Hana-Kimi, Vols. 1-3

By Hisaya Nakajo. Released in Japan as “Hanazakari no Kimitachi e” by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz.

Yes, I know, Viz is drawing me in again. Another long series I haven’t read that Viz teases me with easy to collect omnibuses of. And yes, I am aware that after the 3rd omnibus Viz will stop and tell me to find the rest in backorder. And I won’t, as I am lazy like that. Still, this is a shoujo series that I had never really gotten around to when it first came out, so I thought I would give it a try.

At the time this first came out in North America, it must have been a lot more original to readers than it seems now. Girl dressed as a boy… love triangles with perky blond and serious brunet guys… what are these strange feelings in my chest… attempted rapes (I wish that last wasn’t a cliche). But a good 7-8 years on, we have to sort of retrofit our brain and read Hana-Kimi as something that influenced a lot of other shoujo manga doing similar things. And to be fair, as I read Hana-Kimi I kept thinking to myself “Wow, this reminds me of Here Is Greenwood”, a series that ran in Hana to Yume ten years before Hana-Kimi.

There are a few notable things that make Hana-Kimi stand out. First of all, to the delight of female readers no doubt, there’s a lot more “queerness” in this manga than you tend to find in most cross-dressing shoujo manga. Sure, Oresama Teacher and Ouran High School Host Club tease that people think that their alter egos are gay, but it’s almost entirely used for comedy, and is basically brought up then forgotten about. Here the theoretical homosexuality of the characters is right up front, and a constant presence. The school’s doctor is perhaps the only genuine gay character, but Nakatsu is hopelessly confused about his feelings for Mizuki. Still mostly used for comedy, but having it out there and in your face a lot is rather refreshing. I wonder if we’ll see any genuine gay relationships in the future?

The other guy in this triangle, by the way, becomes aware almost immediately that Mizuki is a girl. However, he doesn’t actually tell her. This leads to an interesting tension – Mizuki is constantly trying to hide her gender, and Izumi is trying to hide from her that he is aware of it, thinking that she basically must have a good reason and will tell him when she’s ready. This makes things a lot of fun, though I do note that this series is 23 volumes long, and I’m not sure how much fun it will be if they’re still doing this dance by the end of the series. In any case, Izumi is the serious young man with the (relatively) tragic past, and matches well with Mizuki – as with most love triangles in shoujo, the actual couple is never in doubt. Especially as Nakatsu is always used in comedic situations.

There’s a lot of ‘old school’ 90s Hana to Yume style in this series, which was familiar to me from my reading of I Hate You More Than Anyone!. It’s not as messy as Hidaka’s early work, but you still see a lot of extraneous text outside bubbles, etc. Despite that, this is a fairly easy read, and I finished it fairly quickly. If you enjoy breezy shoujo comedies with a focus on gender blending… and don’t mind that Viz is likely to end this re-release at Vol. 3… then you should pick up this omnibus.

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  1. I liked the first volume recently reread that and the second and third volume. Man what a let down that and it commits one of my cardinal “sins” in Shojo manga the ol “herione’s threatened with rape so hero has to save her” trope Wich so bugs me I’ll now drop a sereis that uses it without hesitation

  2. There is some relationship stuff going on with the nurse (and another adult, not one of the students), and there is a student who is gay. I really appreciated that one of the explicitly queer characters was an adult, because so often even when you do have queerness in school stories, it is so isolated it’s easy to read as something they will just grow out of (if not out and out said that they will). So it really means a lot to me to see queer adult characters in stories about kids and teens (I love that about Aoi Hana and Hourou Musuko, too).

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