Hana-Kimi volumes 1-23

Hana-Kimi volumes 1-23

Nakatsu, Sano, and Mizuki

So today I’ll be reviewing Hisaya Nakajo’s 23-volume shojo series Hana-Kimi. Hana-Kimi is about Mizuki Ashiya, a Japanese-American teenage girl who admires high-jumper Izumi Sano so much she decides to move to Japan and enroll in Osaka High, a private all-boys school just to be near him! Mizuki must hide her gender from everyone at school, but with Sano as her roommate and another boy named Nakatsu in love with her that ain’t gonna be easy! One thing I appreciate about Hana-Kimi is that instead of dragging out the reveal of Mizuki’s secret, right from the beginning Sano figures it out. However, since she is unaware that Sano knows she’s a girl many hijinks ensue. Umeda, the school’s resident doctor also figures out that Mizuki is a girl (he claims he was able to tell because he’s gay), and immediately becomes Mizuki’s confidante. In addition to watching Mizuki and Sano’s romance unfold, we also get to meet the many quirky guys at the Osaka dorms along the way.

The boys of Osaka High

Hana-Kimi is an extremely popular shojo series, but I have to say it’s not one of my favorites. I think it’s a fun read, but it ran a lot longer than it needed to (and that’s saying a lot since I have no problem with longer running series). I think the main reason I felt the series lasted longer than it needed to is because the characters didn’t change much over the course of the series. I found Mizuki and Sano to be textbook shojo protagonists – she’s cheerful but dense while he’s handsome but mysterious – so I didn’t get very attached to either character. If anything, I actually found the side characters in Hana-Kimi to be more interesting. The first character who stood out to me was Nakatsu, Sano’s best friend who falls for Mizuki. His early struggles over his feelings for Mizuki (and more importantly his sexuality) are hilarious, and I love that he decides that he doesn’t care if loving Mizuki makes him gay. However, because Nakatsu’s character development happens so early on in the series, I didn’t pay much attention to him by the time the series ended. Umeda is also a great character because he’s funny and apparently a very cruel lover to his many flings over the course of the series. Nakao is sympathetic because he is in love with Nanba, the school’s resident womanizer and student council member (not to mention Nakao initially holds a grudge against Mizuki for stealing his title as the prettiest boy at Osaka High, an award most guys would probably try to stay away from). And over the course of the series I really came to like Kayashima, Nakatsu’s frank roommate who loves to read everyone’s aura. Not to mention, Yujiro is adorable <3. But even though I enjoyed seeing the Osaka High boys hang out and grow as friends, it’s hard for me to get attached to a series when I don’t particularly love either of its main characters. Read more

Dengeki Daisy: Teru & Kurosaki

Dengeki Daisy: Teru & Kurosaki

Even if you aren’t Daisy…I’ve already fallen for you.” – Teru Kurebayashi, Dengeki Daisy volume 2.

I don’t really want to tease you. I actually want to hold you in my arms…I tried to run away many times. But I want you.” – Tasuku Kurosaki, Dengeki Daisy volume 6.

One of the manga series I’ve been really enjoying reading recently is Dengeki Daisy by Kyousuke Motomi. The series is about Teru Kurebayashi, who was left a cellphone by her older brother after he died that connects her to Daisy, a hacker whose identity remains unknown. When Tasuku Kurosaki, a deliquent janitor, shows up at Teru’s school one day he becomes Teru’s protector and is quickly revealed to be Daisy. At the heart of my enjoyment of this series is the relationship between Teru and Kurosaki. I don’t think I’ve ever fallen for a couple as quickly as I have in this series. There are couples I love because of their dynamics (such as the rapport between Akito and Sana in Kodocha, who argue and tease each other but are always there for one another), or I love the couple’s love story more than the couple itself (such as Naoki and Kotoko in Itazura na Kiss). Dengeki Daisy is one of the few series where I feel as though I love the couple for both reasons.

On the surface, Teru and Kurosaki as a couple remind me a little of Tsukushi and Tsukasa from Hana Yori Dango. Both couples bicker a lot – Teru always tells Kurosaki that she hopes he’ll go bald, while Kurosaki often makes remarks about her ‘puny A-cups.’ And at certain points in both series the main girl is hiding her feelings for the guy she loves. However, while  Tsukushi’s refusal to admit her feelings for Tsukasa is a bit frustrating, I actually enjoy watching Teru struggle to hide her feelings for Kurosaki. I think a lot of this is because I love the setup of Teru and Kurosaki’s relationship: Teru knows Kurosaki is Daisy but doesn’t want him to know this, while Kurosaki is trying to resist his feelings for Teru because he is unwilling to forgive himself for a certain incident from the past (which I won’t reveal). Thus, their teasing dynamic is really just a pretense to cover up their hidden affections. But it’s more than just Teru and Kurosaki’s fun rapport or their unique situation that makes me like them as a couple. I really appreciated that Teru’s a bit brighter than the average shojo heroine because she figures out that Kurosaki is Daisy on her own pretty quickly – I expected that revelation to be dragged out a lot more. I also really love the use of inner monologues in the series – not that this is unique, it’s just that it’s great to see Kurosaki’s thought processes, because normally guys in shojo are left shrouded in mystery.

And, much like Tsukushi and Tsukasa, Teru and Kurosaki have great chemistry. I’m a fan of sexual tension in manga as long as it’s not too smutty or the only point of a series (cough cough Black Bird), and Dengeki Daisy hits those notes very well. Because Kurosaki and Teru’s relationship is one where they both have to repress their feelings, the tender scenes between them stand out. Little things like Kurosaki brushing his fingers through Teru’s hair, putting his face close to hers, or kissing her cheek when she’s asleep make it impossible not to root for the couple (and also get Kurosaki labeled a pervert by Riko, a woman who works with him). That’s probably a good thing, because one potentially troublesome aspect of the blooming romance between Teru and Kurosaki is the characters’ age difference. While Teru is 16, for awhile in the series it’s unclear just how old Kurosaki is – but it’s quite obvious that he’s at least a few years older than Teru considering he’s working at her school. I felt it was wise that Kyousuke Motomi held off on revealing Kurosaki’s age for several volumes, because by the time it was specified I had already fallen for Teru and Kurosaki’s vibe as a potential couple. And besides, Kurosaki’s teasing makes him seem more like a teenager anyway. If anything, I think it’s because Motomi knows how to tease her audience that Teru and Kurosaki are such a fun and workable couple, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading more.

Revisiting series

Revisiting series

Probably my favorite disc of Kodocha, which I've watched 386204 times. Approximately.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about rewatching anime and rereading manga. I see people write on anime forums all of the time that they don’t rewatch anime, even their favorite series, because they’d rather watch new ones. Even people who say they rewatch series ‘all of the time’ say they’ve only watched their favorite series two or three times. Then recently I read an article about the failing anime industry in America, and the author cites more than just piracy for the drop in DVD sales: he also believes that for some, anime may not be worth owning because most series don’t deserve to be watched more than once. I began to wonder if that makes me really weird because I love to rewatch and reread series. I watched my favorite anime, Kodocha, every weekend for two years and never got tired of it. I did the same with Boys Over Flowers and I still marathon the anime about once every three months. Even series I don’t love (like Fruits Basket and D.N.Angel) I’ve seen in their entirety at least four times, and there are probably a handful of anime in my collection I’ve watched three times or less.

I've read this side story from Nana waaay too much

Now, when it comes to manga, I’m admittedly less familiar with how often most people reread series. I’ve rarely seen people bring up this topic in manga circles, and truthfully I think I have a harder time of keeping track of how often I’ve reread certain series. When I watch anime, I have to get in the mood for it, but reading manga is something I do when I’m bored, when I wake up in the morning, when I really should be studying – it doesn’t matter. And when I watch anime, I like to watch large chunks at a time, but with manga I’ll read it regardless of whether I have time to marathon a series or not. I also have a habit of rereading the most recent volume of a series right when the latest volume is supposed to be released. There are, however, certain volumes or chapters I know I’ve reread a million times, such as the sidestory on Takumi in volume 18 of Nana or the wedding in Itazura na Kiss.

I think my affinity for rewatching and rereading series may be why I enjoy longer series so much. The reason I revisit series is because I love getting engrossed in the plot of a series once more, and all of the emotions and drama. Many times, I find new elements in a series (pieces of foreshadowing I missed, or I may look at a character I didn’t particularly care for in a new way). And while the element of surprise may be taken away, there have been some series I didn’t love much the first time around that I grew to appreciate upon revisiting them, such as Honey and Clover, Cardcaptor Sakura, and High School Debut. With Honey and Clover in particular I originally thought was overrated because I was expecting it to be a wonderful romantic comedy, but when I reread it, I paid more attention to the cast’s touching friendships and enjoyed the series much more. And when I rewatched Cardcaptor Sakura I came to love Tomoyo’s character. I think my habit of revisiting series is also because my favorite aspect of watching anime and reading manga is getting attached to the characters and their relationships, which happens the more you watch or read a series. So I’d like to hear your thoughts: do you guys reread or rewatch series often?

So…Japanese girls like it rough, huh?

So…Japanese girls like it rough, huh?

In keeping up with the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d take a look at the most popular romantic scenarios in anime and manga. Last year, Goo asked its female users the following question: “Of the typical scenes in a romance manga, which would you want to experience in real life?” Here were the top 10 choices:

  1. Being hugged from behind and told “I love you”
  2. Being asked out in a slightly forceful manner, e.g. “You’re going out with me today”
  3. Being patted on the head and told to “Do your best!”
  4. Discovering that their male confidante was in love with them
  5. Turning to look behind them and being kissed by surprise
  6. Having someone worry about them and look into their eyes while asking “what’s wrong?”
  7. Being fought over by more than one man
  8. Being grabbed by the chin and kissed suddenly
  9. Seeing him off at the train station and being dragged on to the train at the last second
  10. Having him wipe their tears away while saying “Don’t cry”

    Romantic, huh?

Number three seems more like how you’d treat a pet than a girlfriend, so I don’t see the romance in it at all. I’ve definitely seen it, though – I believe Sano does this to Mizuki in Hana-Kimi. Being asked out on a date in a forceful way I’ve seen done by Tsukasa in Boys Over Flowers, which lead to a disastrous (yet intriguing) date. I’m definitely not a fan of number nine – someone dragging you on a train at the last moment seems pretty selfish to me, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen this one in any anime or manga. Some of these scenarios are very fun to read whenever they occur in manga, especially numbers five and eight. These two just scream Yuu Watase: probably my favorite forced kiss is with Takiko and Uruki in volume of Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden. Another great example is between Naoki and Kotoko in volume two of Itazura na Kiss, which is the first sign that Naoki has feelings for her. And, for some reason, many of the forced kisses I can think of in anime are initiated by the rival (losing) love interest like Soshi in Absolute Boyfriend and Fuji in Sand Chronicles. And being fought over by more than one guy is in pretty much every shojo manga and it’s mother (although once again Yuu Watase is the queen of this cliché. No wonder she’s so popular). But in real life, I’m pretty sure having more than one person interested in you, while a confidence-booster, wouldn’t exactly be fun.

Takiko and Uruki

Naoki’s ‘take-that’ kiss with Kotoko:

Naoki and Kotoko

 And yet another forced kiss:

Soshi and Riiko
 

What’s interesting about this list is how forceful a lot of these scenarios are. In my opinion, a lot of these scenarios aren’t so desirable or sweet once you place them into a real life context. Being grabbed by the chin and kissed or being asked out in a demanding way are only romantic depending upon who does it: if a guy you don’t know or don’t like did this you probably would be pretty scared or pissed. But what it really comes down to I guess is different cultural values: many Japanese males are shy, especially when it comes to romance, so this helps explain why Japanese women want more assertive men because there aren’t as many men who are openly romantic, and thus this is reflected in manga. So this begs the question: which came first? Did the fantasies of real life Japanese women influence the pervasiveness of romantically assertive men in manga, or was it that these male characters in manga shaped women’s real-life desires? Or maybe it’s a little bit of both. And some of these fantasies definitely appeal beyond Japanese audiences: I have to say, I’d love to have number one done to me. I guess I like it rough, too. 😛

Yuu hugging Miki from behind
Love is complicated…(love triangles in anime and manga)

Love is complicated…(love triangles in anime and manga)

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d write about some of the best and most unique love triangles in anime and manga. There are many many love polygons to be found throughout anime and manga, even in series that don’t specifically focus on romance. And while this may be a shojo blog, some of my personal favorite love triangles are from shonen and seinen series, so this list won’t be limited to just shojo examples. I hope you guys enjoy! 

♥Kyosuke-Madoka-Hikaru (Kimagure Orange Road)♥

Why it stands out: They’re all best friends.

In my opinion, Kimagure Orange Road is the quintessential shonen-romantic comedy series and features one of the best love triangles in anime and manga. At first glance, this triangle may seem straightforward: Kyosuke is a newcomer to town and is torn between a sweet, clingy girl named Hikaru and the ‘bad girl’ Madoka whom he falls in love with at first sight. However, this series raises the stakes because not only are Hikaru and Madoka best friends, but as the series progresses the trio become close friends, making Kyosuke’s inevitable rejection of Hikaru in the series’ first film all the more painful.

♥Kyoko-Godai-Mitaka (Maison Ikkoku)♥

Why it stands out: They’re all sympathetic.

One of the best romantic-comedies there is, this classic 80s seinen series features a love triangle between Kyoko, a widow who becomes the mangager of a run-down boarding house, Godai, a poor college student who is Kyoko’s tenant, and Mitaka, a coach at Kyoko’s tennis school. This is one of the few love triangles I’ve encountered where I liked and sympathized with everyone involved: it’s easy to understand why Kyoko is so reluctant to pursue either of her suitors as she struggles to overcome her husband’s death, and I love that both Godai and Mitaka are very respectful of Kyoko’s feelings. You can’t help but root for Godai to win Kyoko’s heart not only because he is the complete underdog, but because he matures into such a sweet and caring guy. And while in most series the charming rich love interest usually comes across as a jerk,  when Kyoko finally rejects Mitaka after he has waited for her to reciprocate his feelings for almost four years, I couldn’t help but cry.

♥Tsukushi-Tsukasa-Rui (Boys Over Flowers/Hana Yori Dango)♥

Why it stands out: It’s unpredictable.

Even though I had been spoiled about who Tsukushi would choose before I got into the series, I still consider Boys Over Flowers’ main love triangle one of the least predictable love triangles in anime and manga. Soon after standing up to the rich clique of bullies at her school called the F4, Tsukushi develops feelings for Rui Hanazawa, the quietest member of the group. However, when the F4’s leader, Tsukasa Domyoji, begins to fall for Tsukushi, she finds herself torn between them. There is a lot of tension in this love triangle, particularly after Tsukasa confesses his feelings to Tsukushi in volume six and Tsukushi ends up feeling as though she betrayed Tsukasa by choosing Rui, and it was at this point in the series that I began to believe that I had been misinformed of who the main couple of the series was. However, Rui ends up rejecting her because he still has feelings for his first love, and over the course of the series Tsukushi finds herself slowly falling for Tsukasa, which made me elated. I think the main reason this love triangle feels so unpredictable is because the author originally intended for Tsukushi to end up with Rui but ended up changing the storyline when Tsukasa became more popular with the fans, allowing the shift in Tsukushi’s feelings to feel very genuine.

♥Akito-Sana-Fuka (Kodocha)♥

Why it stands out: They’re 12.

This was probably the first love triangle I ever became really invested in, which makes sense considering the fact that Kodocha is my favorite series. I love that Akito, who had been in love with Sana from early on in the series, starts dating Fuka when he believes Sana is interested in someone else, which serves as the catalyst for Sana to realize her feelings for him. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that Sana and Fuka are best friends, causing Sana to hide her feelings for Akito from both of them because she doesn’t want to hurt Fuka. None of them know how to handle the situation well because they are only twelve years-old. It doesn’t take long for Fuka to realize she’s the third wheel in this triangle, and I love the scene when Sana and Fuka finally confront one another. When Fuka admits that she doesn’t feel like Akito’s real girlfriend and Sana says she’ll take him from her, all I could think was ‘aww snap!,’ making this one of my favorite moments in anime love rivalry.

♥Sousuke-Kaname-Tessa (Full Metal Panic!)♥

Why it stands out: Sousuke only vaguely seems to realize he’s in a love triangle.

This is one of the few triangles where I enjoy the romantic moments of both possible pairings because while I prefer Kaname and Sousuke as a couple, I can’t help but like Tessa. While it’s fairly obvious that Sousuke is developing feelings for Kaname, the hot-tempered high school girl he’s supposed to be guarding, Sousuke is completely dense when it comes to love. This is especially true when it comes to his commanding officer Teletha ‘Tessa’ Testarossa, who is anything but shy about showing her feelings for him, which completely confuses (and possibly scares) the moody military officer. So while Sousuke may be completely oblivious to Tessa and Kaname’s feelings for him, the entanglements of this triangle are very fun to watch.

♥Momo-Kairi-Toji (Peach Girl)♥

Why it stands out: She dates both of them.

In most shojo love triangles, when the main female character decides between her two leading love interests, she’ll generally stick with her choice and the losing guy will often find love with someone else. However, in Peach Girl, despite the fact that Momo starts going out with Toji, the guy she had a crush on prior to the beginning of the series, she not only later dates playboy Kairi Okayasu after Sae’s manipulations tear her and Toji apart, but she even ends up with Kairi. While there are a few other love triangles where the female dates both guys (such as in Sand Chronicles),  it’s usually made obvious that she is only going out with the second guy as a rebound and is still in love with her first love interest. But in Peach Girl, despite the fact that Momo still has feelings for Toji when she starts dating Kairi, Kairi’s charms win Momo over and she eventually chooses him.

♥Hagu-Morita-Takemoto (Honey and Clover)♥

Why it stands out: (spoiler) She doesn’t end up with either of them.

While I’ve never personally cared for this love triangle because I never understood why either Morita or Takemoto was in love with the moody and introverted Hagu, it still stands out to me as a unique love triangle because she doesn’t choose either guy in the end. Even though Hagu is in love with Morita, Hagu decides to spend her time focusing on her artwork after her hand gets injured, and asks Shu (Professor Hanamoto) to stay by her side and help her. So even though I may not have been as invested in this love triangle, I respect Honey and Clover for not tying up all of the romantic loose ends like most series would, as well as for being one of the most poignant examples of unrequited love in anime and manga.

So what I’ve noticed is that I especially like love triangles where the people involved are friends. In these triangles, there is a lot more at stake, which is why they are so dramatic and interesting. If anyone has a love triangle they love or feel is unique, please feel free to comment!

Ouran High School Host Club: the Shadow King

Ouran High School Host Club: the Shadow King

After reading and watching shojo series for so many years, I’ve become familiar with which character types I gravitate towards, especially concerning male characters. I tend to love reformed bad boys, from Tsukasa in Boys Over Flowers to Akito in Kodocha and Kurosaki in Dengeki Daisy. Occassionally, I fall for princely-type characters like Tamaki. But liking Kyoya came out of nowhere to me. I tend not to care much for stoic cold guys – I generally find them to be uninteresting or mean, like Soshi in Absolute Boyfriend, so Kyoya becoming one of my favorite characters in Ouran was surprising. I think a lot of my appreciation for his character comes from the fact that he puts on a façade of only caring about himself yet is actually much nicer than he lets on.  A great example is shown in episode 17 of the anime, when Kyoya is left behind by the rest of the host club at a ‘commoners’ expo and runs into Haruhi. Kyoya witnesses a woman who is about to purchase a counterfeit antique, and decides to prove to the woman that the product is fake, then has the shady store owner’s business shut down. When Haruhi compliments him for helping the woman out, Kyoya says that the only reason he helped her out is because she is the wife of a prominent businessman, which he could tell because of the ring she was wearing. However, when Haruhi realizes that there’s no way Kyoya could have seen what ring she was wearing from where he was standing, she asks him why he pretends to be self-motivated when he is actually kind, and Kyoya’s only response is a smile. It was after this episode that I started to warm up to Kyoya, and began to see him as more than just a stereotypical stoic character. The series does an excellent job in making Kyoya sympathetic, as we see him struggle toward achieving his goal of taking over his father’s company with all the odds stacked against him because he is the third in line for the position.

I think the other main reason I love Kyoya is because he provides such a great foil to Tamaki, who is my other favorite character in the series. While Kyoya is logical and self-motivated, Tamaki is impulsive and always concerned with making others happy.  But in actuality, much of Tamaki’s capriciousness is influenced by Kyoya ‘the shadow king,’ such as in one episode where the host club wears Balinese clothes because Kyoya slipped a picture of a Bali setting  (all in order to increase the club’s profits, of course). I love the relationship between the two of them, especially the fact that Tamaki calls Kyoya ‘mommy’ (since he sees himself as Haruhi’s ‘daddy’). Despite the fact that the two are opposites, Kyoya goes along with Tamaki’s whims and cares for him deeply because he realizes that Tamaki is the only person who truly understands him. My favorite episode of Ouran High School Host Club is episode 24, which shows how Kyoya and Tamaki met and eventually establish the host club. Initially, Kyoya tries to befriend Tamaki in a polite yet aloof manner because of his father is the school’s chairman, but he soon gets annoyed with Tamaki’s capriciousness and sees him as a moron. But Kyoya begins to see Tamaki as his first genuine friend and reveals his true (cold) self when Tamaki realizes that Kyoya wants much more than simply being the third son in his father’s business. Thus, Kyoya joins the host club as its manager in order to help him develop skills to surpass his elder brothers. But what Kyoya gains from joining the host club is so much better: true friends who matter more to him than taking over his family business, and help him finally escape the shadow of trying to be ‘the perfect son.’

Nana: Baby momma drama…(spoilers)

Nana: Baby momma drama…(spoilers)

This entire post is basically one huge spoiler, so please be cautious when reading, especially if you haven’t read volume 21 yet.

Although volume 21 of Nana brought the series to what could have been a dramatic finale, the series is actually on hiatus because Ai Yazawa was being hospitalized for an unknown illness. The manga tells two stories: one of the present day alongside brief glimpses into the future. However, with the series unfinished, there is a gap left between the present day and the future, so many questions have been left unanswered. When did Nana Osaki leave all of her friends behind to go to England, and why? What happened to Black Stones and Trapnest after Ren Honjo’s death? And what happened between Hachi and Nobu? But the biggest question I think many fans want answered is who are the parents of Ren and Satsuki?  I have a few thoughts about this subject, but please be aware that my opinion is pure speculation and that there is no right answer as long as the series remains unfinished.

Child Ren

I’ll start with Ren, the boy we see with Takumi in England in volume twenty. This may get confusing because there are two Rens: Ren Honjo, Nana Osaki’s boyfriend who dies at the end of volume twenty, and Ren the child, so from now on I’ll be talking about the latter unless I use Ren Honjo’s full name. Even though Ren calls Takumi ‘daddy’ and Hachi asks where he is during a phone call with Takumi, many fans do not believe that Ren is the child of Hachi Komatsu and Takumi Ichinose. When Hachi got pregnant, she had just broken things off between her and Takumi and began dating Nobu. However, when she realized she was pregnant, she and Takumi got engaged even though she loved Nobu because she believed there was a greater chance that the baby was Takumi’s (since he didn’t use protection). The fact that Ren has light hair has led many fans to believe that Ren is actually Nobu’s son with Hachi. As for my personal opinion of this theory, while I do think it would make for great storytelling that Hachi dumped Nobu because she thought she was having another man’s baby, just for that baby to turn out to be his, I really don’t believe that Ren is Hachi and Nobu’s child. Just because Ren has light hair doesn’t automatically mean he can’t be Takumi’s son, especially since Hachi has light hair as well. At the beginning of volume 20, Ren is very cold to Takumi, which reminds me of Takumi’s coldness toward most people. Naoki even comments that Ren has Takumi’s “evil eyes,” and thus for these reasons I believe that Ren really is the son of Takumi and Hachi. I wouldn’t be surprised if I were wrong though – after all, this is Ai Yazawa we’re talking about.

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