Here you will find honest, intelligent manga reviews for shojo fans of all ages.

May 19, 2009

Hana-Kimi - Hisaya Nakajo

I have to start this review by saying that it is not unbiased. This happens to be my favorite manga to date. I admit to reading it completely about five times. So if I'm too positive for your tastes, deal with it. Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, known as Hana-Kimi for short, ran in "Hana to Yume" magazine from 1997-2004.

Synopsis: Considered one of the "gender-bender" shojo titles, the main character Mizuki Ashiya transfers to a high school in Japan from America. There she seeks to find Izumi Sano, a high-jump track star, whom she has idolized from watching him on American television. The only problem is that Sano attends an all boys school, and Mizuki is a girl. So she cuts off her hair, binds her chest and pretends to be a boy, hoping no one will find out. For Mizuki, keeping her secret is difficult, but she does have some help. Even with that, much hilarity ensues.

Review: What I find enjoyable about this title is Nakajo's ability to portray the reality of teen awkwardness and hormones. The interactions of Mizuki and the boys she befriends are true to life, and watching the boys' reactions to her, despite not knowing she is a girl, can be funny and endearing. The two boys that are her closest friends, Izumi Sano and dorm mate Shuichi Nakatsu, have very strong feelings towards Mizuki, and Nakajo does an excellent job of developing those relationships. Poor Nakatsu, the soccer star, thinks he's become gay! Then there's Sano who is trying very hard not to notice the femininity of his roommate. All the while Mizuki is trying her darnedest to act like just one of the guys. As the story develops, the chemistry ignites between Sano and Mizuki, and both realize the awkwardness of their dorm room relationship. As situations escalate Mizuki worries how to finish high school without her gender being discovered. Nakajo's conclusion leaves very little unresolved and readers will be satisfied with the outcome.

From an artistic perspective, Nakajo has a talent for composition. Her drawings are well balanced and her characters are finely proportioned. I find the school uniform designs a bit tacky, but casual clothing looks great. Her colored work is beautiful, and you can see more actual pieces in the art book available from Viz. The boys range in looks as the mangaka intended with Sano, Nakatsu, Hokuto Umeda (the school doctor), and Minami Nanba (the dorm director) being the main bishonen.

Romance Rating: Cuddly - kissing is the most you get. There are scenes where a boy and girl sleep in the same bed, but that's all they do is sleep. There is one scene where Mizuki is almost sexually assaulted, but thankfully there's no nudity and it doesn't happen. For all the yaoi fans, there is some action between the school doctor and a famous photographer, but nothing more than kissing. If you're a parent reading this you might want to know that the teens do drink alcohol and there is drunkenness, although it is in the privacy of their dorm room.

Media Status: Hana-Kimi is complete at 23 volumes from Viz media. There are two live action dramas, a Taiwanese version and a Japanese version. There is also a book of Nakajo's colored works for this series called The Art of Hana-Kimi available from Viz.


Anonymous said...

I am also biased, since this is the only manga I've ever read which takes place (at least a little) where I was born - Berkeley. Nakajo-sensei certainly did her research well.

Though this isn't one of my favorites, it's excellent fun.

If you find the composition in Hana-Kimi impressive, I wonder what you would think of Swan (though one reviewer felt that the composition in Swan is a little too much).

- Sara K.

Anonymous said...

I am also biased because I LOVE THIS MANAGA TO DEATH!!!!!! It's part of my top 3 and nothing will replace it :)

Also you left out the little hot spring incident with the doctor for the yaoi fans :)


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