I've never really detailed here who my favorite manga authors/manga series are, simply because I have focused on reviewing new series I am reading, rather than reminiscing about series I have read in the past. However, I will admit that the author of Captive Hearts penned one of my favorite mangas to date - Merupuri. I will always lament that Merupuri has not yet been made into an anime. But anyways, due to my great love of her works Merupuri, Wanted, and (to a certain extent) Vampire Knight, I expected quite a lot from Matsuri Hino's Captive Hearts.
Captive Hearts follows the story of Megumi Kuroishi. Megumi's ancestor stole the guardian spirit of the Kogami's, and due to this, the spirit cursed the thief and his descendants to always serve the Kogami family as faithful servants. Luckily for Megumi, he has not really suffered from the curse, seeing as the Kogami family disappeared mysteriously when he was still a boy. However, the sole surviving member, Suzuka, has been discovered in China and when she returns to her parent's home, Megumi feels the full effect of the curse. Due to the curse, Megumi becomes extremely overprotective of Suzuka and refers to her as Hime (meaning princess in Japanese). Eventually, Suzuka learns Japanese and the two realize that instead of a master-servant relationship, they really long for a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. Therefore, Suzuka sets out to try to break the curse on the Kuroishi family.
The general premise of the story seemed interesting to me and I was not oblivious to the fact that Megumi and Suzuka would eventually fall in love with each other (this was glaringly obvious from the very first chapter). However, even as Suzuka learned Japanese and Megumi went all the way to China to bring her back, I really was not sold on the romance. It was set-up a little too nicely and the chemistry between them just seemed way off to me. Maybe it was due to all the comedic moments that happen whenever the curse takes over Megumi, but instead of a couple, I believe Megumi and Suzuka's relationship was closer to that of an overprotective older brother and his shy younger sister for the majority of the series. At one point, Hino tries to create a love triangle by bringing in a maid that loves Megumi and has somehow known him since they were kids but that he has not mentioned up to this point. It was really a waste of space.
Eventually we finally get to learn the history of the curse and I swear, the love stories of Megumi's and Suzuka's ancestors (which lasted like 10 or so pages) was better than the hopeless love story trying to develop between the main characters in present time. Not only that, but we also learn why the dragon spirit protects the Kogami factory and again, a better love story than that of the main couple. I don't know, I guess that since reading and loving Merupuri as well as Wanted, I assumed Hino knew how to map out a shoujo romance manga. However, Captive Hearts is definitely her weakest manga. It starts out pretty strong, but it seems like Hino had the general framework behind it, like, "oh! A romance buds between a girl and a boy who must be enslaved to her due to a curse. Yeah, that's a good premise!" and then forgot to flesh out the details. I spent about half the seres thinking Megumi didn't have a mother (there was not a single reference to her) until bam! here she comes because she needs Suzuka to talk about how she was kidnapped as a child and nearly sold as a slave or something. By the way, this extra tidbit of Suzuka's past did absolutely nothing for the story. It just brought another character that Suzuka may have had an interest in, to test her and Megumi's "relationship."
Clearly, I didn't enjoy much about this storyline. That said though, the art was very nice and the expressions of the characters worked well especially since they found themselves in wacky situations at times. I liked that Suzuka is a humble heiress and that she hates the curse because of what it does to the members of the Kuroishi family (instead of just caring about Megumi). Megumi was sorta interesting, but I honestly see him as a completely forgettable character. Megumi's mom and dad were a riot though and I liked the majority of the side characters as well. This is not a manga I would reread though and one that I will most certainly forget. It was ok, but not all that great. I recommend Hino's other works, but I'm just not sold on this one.