•Ao Haru Ride•
Hello, my invisible readers!
I am finally unveiling my super-secret series, which was Hana-Kimi! Yaaaaaaay~ urgh! There was no particular reason for keeping it a secret, other than that secrets always beget mystery and mystery generates interests. Or not. You decide. This review may contain a few spoilers, such as pairings (also known as ships. Funny concept right?) or some plot lines. I do not want to follow the foot steps of Pat Peoples and just spoil away, hence the spoiler alert.
I found out about this series by browsing the shelves of Chapters and then, I , somehow acquired it.
Anyways, onto the review.
Originally named, Hanazakari no Kimitachi e [English: For You in Full Blossom], Hana Kimi's premise goes as follows. Mizuki Ashiya is a young Japanese girl living in the States, who moves back to Japan in order to meet her idol-- high jumper, Izumi Sano. The only problem is that Sano attends an all-boys school-- a detail which Ashiya fails to mention to her parents, who allow her to transfer back. As such, she starts a new life by cutting her hair and posing as a young boy; hilarity ensues as readers follow her misadventures in boarding school.
What I liked:
It is a cute serie and the gender-bender premise is quite interesting. I found it entertaining and quite hilarious at times. I guess that I mostly enjoyed witnessing the first signs of love and the beginning of a relationship.
What I didn't like:
That said, I mostly did not like the series. And it isn't because I don't like shojo (I prefer josei, but I have read plenty of shojo in my time) or that I don't like manga (which is a laughable concept). So let's run through my problems.
Plot: The premise--as outlined in the summary-- is interesting and I guess, something I hadn't heard of yet. However, it was not strong enough to warrant 23 volumes, or over 140 chapters. Yes. A HUNDRED AND FORTY chapters. The story is told through mini-vignettes about different compromising situations that Ashiya finds herself in, which rarely advance the plot, develop characterization or, I don't know, are entertaining. It is as if to say, "oh look, at this cute situation that Ashiya and Sano found themselves in" or "Oh no, will Ashiya's identity be revealed." However, Sano finds out about Ashiya's true sex within the first volume and both start developing reciprocal romantic feelings within the first volumes. Therefore, why would we ever need, such a long series if there is nothing really happening? The only time, that the plot actually advances during the climax and denouement which coincides with the end of the series. In sum, the storyline drags on and drags on and drags on.
The Characters: Can we talk two seconds about the characters? Of course, some mangakas create round and dynamic characters, or even static and dynamic characters-- such as, Kimi wa Pet or Nana. Yet, there are some mangakas who create relatively flat and static characters. Ashiya, Shuichi Nakatsu, Sano are all flat, static and somewhat stock characters. Ashiya is the cutesy, ditzy protagonist who remains loveable in the eyes of the public and other characters of the book-- a stock character common in mangas. Other examples include: Sakura from Card Captor Sakura, Tohru from Fruits Basket, Ryoko from B.O.D.Y. Meanwhile, Sano is a Prince Charming, the ultimate protector of the ditzy, cute protagonist--as seenwith Ryu from B. O. D. Y or Yuki Sohma of Fruits Basket. So, far, this is not a problem.
What is problematic are the power relations in the couple. For example, there is one chapter where Ashiya, to put it bluntly, gets sexually assaulted and if, Sano had not magically saved her, she would have been raped. Yet, the next chapter, they act like that was no problem and in fact, Nakajo focuses instead on the 'kiss' that Sano gives to Ashiya afterwards. Because, Ashiya is so unaware of the danger she puts herself in, she always needs Sano to protect her; without his protection, she runs the risk of not only getting physically hurt but also, having her secret revealed. Therefore, Sano and Ashiya's relationship becomes simultaneously one of idol- fan and protector- protectee. Sano embodies perfection while Ashiya remains flawed and this trend permeates throughout the series. On top of which, Ashiya doesn't seem to have any ambitions further than being with her idol (yeah, she wanted to be a dog trainer but really? really?). That relationship is waaaaaaaaay too imbalanced and always in Sano's favour.
The Fake Love Triangle: The final thing that really frustrated me is the 'fake' love triangle between Nakatsu, Ashiya and Sano. Mind you, the following will contain spoilers. Take a few seconds to observe the covers of volumes in the series; notice, how there are also three people, Nakatsu, Ashiya and Sano. You would, perhaps believe that there is a love triangle between the three. But no. There never was one. While Nakatsu was in love with Ashiya, her and Sano were already pretty much on the same wavelength in terms of feelings, it was only a question of them discussing it openly. In other words, Sano and Ashiya were a 'couple' from the get-go and Nakatsu was intensely third wheeling. In fact, it is quite revealing that when Nakatsu declared his love for Ashiya, she never gave him a response-- despite the fact, that Nakatsu risked outing himself as gay in order to build a relationship with her.
Compared to other mangas, such as, Peach Girl where there is an actual love triangle, this 'triangle' is quite disappointing.
I am giving this series a rating of 1.5 stars because according to my "On Rating Books" scale, I felt that I didn't like the series and it was incredibly underwhelming. In my opinion, the series was long and shallow; it actually took considerable effort for me to finish it.
I would recommend this book to...
no one. I don't really feel comfortable recommending this series. Maybe, if you are looking to quickly read a few chapters for entertainment, you will enjoy it. There were several positive reviews on Goodreads and the nets. Nonetheless, I would recommend readingthe following series instead:
For something lighter:
That's it from me. Sorry for my inability to stop from accidentally publishing unfinished reviews (oops?) xox, S.