Princess Ai: Courtney Love’s Foray Into Manga

The early to mid-2000s was a great time to be a manga fan. There were a lot of variations in titles and genres available, even more obscure ones that one wouldn't normally find. While today, many titles are available for digital download and through sites like Amazon, some of the titles available back then have now been lost because of distribution issues or loss of title rights. Tokyopop was one of the distributors of some of the most obscure titles, one of which was Princess Ai.

The story follows the titular Ai, who finds herself in Tokyo with little memory of her past. As she struggles to remember who she is and where she came from, she meets and befriends a young musician named Kent. Over the manga's three-volume run, Ai learns that she is the princess of a world called Ai-Land. Not only this, but she is half-human, half-Dougen, an angel-like race that has waged war against the humans of her homeworld. Because of her Dougen heritage, she's able to manipulate the emotions of others through singing, which she discovers when she begins working at Club Cupid as one of their performers.

Princess Ai singing in Volume 1

The shojo series was released in 2004 and concluded in 2006, with a sequel series distributed starting in 2008. Only two volumes of this sequel were released, although a third was scheduled for 2011. However, this was never released. Originally, Princess Ai was published in Wings magazine in Japan before making its way to the U.S. In 2007, the first series was re-released in a one-volume omnibus. A line of action figures was created by Bleeding Edge in 2005, with each of the seven figures depicting Ai in various outfits and scenarios from the series. Despite how well the series appeared to be received, an anime adaptation was never mentioned.

What's most surprising is one of the names on the cover of the series. Courtney Love, wife of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, is credited as a co-writer for the series. She partnered with Stuart Levy (D.J. Milky) to write the story and with Misaho Kijuradou and Ai Yazawa for the illustrations. In a 2003 interview, Love said that she viewed Ai as a fantasy alter-ego and has always had a love of Japanese culture. When looking back at the manga with this knowledge, some of the important aspects of the series make a little more sense. Ai carries a heart-shaped box with her at all times, likely referencing the Nirvana song "Heart-Shaped Box." Some people have even said that the character Kent somewhat resembles Cobain, being a blonde guitarist.


Mostly a distant memory for older manga fans, Princess Ai was just one example of the strange releases from early 2000s Tokyopop. It isn't unusual for celebrities to show their love of anime and manga by cosplaying or wearing merchandise. However, very few of them partner with someone to actually create a manga series of their own.

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