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"Who the hell is that... Brute?"

"Just because we've always done things a certain way doesn't mean we shouldn't challenge that. I don't plan on mindlessly following tradition like a sheep. I will not let myself be pushed around by the pressure of social norms I cannot stand and I well intend to live on my own terms!"
Erika
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Erika and the Princes in Distress is a currently-ongoing French Fantasy Webcomic written and drawn by Yatuu. The first page was posted on Yatuu's blog on April 2017, following a series of six strips that teased the project by giving some backstory on its production.

The story revolves around Princess Erika, heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Brutes where strength is valued above all. Upon learning that she will not be allowed to become Queen unless she gets married, she rejects the idea altogether and goes to confront her mother. As the two argue, the Queen's counselor offers an alternative: the law states that should the Princess refuse to get married, she can instead ascend to the throne by accomplishing a quest; and it just so happens that requests have been piling up from other kingdoms requesting assistance to rescue their respective Princes. Thus Erika, joined by her Lethal Chef squire Pita and a Neat Freak horse named Bucephalus, departs on a journey from kingdom to kingdom to prove her worth.

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One of the main goals of the comic is to act as a Deconstruction of gendered tropes and stereotypes, notably by inverting traditional gender roles, with the most obvious being the titular Princes in Distress being rescued by a Badass Princess. The world in general widely assumes that Women Are Tough and Men Are Delicate, and feminist themes of oppression and sexual harassement are treated through an effective exploitation of Double Standards. As it happens, the motivations of many characters revolve around them trying to break free of the social expectations put on them.

The webcomic is available in French on Yatuu's blog, and later received an English translation on Webtoon. After a successful crowdfunding campaign, the first story arc also received a physical release, which was later published in English by Sloth Comics. The series is also currently being adapted into an audio play by the Javras team.

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This webcomic provides examples of :

  • Almost Kiss: Has happened once per volume so far.
    • During the Floating Island story arc, Prince Egg-White is turned into a tree after eating a poisoned apple, and Erika is told the only way to turn him back is to kiss his face now etched into the trunk. She is hesitant to do so, as it would be her first time kissing someone, but before their lips actually touch, an enormous apple grows from the tree and falls, breaking open and revealing Egg-White inside.
    • During the Terapia story arc, Prince Aurel must breathe the perfume of a flower that'll put him in a deep slumber, so that he is rid of his terrible breath, allowing Erika to kiss him and rid him of the curse placed on him. However, right before she is able to go through with it, Morphine reveals herself and steals Aurel's body right under her nose.

  • Anthropomorphic Food:
    • Inside the Black Forest, Erika and her group are ambushed by a group of large, man-eating cherries.
    • King Parfait summons a group of living cream puffs to attack Erika.

  • Armor-Piercing Question: Aurel asks one to her mother when she tries to convince him that men cannot be nurses by showing him the portraits of famous nurses, who were all women.
    Ariane: History speaks for itself! As far as I know, there is not a single man on this wall!
    Aurel: How can any man have impact history if they are never given a chance to?!

  • Asskicking Equals Authority: The Kingdom of Brutes follows this logic. Whoever manages to defeat the Queen in battle can rightfully take her place, and many women are hoping to do so before Erika becomes Queen herself, as they consider her too weak for the role and find the idea of dueling her instead of her mother humiliating because it would be too easy. Meanwhile, the weak are relegated to the poor district of the kingdom, and helping them out rather than letting them strive for themselves is highly frowned upon.

  • Attack Reflector: Glucose is ultimately defeated by Erika sending back the enormous bomb he just threw right at him.

  • Bears Are Bad News: Ursteopaths are bear-like creatures who like to relieve people who suffer from back pain... by breaking their bones. They apparently enjoy hearing them crackle.

  • Berserk Button: Pita is by far the nicest and most good-hearted woman in the entire comic, but if anyone criticizes the food she makes (with good reason), she will enter a terrifying access of Unstoppable Rage and have absolutely no qualms about inflicting grievous harm to her poor victim, with the only way to snap her out of it being to compliment said food. She also once snapped out of it after Erika made her realize that she almost hurt Prince Aurel by accident in her rage, which seems to indicate that she may not fully realize what she is doing when in this state.
    • The book-only chapter of Volume 1 shows that she inherited this trait from her father, who is just as nice and optimistic, yet reacts just as violently when someone speaks ill of his food.

  • Bishōnen: Most men seen in the comic have very pretty and effeminate looks. While part of it (notably their large, expressive eyes) is due to Yatuu's art style, it is mostly a consequence of the inversion of gender roles. Being the "weaker sex" translates to more slender and graceful physiques, and men are shown to be subject to strong standards of beauty; facial and body hair are notably considered "ugly" by most women, and thus the vats majority of male characters don't sport any.

  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: When King Parfait asks Erika why she wishes to find his son, she tells him to just read the comic from the beginning again.
    • The same gag is present in the audio adaptation, where she instead tells him to listen to the previous episodes again.

  • Break Them by Talking: The Dithering Diarrhea virus attempts to do so to Aurel, by playing up his doubts and insecurities.
    D.D. Virus: Say... You don't look like a nurse... Are you sure you're allowed in here? Imagine if you mess up? The entire field of medicine might be strained by it... And more importantly... My host's health may take a turn for the worse! If you want my opinion...

  • Bystander Syndrome: This is common among the citizens of the Kingdom of Brutes, who firmly believe that everyone must strive for themselves without outside assistance.
    • Early in the comic, Queen Lagertha refuses to help out a woman who keeps getting her goods stolen, and berates her for not having the dignity to properly defend herself.
    • Upon witnessing a young server getting assaulted by a buff, muscular woman, Pita asks Erika to help, but Erika declines on the grounds that it is not her problem and that he needs to get out of it by himself. She only gets involved after Pita stubbornly decides to help out anyway and gets severely beaten up as a result.

  • The Casanova: Kaylane just cannot look at a pretty boy without getting the urge to seduce them, and she has no qualms doing so even if their girlfriend are right next to them. She is seen on multiple occasions literally surrounded by swooning men, and clearly enjoying herself. She however tends to border on Lovable Sex Maniac when she goes as far as to kiss, pounce on, or tear the clothes of men unprovoked, and actually gets called out on that attitude by Irvine, who berates her for disregarding his friend's physical boundaries.

  • Cultural Translation: In the original French version of the comic, the magic mirror used by King Raspberry Parfait shows the head of Philippe Etchebest, who hosts of the French version of Kitchen Nightmares. In the English version of the comic, it has been redrawn to look like Gordon Ramsay instead.

  • Curse: Furious that Prince Aurel banned her from the chatospital and confiscated her collection of panties, Morphine placed a curse on him: if he ever smells the scent of a certain flower, that is extremely common in this kingdom, he will die immediately. Feto altered the curse so that the Prince will only fall into a deep slumber from which he could be awaken by the kiss of a Princess, so Morphine made so his breath would smell unbearably awful as well.

  • Decomposite Character: The first story arc heavily lifts from the story of Snow White, but splits the part of the evil queen in two: King Parfait is the Wicked Stepfather who wishes for Egg-White to be assassinated in order to become the greatest pastry chef in the entire kingdom, but Glucose is the one to disguise himself as a peddler and offer the red apple to Egg-White.

  • Defeat by Modesty:
    • Early in the comic, Kaylane gets into a fight with another woman, and immediately takes her out with a single slice that makes her entire outfit fall down in pieces.
    • Kaylane also defeats Benoit this way, first tearing up the back of his pants, which he desperately tries to cover up, then ripping open his clothes to reveal a full view of his chest and crotch. This being Kaylane, she absolutely revels in the sight.

  • Distressed Dude: The titular Princes, who have gone missing, been kidnapped, or otherwise fallen victim to one menace or another. Erika has been tasked with rescuing them in order to prove that she is worthy of the throne.
    • Prince Egg-White went missing while fetching ingredients for his newest recipe, and Erika quickly figures out that he probably got lost inside the Black Forest, which is filled with dangerous and fearsome creatures. Eventually subverted when it turns out he is actually safer in the forest, as the reason he ended up there was to escape an assassin sent by his stepfather.
    • Prince Aurel is initially not in immediate danger, aside from suffering from a curse that could put him into an eternal slumber. After it does happen however, he is kidnapped by Morphine and taken to an active volcano, his captor planning to melt his body into perfume.
  • Eating the Enemy: When the group gets ambushed by a pack of man-eating cherries, Pita figures that since they're still just cherries, she can simply charge at them and eat them all. This turns out to be a terrible strategy, as the cherries reveal themselves able to open their mouth much wider than her.

  • Ethereal Choir: Upon tasting the pastry prepared by King Parfait, Erika is filled with bliss and warmth; in the audio adaptation, this is accompanied by heavenly music and choirs.

  • Feminist Fantasy: The story as a whole deals with many feminist topics, and uses the inversion of gender stereotypes to put light on them and invite the reader to question them. The most obvious example is the fact that Women Are Tough and Men Are Delicate, and that those who do not fill that mold are often looked down upon. Characters also often find themselves on the receiving end of comments that mirror ones thrown at the opposite gender in real life: women are told that they shouldn't cry and should learn to fight their own battles, while men are told that they should smile more, that they're not fit to do "women jobs", and that body hair on them is ugly. There's even an organization trying to fight for men's rights by overthrowing the current system, that they see as oppressive and unequal.
    • One notable scene is the duel between Benoit and Kaylane, during which she ends up undressing him before assaulting him. This was inspired by a very similar scene from The Mask of Zorro in which Alejandro does this to Elena, which the author for the comic notes rarely made anyone bat an eye. The gender inversion of the scene was meant to point at the Double Standard at play; without going into detail, it certainly succeeded in causing reactions and discussion from readers.
      • Kaylane later gets chewed on by Irvine regarding her attitude, the latter telling her quite angrily that she has no right to treat men the way she does. His argument pretty much straight-up matches real life feminist arguments on the matter, only with the genders reversed.
        Irvine: Listen to me! The fact that he's dressed like this does not grant you the right to touch him! He's not some piece of meat or toy that you can take advantage of as you please! Got it? Might he be naked, you'd still have no right over his body!
    • The character arc of Prince Aurel is particularly heavy on feminist themes. He desires to become a nurse, despite people around him (including his mother and his best friend), telling him that it is a woman's job, and suggesting that he should focus on more manly interests such as embroidery or singing. He is told that all great nurses in history were women, which he finds absurd since men are never actually given a chance to be nurses. Even after proving himself a competent nurse, one man refuses to let him attend to his daughter, for the sole reason that he is a man. Needless to say, this mirrors many of the obstacles faced in real life by women trying to get into male-dominated fields.
      • In the French version, Aurel also insists on being called a "soignant", the masculine form of "nurse", despite other characters insisting that it is "soignante", the feminine form. This actually mirrors a real debate among French-speakers, as several professions such as doctor ("docteur"), professor ("professeur"), chief ("chef"), or author ("auteur") lack a feminine form. The official rule is that the name should remain masculine even when applied to a woman, while feminists have been fighting to introduce feminine forms for years ("docteure/doctoresse", "professeure/professeuse", "cheffe", "auteure/autrice"). Aurel being told that "it sounds wrong" is also a common real-life argument made agaisnt those new words.
  • Heroic Neutral: Erika very much acts this way. She usually sees no reason to help out others unless it is part of her mission or benefits her in some way, and concurs with her people's belief that everyone needs to strive out for themselves. When Pita makes the argument that they're "the good guys, not the bad guys", she angrily proclaims that she is neither one nor the other.
  • Hidden Depths: One wouldn't expect a manizer such as Kaylane to advocate for men not having to conform to standards of beauty, but she does exactly that when she sees Benoit has shaved his legs and face to smarten up. Of course, this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that she seems to have a bit of a fetish for body hair.
  • Intimate Healing: Prince Aurel has the ability to heal wounds by kissing them, although it is ineffective to treat non-physical afflictions.
  • Leeroy Jenkins:
    • When the group gets ambushed by a pack of carnivorous cherries, Pita decides, since they're still technically cherries, to simply rush forward and eat them all. It doesn't turn out well, as the cherries can open their own mouths much wider than her.
    • When going to confront King Parfait, Savane asks Erika what her plan is. Her answer is "charge head first".
  • Lethal Chef: invoked Pita is a terrible, terrible cook. The very first recipe of hers that she has Erika try out is a cookie made from larvae, horse placenta, tree moss, and crushed toenails clippings. Her favourite dish also happens to be mud soup. Of course, you shouldn't ever point it out to her if you value your life.
    • The book-exclusive chapter of Volume 1 shows that Pita's father shares her awful sense of cooking, and reveals that they developed it mostly a result of not being able to afford actual food due to being poor.
  • Level Ate: Everything in the Floating Island is made of sugar, and thus edible. The rivers are filled with custard and sailed by boats made of wafer, the streets are paved with losanges, chocolate flows out of the fountains, and Pita pretty much leaves the King with a half-devoured throne room.
  • Men Don't Cry: Gender Inverted. When Pita bursts into tears because she almost hurt Prince Aurel by accident, Erika yells at her to stop crying because "girls don't cry".
    • It's implied that Erika herself used to often be on the receiving end of that statement as well, as Kaylane states the reason people think of her as a weakling is because they still see her as "the little fragile and sensitive little girl who cried a lot".
  • Morality Pet: Pita acts as one for Erika. Despite her strong "everyone for themselves" mentality, Erika does look out for her squire, and tries to protect her from danger, even if it means involving herself in fights she'd rather ignore altogether. In fact, the very first time Erika brings herself to ask someone for help (which by the standards of her people would be seen as a very dishonorable sign of weakness) is when Pita is about to die from a barley sugar overdose. It's also the influence of Pita that makes her spare Glucose at the very last moment.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: King Parfait reacts this way when a pastry from Egg-White snaps him out of his hypnotised state, reminding him that he promised his wife to take care of the son he is now attempting to assassinate.
  • Neat Freak: Bucephalus refuses to be mounted by someone unless they wash their hands, cross puddles of mud, or sleep outside, and he absolutely freaks out if he gets even a single tiny stain on himself.
  • Nose Bleed: Kaylane gets one after tearing open Benoit's clothes during their duel, revealing a full view of his chest and crotch.
  • No-Sell: Angered that Erika interrupted its duel, a scorpunch launches its huge fist-shaped tail at full force straight towards her head. Erika merely turns around looking pissed, and the scorpunch realizes it is royally screwed. Somewhat subverted however, when Pita then pats the back of Erika's head, and she actually cowers and lets out a cry of pain.
  • Not Your Problem: After Pita goes to help a server being harassed by a buff woman and gets severely beaten up, Erika, which has begrudgingly come to rescue her, berates her for getting involved despite clearly not measuring up, and in spite of her earlier advice to let the server defend himself on his own.
  • Opening Narration: The first episode of the audio adaptation opens with one, which briefly describes the world in which the story takes place.
    Narrator: Imagine a world... A world in which genders as we know them would be reversed, swapped around. A world in which women would be the dominant gender, and in which men would be a little more, let's say... weak. This story first starts in the Kingdom of Brutes. Ah, here! There seems to be a bit of action in the castle's courtyard.
  • Open Sesame: The door to the castle of King Parfait opens by speaking the password "Bon Appétit" out loud.
  • Panty Thief: The reason why Morphine was banned from the chatospital is because she was caught spying on young men and stealing their panties. She accumulated an impressive collection of them, and was furious when Aurel took them away, to the point of placing a curse on him.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Benoit disguises himself as a woman in order to challenge Queen Lagertha to a duel. Said disguise is incredibly obvious, merely consisting of a badly-adjusted wig and two tangerines under his shirt, not to mention he didn't even bother to shave. Lagertha immediately sees right through it, which surprises Benoit as the guards were somehow completely fooled by it.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Pita may seem short and scrawny, especially compared to the other women of the Kingdom of Brutes... but when she enters into an access of Unstoppable Rage, she is able to easily lift and wield rocks several times her own size. Even Erika is impressed by her strength.
  • The Pollyanna: The book-exclusive chapter of Volume 1 shows that despite living in extreme poverty, Pita and her father never seem to lose their optimistic and cheerful attitude. They merely laugh off the fact that part of their roof collapsed, and when a woman decides to mug them, they're visibly happy for the opportunity to share their food. When said woman insults the food however, all hell breaks loose.
  • Portmanteau:
    • Some of the creatures encountered by Erika and her companions are named this way. A scorpunch (scorpion + punch) is a scorpion with a fist-shaped tail, and an ursteopath (ursid + osteopath) is a bear that tries to massage people.
    • Terapia's largest nursing center is referred to as the chatospital (chateau + hospital).
  • The Reveal: It's revealed at the end of Volume 1 that Counselor Zabelle is actually a man in disguise, and part of a larger conspiracy to overthrow the current power.
  • Running Gag: Lagertha keeps getting pooped on by the messenger bird of the royal castle, with the fit of rage that ensues usually resulting in her throne getting destroyed. Even on the postcard portrait of her that was available for a limited time, the bird is present and in the process of pooping. Amusingly, this ended up saving her life at one point, as the bird peed in her drink instead of dropping poison in it.
  • Scenery Porn: The first volume treats the readers to an absolutely gorgeous full-page view of the Floating Island. Doubles as Food Porn given that it is entirely made of sugar and pastries.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: The Dithering Diarrhea virus attempts to break Prince Aurel's spirit by playing up his doubts over his ability to be a nurse. Aurel responds that he doesn't care about its opinion and promptly slashes it with his sword.
  • Spiritual Sequel: Erika and the Princes in Distress was inspired by Pas Mon Genre !, another comic by Yatuu that dealt with gender stereotypes, of which the last story told a fairy tale in which a princess rescued a prince that had been captured by a dragon.
  • Story Arc: The story is divided in arcs that each focus on a specific Prince, and take place in their respective kingdom.
    • The first arc takes place in the sugary kingdom of the Floating Island, and centers around the disappearance of Prince Egg-White after he went to seek pastry ingredients, along with the schemes of his stepfather King Parfait and his devoted wizard Glucose.
    • The second arc is set in the therapeutic kingdom of Terapia, and features Prince Aurel, who has been cursed to fall asleep forever if he breathes the smell of a certain flower; only a kiss from a princess can break the curse, but the spell has also made it so that his breath smells absolutely horrible.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Averted. After attacking Glucose, Erika is actually surprised that he survived the hit. She later gets so furious at him that she starts strangling him with the clear intent of killing him, only stopping herself at the last second when realizing Pita wouldn't approve.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The plot of each chapter is based on a classic Fairy Tale, often with many elements drawn from their respective Disney adaptation. To note, however, is that while they reprise key elements from the original story, they also tend to vastly deviate from them as a whole.
    • The first arc is inspired by Snow White. A Wicked Stepfather is told by a magic mirror that his step-son is a better chef than him, and sends a huntswoman to assassinate him. The huntswoman cannot bring herself to do the deed, and the Prince, who found refuge in the house of seven miner dwarves in exchange for doing housework, ultimately gets poisoned by a red apple, with the only antidote being a kiss. The outfit of Prince Egg-White and the names of the dwarves are for their part taken right from the Disney movie.
    • The second arc is loosely based on Sleeping Beauty. A wicked witch takes revenge on a prince by cursing him to die if he ever breathes a certain flower scent. A fairy alters the curse so that he would only fall into an eternal slumber until kissed by a princess, and the queen orders all of the flowers in the kingdom burnt. There is however one that they missed, which happens to be in the possession of an old man who turns out to be the witch in disguise.
  • Wicked Stepfather: When it started becoming apparent that his step-son Egg-White was becoming a better chef than him, King Parfait became extremely bitter towards him, refusing to taste any of his deserts and making him feel he was being rejected for underperforming. Later, his jealousy leads him to plot Egg-White's assassination, and he expresses utter delight when the deed is finally done. It eventually turns out that this was mostly due to him being under the influence of Glucose, who had been hypnotising him.
  • World of Action Girls: To put it mildly, Erika, who has been shown able to knock a bear unconscious with a mere two punches, is considered a weakling by the standards of the Kingdom of Brutes.
  • Worthy Opponent: Queen Lagertha only accepts challenges from people she sees as worthy to face her. For this reason, she does not allow for men to challenge her, and also refuses to duel Erika for the throne.
    • In fact, one woman seen early in the comic implies that pretenders to the throne would much rather access it by defeating Lagertha than Erika, because lowering themselves to duel her would be humiliating.
  • Xanatos Gambit: The reason why Queen Lagertha agreed to Erika's quest is because she's confident any outcome will turn in her favor. If Erika fails, she'll have no choice but to marry in order to ascend to the throne. If she somehow succeeds, there is a good chance she will fall for at least one of the Princes along the way.
  • You Need a Breath Mint: To prevent a Princess to kiss him and thus awaken him from his eternal slumber, Morphine cursed Prince Aurel with a terrible breath, which causes most people to faint on the spot if they get too close.

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