I love this manhwa for many reasons, but in particular, I want to talk about the beauty of framing Athanasia’s character because I think framing is something that is done really well in this manhwa and is often underappreciated by readers.
A brief summary to the set up of the story: The story’s protagonist is Princess Athanasia De Alger Obelia, seen left on the image above. She is a girl who was reincarnated into her new life as the princess and knows a bit about her potential future because the life she lives now is similar to the novel she was reading in her past life called “Lovely Princess.” In the novel Athanasia read, Jennette, seen on the right, is her younger sister and the protagonist of the story. Jannette is brought into the palace at the age of 14. Jannette who was raised outside of the palace, presumably with great love or at least great care, is able to use her loving demeanor to win the hearts of both the people and the Emporer, their father–a feat that Athanasia who was raised without love was never able to accomplish. In the end, Jennette is used by those that raised her in a political scheme to depose the first princess, Athanasia, from her foreseen position as heir to the throne that leads to her execution. No one expected the Emporer to go so far, but that is how it turns out. Unlike in many other stories of a similar set-up where someone is reincarnated into a princess from a novel they read in their former life, Athanasia was not a bully or deserving of the cruel fate. Instead, she is portrayed as a victim all the way through, thus earning great pity from both the readers and her sister following her death. Similar to other stories of the same setup, Athanasia is determined to avoid this fate. End of Summary.
Back to the colors and framing: Athanasia’s color scheme primarily takes on in the opening chapters where the adult Athanasia is present is that of light blues and yellow-ed purples (yellow and purple often turn brown, but her dresses have too much purple in them to be considered that color).
In this first image we see of Athanasia, we see her dressed in the yellowed purple color I am talking about. The dull yellow attached to the dress itself and even her hair can represent caution, decay, sickness, and jealousy while the light purple evokes romantic and nostalgic feelings. In the scene above, we see that Athanasia is in this position of decay (having fallen to her knees from his lack of love), sickness (from mental strain), jealousy (over his affection for Jannette), caution (from the way his shadow hangs over her), as well as romantic and nostalgic feelings (from her idolization of him). While the colors do not add to the dialogue, they do portray her not as a villainess but as a victim before the words even tell us such. Villainesses are often seen in vibrant colors, like peacocks, and if they are not dressed as such they are often introduced with a vibrant hair color. This is because the stronger the color is, the more attuned the character tends to be to certain characteristics. These characters don’t necessarily fit with the color’s attributes but do signify a strong personality (hence the wild hair colors of most main characters). The dullness than of Athanasia’s hair reveals a less than vibrant character–one who is instead meek in character and unlikely to be an antagonist in the “Lovely Princess.”
Next, we move onto the actual framing of Athanasia, which is closely tied in her own comparison to her father and her sister. Her father is framed mostly in dark shading, signifying his role as an antagonist to Athanasia (and Athanasia alone in the beginning). When he is not being framed as a bloody man with his back turned away from Athanasia (signifying his distaste for her and the bloody massacre that surrounds their history together), he is shown as having aggressive animosity towards her with a burning look of anger across his darkened face and glowing, scowling eyes. However, in a brief moment of simple description, we see the Emporer as someone more than the violent and angry man Athanasia imagines. For a moment, we see him as an emotionally void but handsome young man surrounded by white lilies, signifying virtue within his darkened disposition.
His colors are white, black, red, and gold, each leading to his representation as one with a strong personality that is steadfast in his decisions and successful in what he does.
Now returning to the first image I added in this analysis:
Athanasia is framed in purple irises and Jannette is surrounded by snowdrop flowers. The iris is often associate with royalty and wisdom, but also with death–a sort of foreshadowing to Athanasia’s fate. Meanwhile, the snowdrop is one of purity, hope, sympathy, and often rebirth which is somewhat fitting for the new life Janette takes on as a member of the royal family.
From here we come to see Janette and Athanasia compared more and more regarding their colors in the first few chapters as the author/artist set up the story.
Janette is in lively colors–pinks, greens, and gold (a yellow distinctly deeper than Athanasia’s hair and signifying success+wealth). While Athanasia is seen in dulled yellow-purple and soft blues.
Another noticeable difference is that Athanasia is not as decorated as her counterpart. Rather, she dresses far more conservatively than Jannette in almost every image where the two are seen together during this early part of the story. An image which can later be contributed to her father’s likeness as he often dresses with fewer embellishments than other characters.
Primary example, the former life’s Lovely Princess’s debutant ball:
And also this image of the family together:
In both the debutant ball image and the family image, Jannette (by extension, Claude, the Emporer) are framed in yellow gold, hence the glittering yellow hues. Meanwhile, Athanasia is given a dull yellow hue. Yellow which can signify a bright and cheerful feeling, and gold signifying success, is framing Jannette as a successor to their father’s love and affection. Anathasia’s dim yellow instead acts as a representation for yellow’s other meaning–instability and fear.
All of this helps add to the story and represents the type of character Anathasia is even before we see her reincarnated self.
What stands out to me the most about this framing is that Anathasia continues to be surrounded by yellow as she grows up (even with her gold obsession in the story, an obsession that stems from her hope to save up and escape her fate in the palace).
The yellow seems to take on a two-fold meaning for Anathasia as she grows in the story. The first is a symbol of fear, she knows what happens to the character and she is still very much afraid of the palace which is covered in yellows (seen above). The second is a cheerfulness, which she tries her best to portray as a ploy to live longer. It does work and as a response to that, the maids begin to treat her better and dress her in more vibrant colors as though she has a stronger personality. However, when we see her mostly on her own or doing things without people around, she returns to more conservative dresses examples:
Running off in her nightgown:
I simple pink dress for playing in:
Versus the more elaborate looking clothes the maids have her dress in when people are around:
It beautiful frames the character as she is now and as she grows and I really appreciate that attention to detail. I look forward to seeing it more as the story progresses. I just love it so much, y’all.
You can read the story on TappyToon here.