before her accident, Charmy’s mother lived with her family in Austria, in where she had a lover since childhood whom had been waiting for her return for their marriage all those while. When the mother regained her conscious after the plane crash, her family lied that she had been in concussion for the last 10 years… and so the mother agreed to marry her childhood sweetheart…. or would she? Would Charmy manage to convince her mother to accept her again as the daughter….?! ^^
- Mary Bell (マリーベル/ 瑪麗安）★★★★★
Story: Romance de la Révolution française!
An “epic” romance story set in the period of the French Revolution, though not as “epic” as Versailles no Bara…
But you know I’d HAVE TO give it 5 stars out of 5, don’t you? It’s got to be! since it is a dramatic and romantic historical shoujo set in my favourite settings of Age of Enlightenment….. I have to love it by default! : )
Anyway, back to the story.
Marybelle (or Mary Bell?) and her brother (Antoine) were offsprings of a fine noble family in France. But with wicked step mother in line,traumas were guaranteed in their lives! Soon, the siblings were separated as they moved to England away from their wicked step mother. In England, Marybelle was adopted by the Lambert family. Nine years on, Marybelle and Robert (the eldest son of the Lambert family) were already deeply in love. Their relationship, however, was not approved by Robert’s father, Duke Lambert. The duke was concerned for the reputation of his son, who would inherit his title one day, being tanished by Marybelle’s low-life status. At the end, he requested her to leave the family for good.
In her departure, Marybelle realised Robert’s importance to her; so when Robert finally found her, Marybelle insisted of leaving him for his own sake. She also asked her new-found actor friend, Léandre to pretend to be her lover, hoping that Robert would give up on her. Eventually, Marybelle left Robert and returned to France with Léandre.
As expected, as per any Uehara’s story, there was plentiful of twists as Marybelle and Léandre trying to start a new live whilst living together in France…. one thing led to others…. anyway, Léandre died and Marybelle met some new friends of nobles, one of them Jerry who bared a resemblance to Robert.
Jerry was madly in love with Marybelle to the point where he was willing to give up his noble status and even live the life of Robert Lambert for her! Marybelle was touched by his warmth and passion, hence agreed to be with him. But when Jerry found out she was still carrying a keepsake of an oil paint portrait of Robert, he realsied he could not bear living the life of another… and so he left Marybelle instead.
After the revolution, Marybell’s brother returned to her as Saint-Just, the heroic revolutionary figure in France. Meanwhile, a mysterious figure who named himself “the Blue Rose” managed to rescue many noble figures before they were sent to death at the guillotine. Determined to help her brother, Marybelle set the trap to catch “the Blue Rose”… but instead she was caught in the arms of “the Blue Rose” who called her “Marybell!”
Not long afterwards, Marybelle and Robert met face to face again. Robert wanted to marry her and return to England together. Saint Just warned her not to disclose their identities to Robert and other noblemen for the sake of their safety…. and so Robert misunderstood Saint Just as her new lover, whilst Marybelle thought he was engaged to someone else, not realising his true identity as “the Blue Rose”…..
Anyhow, following after the deaths of few key figures, not to mention the twists everywhere as per usual, Marybelle and Robert were back together again.
—–> Did tell you Uehara’s work was guranteed to be dreamy-melodrama type of stories, did I not? ^^
- Honoo no Romance (炎のロマンス/ 南國之戀、南海女王) ★★★★☆
For those who are interested, there is a website (in Japanese language) dedicated to Honoo no Romance : www.gem.hi-ho.ne.jp/remy/select-Romance.htm
Story: Ichinose Aki is a girl who has started to fall for a young man in her class named Suda, but she’s also discovered a secret about him – that he wears a wig. His hair is actually blond, his eyes are actually blue, and to say that he’s not from around here is an understatement… (From Baka-Updates)
Aki was an ordinary high-school girl. She found herself slowly being attracted to Suda, since the moment she discovered Suda’s secret. But after Suda confessed his feelings to Aki, he disappeared the following day….. No one knew where he was gone. She was also shocked to find out that the identity Suda had given was actually fake!….. As she pondered on the mysteries… she was drugged and dragged away unconscious.
When she woke up, she was told that she had been taken to the “Kingdom of Coral”, a small island located in the remote south pacific ocean. On top of that, she was to be crown the new queen of the kingdom of Coral!
Legend had it that only a black hair queen could rule the kingdom, or the island would be cursed with disasters instead. Eventually, it became a tradition that the ruling queen MUST have black hair and black eyes. But for the others who were black hair + eyes also shall be executed. It was also a tradition that a grown up prince would only seek his black hair bride from Japan, and then the prince shall be the new king!
Currently, there were two princes being the legitimate heirs to the throne at the sametime. Whoever brought back and married his black hair bride would immediately succeed the throne. To the people of the Coral kingdom, Aki was the black hair bride brought by their Prince Louis (without her consent of course ^^) . It was later in the chapter when Aki found out Suda was Prince Ledobi (レドビィ), the other prince of the Coral kingdom…..
Not sure if I want to continue on with its review here. Will/ will not do a [Manga Talk] of it depending on the demand ^^
I rated 4 stars out of 5 for this series only, simply because I was struggling to buy the storyline. I mean, why on earth black hair queen from Japan only?! What about Korea? China? SE Asia? Hispanic? etc?????!!!! and if a grown up prince had to travel all the way to Japan to find a black hair bride, why didn’t he just find one (or many) from his own people in the kingdom, instead of sending them to execution as soon as he found his queen!!! That was just so, totally, ineffective and cruel to his own people…… Anyway, do ignore my rants… since those kind of thinking should really be overlooked in any dreamy-melodrama cheesy shoujo….. honestly!
So back to my “star systems” – 4 stars for good art. Characters may not be handsome or sexy, but they were very retro, very old-school, hence very delicious for my nostalgic appetite! ^^
- Lolly no Seishun (ロリィの青春) ★★☆☆☆
Story: Lolly, our poor heroine who lives with her sick mother and a spoiled sister. Her live was changed when she encountered a handsome horse, Angel; Lolly eventually became the owner of Angel’s son, Happy.
Carl met Lolly and Happy, just as he ran away from his wealthy family. He stayed with Lolly’s family ever since. Lolly was left alone after her mother’s death and her sister left home to pursue for a better life…. Carl stayed by her side for support; romance started to develop between the pair….
One day, Lolly met her first “enemy”, Tania, who invited them to an equestrian competition. Just as Lolly and Carl dreamed of wining the gold medal riding Happy in the National Equestrian Competition, Tania & father have set their eyes on Happy and invited Carl for training in her horse barn. In order to win both Carl and Happy back from Tania & Co, Lolly has to win the next equestrian competition.
- Lolly no Seishun Side Story (ロリィの青春番外篇)
Story was set two years after Lolly and Carl were married. Carl was still Lolly’s equestrian coach and Lolly was still training with blood and sweat for the upcoming national championship.
Lolly’s sister (Carla?) was already a mother of a year old toddler. Friends were getting curious (concerned) of Carl was probably encountering some “men issues down there” (lol~~~~). Anyway, Carla came to tell Lolly she was pregnant again, but Carl somehow misunderstood it as Lolly being pregnant….. he was all over the moon and was so excited in sharing joy with everyone.
After the misunderstanding was cleared, Lolly was worried that Carl might not be happy with her, not being able to carry his child for those while….. Instead, the smiling Carl comforted her that it was still early for a child; he had enough with Lolly being the big kid herself ^^
- Seishun Hakusho (青春白書/ 冰上天鵝) ★★☆☆☆
Story: In Hokkaido, Ayumi is a rough girl and plays ice hockey much like her father before her. One day he surprises her by arranging an Omiai with a boy with as much experience on the ice as she has – except he’s a figure skater… (From Baka-Updates)
Ayumi’s destiny was changed since she met Makoto, who inspired her with his passion to figure stating. Albeit her great potential in figure skating, Ayumi was restricted in her choreography by her inability to move her right leg freely; her leg was injured in a serious car accident when she was little.
Makoto and Ayumi shared a dream of figure skating together in competitions….but his coach has rejected Ayumi as his partner because of her injured leg.. and eventually, her right leg totally failed her. Makoto left his coach for Ayumi, so that he could be by her side during her intensive training. Finally, Ayumi was being able to change her figure skating technique that would rely on her left leg instead!
… but at the sametime, Makoto was encountering some eye-sight problems. Eventually, he lost sight completely and injured Ayumi too often during their practice together. Unwilling to be an obstacle to Ayumi for her practice, Makoto left.
Some years later, Ayumi was seen in national single competitions. Although she was figure skating single, it was as if she was dancing on ice with someone besides her….. until the end when she found out her left leg was going to fail her also….
Another famously tear-jerking series by Uehara.
- Yumedokei (夢どけい) / Sweet Society (摘梦蜻蜓) ★☆☆☆☆
Story: Mutsumi is an elementary student who’s mother is a popular manga artist. Her mother has a strange habit of moving to different cities every year. Until one day, they moved to Sutsuji Gadai, New Town. How does Mutsumi cope with her new school and friends in this city? It’s a sweet manga about love and sacrifice. (From Baka-Updates)
- Maiko no Uta (舞子の詩/ 舞者之詩) ★★★★☆
Story: Maiko is the daughter of a famous ballerina and in her 2nd year of middle school. She is studying to follow in her mother’s footsteps, and her grand dream is to dance with her older brother who is also a dancer and has left home. But there’s another dancer in the wings, a girl named Chiyako who was born on the same day and in the same hospital as Maiko…
In short and without going into too much details, Chiyako was jealous of Maiko’s who was born on the same day as her but in a wealthy family and with a talent in ballet dancing…. She was determined to achieve success in ballet dancing regardlessly.
For a new dance designed and directed by Maiko’s mother, both Maiko and Chiyako were listed as the candidate of the female lead dancer. Maiko’s brother, Shiro, also returned for the leading role for male dancer… it was their dream to dance together on stage one day.
But just before they were about to dance on the same stage together, Maiko found out that Chiyako was the real biological daughter to her parents….. in distress, she left home and hid away from ballet altogether.
It took time for Maiko to heal with her attempt to build a relationship with her biological family. It did not take her long to return to the world of ballet. Anyhow, one event led to another, and she was finally being selected as the lead dancer…. Once again, she was being able to reach that dream of sharing the same stage with Shiro, dancing together….
Little did she know that, Shiro was already suffering from a terminal illness… it would be his first and last dance with her on stage together….. End of Part I.
Digress: To any KDrama lovers, does the story plot sound any familiar to you? Remember Autumn in My Heart? *wink*
Part II began as Maiko continued living and dancing in the memory of her dear Shiro…
She started dancing with a new partner, Natsuki and became closer to him as time passed… until one day, some woman barged in, holding a baby, and claiming Natsuki as the father to her baby…..
This series was probably the beginning of Uehara’s saga of ballet shoujo, in which these stories would often share a huge degree of similarities in their storylines with guarantee of melodramas….
Luckily for many readers, the series was concluded with a happy ending ^^
- Ai no Arabesque (愛のアラベスク/爱的梦幻曲)
Maiko Saotome’s mother is a renowned ballerina. Maiko dreams of dancing the Love Arabesque, an illusory ballet performed by her mother long ago. One shot.
- Hana no Waltz (花のワルツ/ 花之舞鞋)
The twin brothers were separated after the divorce of their parents. Our heroine liked one of the brothers, but mistaken the other brother for him when they were training in the same school of ballet….
MARI-CHAN SERIES (「まりちゃん」シリーズ) ★★☆☆☆
A long running series consists of few mini-series on character growth. Stories about Mari-chan (and other associated girl characters), starting from her being interested in ballet, enrolling to and being isolated at the ballet academy, practicing ballet until “blood and tears” with burning passion and determination, to her joining competitions and facing rivalries…. The series consists of:
- Haai! Mari-chan (ハーイ!まりちゃん) （全2巻）
- Lovely Mari-chan (ラブリーまりちゃん) （全7巻）
- Happy Mari-chan (ハッピーまりちゃん) （全7巻）
- Haai! Mari-chan Ai no Etoile (ハーイ!まりちゃん 愛のエトワール) （全7巻）
- Gin no Toe Shoes (銀のトウシューズ) （全6巻）
- Hakucho no Uta (白鳥の歌) （全4巻）
- Haai! Mari-chan (ハーイ!まりちゃん)
- Lovely Mari-chan (ラブリーまりちゃん/ 芭蕾天使)
- Happy Mari-chan (ハッピーまりちゃん/ 天使舞鞋)
- Ai no Etoile (ハーイ! まりちゃん 愛のエトワール/ 緞帶舞鞋)
- Gin no Toe Shoes (銀のトウシューズ)/ The Silver Toe Shoes (銀色舞鞋)
- Hakuchou no Uta (白鳥の歌/ 白鳥之歌)
My say: I gave ★★ – not the best ballet shoujo series in shoujo manga history, comparing the likes of Kyoko Ariyoshi’s SWAN and YAMAGISHI Ryouko’s Arabesque.
I have to admit it is not easy to turn me on with a ballet shoujo – there are just so many of of them out there already, and so many sharing similar storylines, if not over-the-top melodramas. Few things that could help me to distinguish one from another, within a big fishpond of ballet shoujo, would perhaps be their styles artwork. Unfortunately, the Mari-chan series was not at Uehara’s best (not to me anyway). Personally, I prefer her slightly earlier artwork during the days of Honoo no Romance and Marybell ^^
Summary of Works 作品リスト
- Namida iro no Omoide (涙いろの想い出, 1968, Ribon)
- Aiba Angel (愛馬エンゼル, 1969, Shōjo Comic)
- Habatake Angel (はばたけエンゼル, 1969–1970, Shōjo Comic)
- Rune no Seishun (ルネの青春, 1970–1971, Shōjo Comic)
- Ai no Chikai (愛のちかい, 1971–1972, Shōjo Comic)
- Kapuri no Shinju (カプリの真珠, 1972, Shōjo Comic / Ship Pocket, 4 Bände)
- Tenshi no Serenade (天使のセレナーデ, 1972–1973, Shōjo Comic / Shōgakukan, 5 Bände)
- Lolly no Seishun (ロリィの青春, 1973–1975, Shōjo Comic / Shōgakukan, 10 Bände)
- Honō no Romance (炎のロマンス, 1975–1977, Shōjo Comic / Shōgakukan, 9 Bände)
- Maiko no Shi (舞子の詩, 1977–1981, Ciao / Shōgakukan, 7 Bände)
- Marybell (マリーベル, 1978–1980, Shōjo Comic / Shōgakukan, 12 Bände)
- Haai! Mari-chan (ハーイ!まりちゃん, 1980–1982, Shōgakukan, 2 Bände)
- Seishun Hakusho (青春白書, 1981–1983, Shōjo Comic / Shōgakukan, 8 Bände)
- Aitsu no Shiki (あいつの四季, 1981–1982, Ciao / Shōgakukan, 1 Band)
- Yumedokei (夢時計, 1982–1984, Ciao / Shōgakukan, 4 Bände)
- Viva! Akane-chan (VIVA!あかねちゃん, 1983–1984, Carol / Kōdansha, 2 Bände)
- Kochira ai! Ōtō seyo (こちら愛!応答せよ, 1984–1986, Ciao / Shōgakukan, 7 Bände)
- Lovely Mari-chan (ラブリーまりちゃん, 1984–1989, Shōgakukan, 7 Bände)
- Ai no Etoile (愛のエトワール, 1985–1990, Shōgakukan, 6 Bände)
- Happy Mari-chan (ハッピーまりちゃん, 1986–1991, Shōgakukan, 7 Bände)
- Gin no Toeshoes (銀のトウシューズ, 1987–1991, Shōgakukan, 5 Bände)
- Hakuchō no Uta (白鳥の歌, 1988–1991, Shōgakukan, 4 Bände)
- Hana no Waltz (花のワルツ, 1989–1992, Shōgakukan, 1 Band)
- Inochi no Utsuwa (いのちの器, seit 1991, For Mrs. / Akita Shoten, bisher 43 Bände)
- Hanako-san Nikki (華子さん日記, 1992, For Mrs. Special / Akita Shoten, 2 Bände)