Takane & Hana, Vol. 1

By Yuki Shiwusa. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by JN Productions. Adapted by Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane.

I am known for being notoriously easy to please, but it has to be said, I have a type. I have a certain kind of manga that I will automatically pick up sight unseen, and will always assume I will love unless proven otherwise. That type is shoujo manga from Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume magazine. From Skip Beat! and Oresama Teacher back through Fruits Basket and the complete works of Banri Hidaka all the way back to Here Is Greenwood, Hana to Yume is almost always a win for me. So I was prepared for Takane & Hana to please me. And yet I admit to surprise. It surpassed my expectations. What’s more, it surpassed them on the inside cover page. When you can win over a reader before the table of contents, you’re doing something right. Best of all, it kept my attention and kept me laughing and grinning the rest of the volume.

Hana is a cute high school girl with the misfortune to be the younger sister to a girl that is absolutely gorgeous. Her father also works as a corporate guy for a rich conglomerate, and the head of said conglomerate wants his grandson to marry – and thinks that Hana’s sister is pretty and would be just the thing. Unfortunately, the sister blows the whole thing off, so (as the grandfather is getting on and they may as well) they disguise Hana as her sister and try to have the marriage meeting anyway. It is, predictably, a disaster. The grandson, Takane, is arrogant, grumpy, and insensitive, and Hana blows up and storms out. Except… Hana blowing up intrigued Takane, and now he’s taken an interest in her. What follows is their hilarious semi-courtship, involving Takane’s social ineptness and sneering visage, and Hana’s razor-sharp tongue.

I cannot begin to count the things that this series does that are right in my strike zone. Even the cover has her pulling on his tie – I love shots like that. Hana is a down-to-earth girl with a line in retorts, and realizes right away that this is a war to see who can be the most in control. At the start she’s winning over him hands down, as underneath the arrogant persona Takane is awkward and doesn’t really know many social cues – and also is seemingly a genuinely good businessman, something that impresses her. As the volume goes on we see Takane get his own back a bit as Hana has to realize that yes indeed, she may have feelings for him after all. This is all conveyed through some excellent art, particularly the faces – Takane’s one-sided sneer, which is how Hana can tell he’s genuinely happy. Hana’s various reactions to the dumb things that he does. Hell, even when she points at him in an accusatory way at one point, her finger has a little mini-Hana face on it. The art fits the story, which is to say it’s hilarious but also can be romantic when it wants to be.

Essentially, if you are me, this is essential reading. Thankfully, most of you are not me, but even so I highly recommend Takane & Hana. I haven’t been this excited about a shoujo title in some time.

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