Manga Review: Hana-Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo

Manga Review: Hana-Kimi by Hisaya NakajoHana-Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo
Series: Hana-Kimi,
Published by VIZ Media on September 7, 2004
Genres: Contemporary, Humor, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Scanlation
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three-stars

THE PRETTIEST BOY IN SCHOOL...ISN'T A BOY!
Japanese-American track-and-field star Mizuki has gotten herself a transfer to a high school in Japan...but not just any school! To be close to her idol, high jumper Izumi Sano, she's going to an all-guys' high school...and disguising herself as a boy! But as fate would have it, they're more than classmates...they're roommates! Now, Mizuki must keep her secret in the classroom, the locker room, and her own bedroom. And her classmates--and the school nurse--must cope with a new transfer student who may make them question their own orientation...

I’ve actually read Hana-Kimi twice before, so this was both nostalgic and somewhat eye-opening. Early on in my manga obsession, which began in the summer of 2008, I read Hana-Kimi. It was one of the first I picked up and I was IN LOVE with it completely. I thought it was the best. Thus, I later had to reread it, only to find it didn’t live up to my memories of it, now that I had a larger basis for comparison. My third read through is a bit more balanced, seeing both the good and the bad.

What makes Hana-Kimi great is the romance, so, if that’s not your thing, maybe don’t read this manga. Often in manga, the love interests are bossy and rude, nigh abusive, but that is not the case with Sano. He’s pretty much the best. He does try to protect Mizuki, but it’s not annoying because this girl is naive and very much in need of someone to take care of her. Sano treats her really well and doesn’t worry about his image at all, even though Mizuki’s cross dressing as a guy, which makes him look gay. I ship them quite a lot, and that doesn’t change, even when I’m at my most annoyed with Mizuki.

On top of that, I do really love some of the supporting cast, especially Hokuto, the school doctor, and Nakatsu. Hokuto is super grumpy, but actually a very caring person. He’s also a hugely sassy gay man with a penchant for stripping to freak people out. He’s fantastic, and I love how positive the portrayal of homosexuality is. Speaking of, Nakatsu falls for Mizuki, even though he always thought he was straight. Unlike Sano, he doesn’t know that she’s a girl, and he goes through this soul searching time dealing with the fact that he is apparently homosexual. It’s hilarious, and I especially love when he sees Mizuki through Nakatsu-vision or runs off yelling in confusion. There are times when the series makes me laugh out loud or swoon over Sano and Mizuki; those are the good times.

Unfortunately, much as I have a lot of nostalgic love for this series, it’s not one I highly recommend. Both the premise and the overall plot are really weak. There’s so much that should have been cut or strengthened. I’m affectionately calling the series Hana-Skimi now, because there was a lot I had to skim.

Ashiya Mizuki decides to transfer to Japan so that she can attend the same school as Sano Izumi, a high jumper with whom she’s been obsessed with ever since she saw him compete. The problem is that he attends an all boys’ school. No problem, though, because Mizuki’s willing to genderbend to be near him. Only, when she gets there she learns that he doesn’t high jump anymore. OH NO.

Here’s the thing: gender bending is difficult to explain convincingly most of the time, but THIS is ridiculous. Mizuki is WAY too obsessed with Sano for one thing, yet somehow hasn’t heard that he quit after an accident. Hello, if you’re going to be a stalker, at least do a good job of it, right? Plus, she manages to enroll in a boys’ school and get in without the administrators or her parents being the wiser. NO. Schools require forms and generally shots and so forth. From a parental point of view, I’m supposed to believe that her loving parents didn’t research where she was going to be living for three years? I THINK NOT. On top of that, her initial goal was just to be close to him and see him jump, things she probably could have done just as well from the sister school.

Frustrating, too, is the fact that, though she managed to pull off the feat of getting into this boys’ school, Ashiya Mizuki is hopelessly naive. Sano figures out that she’s a girl pretty much immediately, as does Hokuto. She’s not remotely sneaky. She regularly forgets to lock doors, meaning that people are constantly walking in on her in the bath or something like that. Girl is not bright.

Still, that’s the sort of stuff that you can kind of shrug off. I mean, yes, it’s wholly unbelievable that Mizuki would be in this school, but, hey, I can live with it and enjoy. What’s hard to enjoy is the meandering lack of plot. There are whole plot arcs that do nothing to advance Mizuki and Sano’s relationship. School festival arcs are full of infodumps by Nakao, the dorm head. There are a lot of plot lines raised for secondary characters that never resolve, many of which are boring, because it’s really just a romance. This could easily have been cut down to 10 volumes or less and been a much stronger story for that.

Oh, also, switching back to the positives, I forgot to mention perhaps my favorite things. Mizuki’s American (half-Japanese). This means that she comes out with a lot of comments about what is normal in America, and they are almost all inaccurate to the point that snorting is involved. For example, Americans kiss each other on the lips as a greeting. Right, guys? Totally a thing. We also say what we’re thinking straight out and almost exclusively take open note tests in school. It’s really fun to see the stereotypes of American culture, because they’re just so funny.

Though Hana-Kimi has its good points and I still like it overall, there are several gender bending story lines done so much better, with a more solid explanation for the gender bend, and less plotless arcs. It’s cute and full of lectures about some typical manga occurrences (like the school festivals) that can be nice explanations for a reader new to manga, but it doesn’t reread particularly well.

Tl;dr – Book in a GIFfy:

Those two faces pretty much sum up my reactions.

Those two faces pretty much sum up my reactions.

4 responses to “Manga Review: Hana-Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo”

  1. Cayce says:

    Oh, Hana Kimi!! How I loved that manga. Your review made me feel super nostalgic. I agree, Sano is the BEST. And I just have a soft spot for crossdressing stories 😉 Haha yes, it was pretty ridiculous, but did I care? Nope.
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    • Christina Franke says:

      I also have a soft spot for crossdressing stories, which is why I was so obsessed with this one when I first read it. But since then I’ve read some others that did it better in my opinion. I’ll always have a place in my heart for Hana-Kimi though. :-p

  2. Ha, I love all your points about Mizuki’s transfer being believable. One of the fun things about this manga is that you HAVE to suspend your disbelief because it’s so ridiculous, and just take everything in stride. I was shouting the same things as you! “Lock the bathroom door, idiot!!!” It’s like she didn’t consider all the ways she would need to hide beyond “strap down boobs” and “cut hair.” She doesn’t act like a guy at all, and like you mentioned, she’s naive to the point of cluelessness in so many situations. But Sano is there so it’s okay. 🙂
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    • Christina Franke says:

      Very true. They’re definitely going for over-the-top and succeeded. I can deal with that too some degree, but, at least for my older self, Hana-Kimi went a biiiiiit too far. Mostly, I just want her to have a better reason for doing it than a crush on a guy who does the high jump. Even if he is imminently crushable.

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