Apothecarius Argentum

An impression of the series from the first volume

Today I’m going to be taking a look at Apothecarius Argentum. Here’s the pitch:

A former SLAVE and court poison tester grows up to protect a PRINCESS!

As a boy, Argent was a poison tester for a royal family. He developed an unusual immunity towards toxic substances, and he later became a master chemist with the ability to cure any illness. Returning to the kingdom after a long absence, he is assigned to watch over Princess Primula once again. But any relationship that might develop between the two will have its limits; Argent’s very touch has itself become poisonous.

In case you couldn’t tell from the first paragraph of the pitch there, this is the Manga equivalent of a chick flick. Is calling something a chick flick considered offensive? Maybe, I’m not sure. Am I trying to say that all shojo Manga should be considered chick flicks? No, certainly not. But is Apothecarius Argentum aimed exclusively at a female readership? Yes, definitely.

Apothecarius Argentum has the standard medieval-fantasy setting, that’s similar to so many other comics. The series stars Argent - an apothecary - and Princess Primula - a, um, Princess. The main bread and butter of the series is the relationship between the two: Both are very much in love with each other even at the beginning; so the plot is never really about whether they’ll hook up. Instead it is more about how close the privileged Primula will let the commoner Argent get to her.

For most of the first book the focus of the plot is mostly on what the female lead wants; what little character development there is goes to Primula as she sees the rights and wrongs of her actions - or more usually inactions, as her favourite approach to a problem is to simply ignore it. This contrasts sharply with Argent, who is always kept as Mr. Perfect; does things for Primula even if she’s not expecting him to; and doesn’t get much change to his character, except during a few flashbacks.

Having just said that Argent’s character is perfect, the author does really like teasing him, and has come up with a very interesting character in the form of the King. The King uses his position of power to tempt Argent into doing something wrong, resulting in some interesting moral choices. This is shojo on steroids though, so Argent will always manage to come up with a (reasonably) non-violent solution to whatever situation he’s put in.

Well, anyway, that’s the first book in a nutshell. I’ve tried to describe it in a way that gives you an idea of the content, but doesn’t give away any of the plot.

So should you read it? Maybe, if you enjoy things like Twilight. Most shojo Manga can be enjoyed by either sex, but judging by the first volume of Apothecarius Argentum, there’s going to be a lot in the series to interest the stereotypical female audience, but nothing for a male reader. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just know what you’re buying.