Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Collection Review 1: Hana-Kimi

I currently have a collection of approximately 100 manga volumes. These posts will provide background (how I came upon a particular manga) and a review of each series or stand-alone volume. I am reviewing them more or less in the order I purchased them (more or less):

Hana-Kimi: Hana-Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo is one of the first shojo series I read. I was helped in part by the local library having the complete set! I don't in fact own the complete set of 23 volumes but only one, which I bought for under a buck at Bullmoose. It's representational.

The series is delightful. The premise: Miyuki pretends to be a boy, so she can attend a boys' school in Japan and meet her idol, Izumi, a high-jumper. A few people learn her secret, including the school's gay doctor, Dr. Umeda. In fact, the idol, Izumi, discovers she is a girl early on (they are roommates) but keeps her secret from others and the fact that he knows the secret from her.

One of my favorite realistic scenes--hey, I learned
English grammar from studying French.
The plots run the gamut from plausible (issues over cheating; the school contest where the "prize" is a bunch of boring pencils) to totally implausible (the local photographer decides to turn Miyuki and her friends into fashion celebrities) to cute to silly to occasionally spooky (there are a few ghost vignettes). The reliable thread is the behavior of the students--they talk and behave like teenagers.

The series is very "G"--but Dr. Umeda being Dr. Umeda
is allowed to ask the risque questions.
Note that he smokes.
Regarding Dr. Umeda, my first reaction was that Nakajo-sensei made him gay to prevent him becoming a love interest. He is almost perfectly suited to be Miyuki's love interest since he is the one she confides in. He is also good-looking, sarcastic, and mildly insulting, making him a typical shojo/yaoi hero. And his age isn't a problem. Shojo/yaoi romances often have up to a 15-year age difference between the protagonists.

Keeping Dr. Umeda a confidant may be one reason for identifying him as gay but the series is full of operatic farce related to cross-dressing plus gender and sexual identify confusion, so his frank identification as gay makes sense (characters will occasionally break the fourth wall and inform readers that this is a SHOJO manga, not a yaoi one). I use "operatic" deliberately. The series is rather like one of those operas where men or women fall in love with boys, with boys who are actually girls, and with boys who dress up as girls who dress up as boys.

Forthright, guileless, bleached-blond
soccer-playing Nakatsu is from Osaka.
The relationship between Miyuki and Izumi is the touchstone for everyday reality and commonsense. And since the manga is set in (20th century) contemporary Japan, the food, settings, and references are entirely realistic. I learned a great deal about Japanese culture (which I later verified) from reading Hana-Kimi! For one thing Osaka appears to = Jersey Shore.