Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Manga Review: Haru Hana Complete Collection

Originally released in Japan in 2004, Haru Hana was a three volume manga written and drawn by Yuana Kazumi. Tokyopop snagged the rights to the book and released all three volumes as a complete collection here in the States. Resting firmly within the shoujo genre Haru Hana is a charming book with a lively cast and entertaining premise. If you have an appreciation for shoujo then chances are very good you'll dig this series.

Haru Hana opens up and introduces us to Hana Yamada from Osaka. She's a new transfer student at a school in Tokyo and she arrives hoping to overcome her rather bizarre condition. Back home any time she touched a boy she broke out in hives. The only remedy for this was an immediate dose of green tea. Apparently Hana thought there would be no boys in Tokyo, or at least none that would cause her to break out in hives. Boy was she wrong!

The first day of school doesn't go exactly as planned and she meets some interesting and shady characters. No characters in the manga are quite so shady as her sister though. Early on she announces that she found Hana a job, but little does our leading lady know that she's basically been sold into slavery. It would appear that in order to pay off her debts, her sister promised a particular business that she'd find somebody to work it off for her. Soon enough Hana finds herself in the non-paying employ of a relaxation room. What's a relaxation room you might ask? Well, it's basically a place where (mostly) female patrons go to have their bodies and souls massaged by a touching and tragic youth named Haru.

From the get-go Haru rubs Hana the wrong way. He continuously torments her and seems to get a kick of making her break out into hives. His boss (who is flamboyantly gay one might add) tries to help Hana out, but since he's smitten with Haru that doesn't work very much. Eventually Hana learns more about Haru and they form a friendship and working relationship. Soon the combination of Haru's skills at massage and empathy, and Hana's soothing violin talent, take over the business. The shopkeeper renames it Haru-Hana and from there the book really takes off.

A host of other characters are introduced from a violin teacher for Hana and prospective love interest for Haru. Throughout it all the book largely focuses on the relationship of its two main characters though. Haru struggles to recall a past he's forgotten and Hana tries to overcome her hive breakouts, which eventually dissipate aside from her contact with Haru. It soon comes to light that Hana's condition is indicative of her feelings towards Haru, though that is rather predictable I might add. From here on the book is all about their relationship and the feelings they develop for each other. It's rather standard, and a bit predictable, but there's plenty of charm here.

Haru Hana is a solid looking book with some great artwork. Kazumi's art style is both dynamic and attractive with lots of detail in both the characters and background. The translation of this book is solid as well, though there were a few lines of conversation that just didn't seem to flow as well as they should have. Overall this manga is wonderfully produced and presented.

If you love shoujo manga then Haru Hana from Tokyopop is certainly one that's worth checking out. It's entertaining from start to finish and leaves you satisfied in the end. The characters stand out more than the story, but that's often the case with books based on relationships. Consider the book recommended if you like the genre, but it's not something that's widely entertaining.

Maki Rating:

Review material provided by Tokyopop. Haru Hana is rated T (Teen 13+) for Mild Sexuality, Aggression, Mild Fanservice, and Tobacco Reference/Use.

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