Tag Archives: shojo manga

Manga Review: Hatsu*Haru Vol. 11

Ah…high school romance. It is a staple of shojo manga, and Shizuki Fujisawa adds another title to this list with Hatsu*Haru. Read on for the review of Volume 11! (For reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

The start of the school year brings unexpected trouble for Kai, as the new semester’s class assignments mean he’s no longer in the same class as Riko. Their time together has been drastically cut, but Riko is completely unfazed, to Kai’s dismay. Luckily, the school trip is right around the corner, and there will be plenty of time for relationships—even if it’s not their own they’re working on!

The Review

Most volumes in the series focus on one or two pairings, but Volume 11 gives three couples significant moments. First we have Kai and Riko. Lately, they’ve gone through different variations of Kai’s romantic plans getting derailed. This time, things get changed up when Riko unexpectedly asks him to go on a visit to Suwa and Akemi’s home. They pretty much dropped out of the picture since their wedding, so it’s a chance to catch up with the newlyweds and their baby. It also gives Kai the opportunity to earn points using his superior baby-handling skills. He does make one bungle, but his dismay over the mistake is way over the top. By and large, he demonstrates himself to be an excellent boyfriend and earns Akemi’s stamp of approval.

The focus then shifts to Misaki and Ayumi. Several weeks have passed since Misaki’s Valentine’s Day get well visit. Although the results weren’t immediate, his efforts made a definite impact on Ayumi’s heart and mind. It does drag on a little long, but the instant of realization for Ayumi is cute and very much in keeping with her personality.

That leaves us with one final couple-to-be. At this point, the timeline jumps to the class trip, so the vaunted city of Kyoto serves as the backdrop for Kagura’s attempts to be honest with Tarou. Because she is such a stubborn tsundere, Kai must give her an extra push, though his involvement seems more like that of a meddlesome aunt than a concerned friend. It’s a romantic comedy, so Kagura’s prickly nature of course interferes over and over. However, when it really counts, she is surprisingly articulate to Tarou. At this point, it’s unclear what will happen between the two because Tarou has never shown interest in becoming a one-woman man and Kagura is unwilling to do more than “wait” for him.

Extras include story-thus-far, mini-manga about Fujisawa-sensei and her assistants, and translation notes.

In Summary

A lot of fun wins for our characters in this volume! Kai has an unexpected opportunity to impress Riko, and he manages not to get punched by her. Misaki’s efforts to capture Ayumi’s heart finally pay off in a beautiful springtime moment. Kagura also manages to make progress in her relationship with Tarou, but whether he returns her feelings in kind remains to be seen.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Hatsu*Haru Vol. 10

Ah…high school romance. It is a staple of shojo manga, and Shizuki Fujisawa adds another title to this list with Hatsu*Haru. Read on for the review of Volume 10! (For reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Thanks to Riko’s heroic instinct, she took first prize in the Hottest Guy Contest and won a trip to a hot-spring resort. Kai has been eagerly awaiting their romantic getaway, but unfortunately for him, the dream trip for two has suddenly become a group affair. With Shimura and Misaki tagging along, alone time has dwindled to a thing of mere imagination. Odds take a turn in the boys’ favor, though, when Shimura insists on sleeping in Misaki’s room…The hope for intimacy may not be lost, after all!

The Review

The last volume ended with Riko winning Hottest Guy Contest, and Volume 10 dives into the hot springs trip Kai was hoping for. Only it’s not the intimate getaway he’d been dreaming of. Yes, we get to see our characters in traditional clothing in a charming setting, but in keeping with the pattern of Kai’s romantic plans getting thwarted, this time he’s blindsided by a third and fourth wheel. The circumstances that have Misaki and Ayumi joining their overnight trip are fairly improbable, but this is shojo manga, so oh well.

Not surprisingly, Riko’s awkwardness about being alone with Kai interferes with his efforts to grow closer to her, but he manages to get a kiss without getting punched, so that’s progress in a sense. As for the other pair, they’re still not a couple, but Ayumi’s forced to face Misaki’s feelings more directly than she’s ever had to.

Then the timeline speeds up, and we zip through three holidays: Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day. Most of the focus ends up on Valentine’s Day when Kai, who despairs that it will even occur to Riko to give him chocolate, decides to make Valentine’s chocolates for her instead. A third of Chapter 39 winds up an illustrated recipe for chocolate muffins as Kai and his guy friends head to the kitchen to bake treats. The narrative’s taken pains to point out how manly Riko is, and this arc highlights Kai taking the traditionally girly role.

Predictably, Kai’s Valentine’s chocolate arc ends with a comic twist. For Misaki, though, it extends to a get well visit to Ayumi’s house when she falls ill on Valentine’s Day. Unlike the time Kai took Riko home, Ayumi’s conscious for all of Misaki’s attentions, and it is sweet seeing him dote on her. However, the mood shifts to comic when Misaki encounters Ayumi’s parents. The arc reveals quite a bit about Ayumi, and the way it strengthens Misaki’s resolve to pursue her is adorable.

Extras include story-thus-far, mini-manga about Fujisawa-sensei and her assistants, afterword, and translation notes.

In Summary

Kai and Riko’s romance continues at a turtle’s pace. Despite an overnight trip and a tremendous effort to make Valentine’s Day special, they only manage to progress to the point where Kai can kiss Riko without getting punched. Misaki, though, is making great strides with Ayumi. Although she’s yet to reciprocate his feelings, it’s a delight to watch the two grow closer.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Love Me, Love Me Not Vol. 1

Complicated romantic drama forms the basis of many shojo titles, and Io Sakisaka’s Love Me, Love Me Not falls into this category. Read on for the review of Volume 1.

Back Cover Blurb

Four friends share the springtime of their youth together.

Fast friends Yuna and Akari are complete opposites—Yuna is an idealist, while Akari is a realist. When lady-killer Rio and the oblivious Kazuomi join their ranks, love and friendship become quite complicated!

The Review

According to the Greetings page, the story has two main characters, Yuna and Akari. However, while we do get scenes in Akari’s perspective, the story feels like it belongs to Yuna, which is too bad because she is much less engaging than her costar.

Yuna’s the stereotypical nice, shy high school girl. Unfortunately, she’s so timid she doesn’t make an impression on other people nor does she make an impression as a lead character. Akari is confident and friendly, and she’s had to move often because of family circumstances. The two meet when Yuna helps Akari at a train station, and they become friends when they realize Akari has just moved into Yuna’s apartment building. Like most high school girls, they talk about boys and quickly discover they have different views on romance.

The story has a very slow start. Unfortunately, even once the girls’ relationship gets established, Yuna’s so passive and mopey I’m not inclined to root for her as a character. The plot primarily focuses on Yuna’s and Akari’s differing views on romance and how their love lives play out in real life. Yuna’s knowledge of romance comes primarily from shojo manga, she has an idealistic (fairytale) view of love, and she finds it near impossible to talk to boys. Akari has no trouble talking to boys, has dating experience, and is currently in a long-distance relationship. As such, Akari views Yuna as naïve while Yuna thinks Akari’s feelings of love are shallow. Even so, the girls care for one another and try to help each other when the focus of attraction comes into the picture.

The boys that trigger that are Rio and Kazuomi. Rio is Akari’s stepbrother and Kazuomi is Akari’s longtime neighbor and friend. Predictably, Yuna falls for Rio, and Akari falls for Kazuomi. Watching Akari navigate life is somewhat interesting. She’s very active, going so far as to take a part-time job to fund visits to her faraway boyfriend, and has an awkward blended family situation. Yuna, on the other hand, is so passive and unremarkable she’s boring. She doesn’t have the guts to confess to Rio; instead she just witnesses other girls confessing to Rio over and over. On top of that, Yuna is called a “nice” girl, but all it takes is one unfounded rumor for Yuna to essentially brand Akari a slut. While Yuna does redeem herself, it’s not enough for me to sympathize with her as a character, and I’m not especially interested in what happens to her next.

Extras include Greetings and Afterword.

In Summary

Two girls with different views on love befriend each other just before they enter high school. While the ups and downs of teen romance can fuel scintillating drama, Love Me, Love Me Not is flat as a can of stale soda due to the lack of initiative of its overly quiet and self-conscious main character Yuna. And even though the mangaka appears to be setting up the two heroines for a love square with the two boys closest to them, the story thus far hasn’t sufficiently endeared the characters that I care who ends up with whom.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: The Royal Tutor Vol. 13

Rich, handsome young men, each with his own distinct personality…this type of bishounen cast is a staple in shojo manga. And if you like yours with a generous helping of chibi humor, you should definitely check out Higasa Akai’s The Royal Tutor. Read on for my review of Volume 13. (For my reviews of other volumes click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

The ongoing troubles at Café Mitter Meyer leave Licht feeling helpless as he witnesses firsthand the hate directed at his master for his Kvel ancestry. Infuriated by the kingdom’s ugly dark side, Licht realizes he has an opportunity many do not: the power to enact change from the highest level of government, the throne itself! With his return, all four brothers are reunited in the palace. They have all been transformed by their experiences apart, and each is more determined than ever to rule for the betterment of Granzreich!

The Review

The first half of Volume 13 is Licht centric. He’s been absent from recent chapters so Akai-sensei’s making it up with an extended arc where he’s the star and the guards Ludwig and Maximillian form the supporting cast. Like most Licht stories, it centers around the café, and like his brothers, Licht hits upon a turning point during their time apart.

A new element introduced at the close of Volume 12 is the existence of ethnic minorities within the kingdom. Volume 13 fleshes out that dynamic further. Kvels appeared to be modeled after the Jewish people, and considering how this world resembles 19th-century Europe, the picture of discrimination it presents isn’t difficult to grasp. It is, however, a shock for the privileged and mostly sheltered Licht.

Unlike the libel incident against Kai, the vandalism against the café is left unresolved. On one hand, it’s frustrating not to reach a resolution. On the other hand, it is a realistic outcome and one that wakes Licht up to the inequity that exists in his country. Thus the youngest prince discovers motivation to embrace the role he was born to, and Akai-sensei leaves the door open for this vandalism incident to reemerge at a later time.

At this point, Heine’s not only won the respect of his four pupils, but he’s leveled them up as candidates for the throne. Thus, the focus turns to the throne’s heir apparent, Eins, who poses with the Royal Tutor on this volume’s cover.

While the younger princes are technically competing with their eldest brother, most of the conflict has arisen between Heine and Count Rosenberg. Rosenberg’s position as Eins’ head steward would lead one to believe his actions are driven out of a desire for personal gain, but an unusually frank conversation between Heine and Rosenberg and a walk down memory lane with Kai reveal that the relationship between the count and Eins is deeper and more complicated. And with Eins acting strangely following his much-anticipated betrothal to a neighboring princess, Akai-sensei’s got me insanely curious as to what his fatal flaw might be.

Extras include bonus manga and illustrations and the first page printed in color.

In Summary

The troubles at Café Mitter Meyer take on an ugly tone. Although Licht is determined to stop the culprit, he eventually realizes that the problem is beyond what an ordinary café worker can handle. Thus, he embraces his princehood and returns to the palace with a new purpose. With that, all four brothers are reunited in time to receive news of their eldest brother’s engagement. Akai-sensei finally reveals more information about Eins and Rosenberg, but those details serve to raise more questions, leaving me eagerly anticipating the next volume.

First published at The Fandom Post.

 

Manga Review: Hatsu*Haru Vol. 9

Ah…high school romance. It is a staple of shojo manga, and Shizuki Fujisawa adds another title to this list with Hatsu*Haru. Read on for the review of Volume 9! (For reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Relationship woes are plaguing Aoba High! After confessing his love to Shimura, Taka must now suffer the waiting game: Will she accept his feelings, or was their “relationship” just another headline for her paper? Also trapped by fear, Kagura begins to worry that she has placed her heart in the hands of the wrong boy. Amidst all this, Kai struggles to read Riko, wishing he could be as affectionate with her as he was with other girls. Will these couples work things out themselves, or will divine intervention be required?

The Review

Now that six out of our eight main characters have been paired, we finally get to the last two: Tarou and Kagura. However, nothing remotely resembling a relationship is sparking between them, mainly because Tarou’s enjoying his playboy life and Kagura’s too proud to admit she has feelings for him.

As far as tropes go, Kagura is a super-tsundere to the point that I wonder if her logic circuits are functioning correctly. Because their interactions are comprised mostly of hissing and snarling from Kagura, the narrative goes back in time to when the two were more innocent. However, Kagura’s tale of unrequited love gets poured out, not to one of her girlfriends, but Kai. The fact that she’d lay bare her heart to a boy–and one to whom she’s expressed open disdain–is so far-fetched as to jar me out of the story. Anyway, the arc concludes within a chapter (because there truly is nothing happening between Tarou and Kagura) and returns to characters who actually are working on a relationship.

Chapter 34 opens with Kai and Taka seemingly at an impasse with their respective love interests. I didn’t think Taka’s waiting game with Ayumi would turn into an issue, but it does. As for Kai, yes, he’s dating Riko, but the romance is at an elementary school level. Just as Riko’s obliviousness hit black hole levels in earlier volumes, her romantic sense is so lacking as to be ridiculous. When she’s not punching Kai due to misunderstandings, she’s sumo wrestling him, which makes me wonder how she envisioned dating Suwa-sensei. Kai’s struggle for lovey-dovey moments is meant to be comic, but with him getting beat up despite being Riko’s boyfriend, I just feel sorry for the guy.

Finally, things liven up with Aoba High’s “World’s Hottest Guy Contest.” In a bid for newspaper material, Ayumi sponsors the contest which has an overnight hot springs getaway going to the winner. Between the resulting hubbub and the varied emotions regarding the prize, the arc is a lot of fun, especially the way Taka teases Ayumi.

Extras include story-thus-far, mini-manga about Fujisawa-sensei and her assistants visiting Germany, and translation notes.

In Summary

Finally an arc on the remaining yet-to-be-paired members of the main cast. Disappointingly, it’s all old history, and Kagura’s feelings for Tarou remain unrequited, although oddly Kai is made privy to those feelings. Then things move back to Kai/Riko and Taka/Ayumi. While watching Taka endear himself to Ayumi is charming, watching Kai get punched by Riko (again) is getting old.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Hatsu*Haru Vol. 8

Ah…high school romance. It is a staple of shojo manga, and Shizuki Fujisawa adds another title to this list with Hatsu*Haru. Read on for the review of Volume 8! (For reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Taka always thought he’d be the last person thrown off by high school romances. But when his seemingly perfect partner in crime, Shimura, has a sudden request-“Let’s break up!”-he totally loses his balance. Even though this all started as an elaborate scheme to help Kai, now Taka is the one needing Kai’s relationship advice! The tides sure have turned!

The Review

It’s Volume 8, and Kagura’s turn to grace the cover. But the illustration’s somewhat misleading because she doesn’t appear in this volume at all. Rather, the focus goes to two other girls.

First is Ayumi, who asks Taka to end their pretend relationship. Her reasons are twofold. One, Riko and Kai, for whom they started the ruse, are doing just fine now. Two, Ayumi is short on material for the school newspaper and wants to use their breakup as a story.

This is a shojo romance, and predictably, Taka’s thrown into unexpected turmoil at Ayumi’s pragmatic request. But even if it’s predictable, seeing the ever-stoic Taka display an unusual level of emotion draws you in. On the Ayumi front, while she’s clearly fascinated by relationships (the school paper seems more a gossip column than a channel for actual news), we haven’t seen her touched by Cupid’s arrow herself. This arc gives more insight into her views on romance. Whereas Kai’s perspective on love involved parallels with Einstein’s theories and black holes, Ayumi’s involves snails, which isn’t appealing visually, but manages to get the message through.

At any rate, the arc doesn’t come to a complete resolution, but there’s enough heart-thumping illustrations of the pair to keep it satisfying.

Then the spotlight shifts back to Riko and her relationship with Kai. The couple is on solid ground, and there are no rivals ruining their vibe, so Fujisawa-sensei continues the path of ruining the former playboy’s plans for the perfect date. This time, unexpected babysitting duty messes things up.

If you like cute kids, you’ll enjoy Kai’s niece and nephew hijacking their Sunday together. If kids make you uncomfortable, you can commiserate with Riko, who has zero experience with children. In the midst of the usual pants wetting incidents that come with little kids, Fujisawa-sensei interjects Riko’s memories of her dad. It’s a different change of pace than her typical reminisces of Suwa-sensei and provides a new way for Riko and Kai to grow closer.

Extras include story-thus-far, mini-manga about Fujisawa-sensei and her assistants visiting Germany, afterword, and translation notes.

In Summary

It’s the fake-relationship-turns-to-actual-feelings trope! However, Taka and Ayumi pull it off in an engaging way, plus we get a glimpse of how Ayumi’s mind and heart tick. Then Kai’s latest attempt at a perfect date gets ruined, this time by his niece and nephew. It’s good for laughs, but I’m not certain where the primary arc is headed without any real challenges in front of our main couple.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: A Bride’s Story Vol. 11

Kaoru Mori is best known for  Emma, an exquisite romance/slice-of-life set in Victorian England. Her latest work to be released in the United States, A Bride’s Story, is also a historical/slice-of-life but is vastly different than Emma. Set in Central Asia in a rural town near the Caspian Sea during the early 19th century, A Bride’s Story revolves around a young woman, Amir, who arrives from a distant village across the mountains to marry Karluk, a boy 8 years her junior. Volume 11 has been released, and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Having reached his destination in Ankara, Smith is not only reunited with his old friend, but also Talas, the woman he briefly stayed with on his journey. An agreement was made, and now Smith must travel back to Amir and Karluk with his new companions and newly acquired camera. However, the roads back are perilous as war approaches…

The Review

Volume 11 opens with Chapter 70, “Song of Midwinter.” Rather than a narrative, this chapter is a gorgeous montage of single and double-page illustrations depicting different winter scenes in town and on the plains. There’s no dialogue, but captions following Amir’s perspective provide almost poetic descriptions.

Then the story returns to the reunited lovers, Mr. Smith and Talas. As it turns out, their meeting in Ankara was not entirely the result of serendipity. The clock winds back to show the highlights of their relationship from Talas’ perspective. For such a quiet character, she’s remarkably determined and passionate. Equally remarkable is the husband her uncle forced her to marry. Not only does he sympathize with her heartache, he helps her journey to Ankara to look for Smith. When they don’t immediately find him there, Talas sells off her jewelry to prolong their stay. It’s a mind-boggling step of faith, especially considering there was zero coordination between Talas and Smith.

But fate has rejoined them, which causes new problems. Smith’s no-nonsense British compatriot Hawkins is quite vocal about the disapproval their marriage would stir in England. Talas, for her part, is oddly diffident in this discussion. The woman has literally given up her whole world to go after Smith, and after all that sacrifice, she says she’s content to be used as a servant? Perhaps that is an accurate characterization of a nineteenth century Central Eurasian woman, but from my Western perspective, her attitude is perplexing.

At any rate, despite the tensions brewing in the region, Smith resolves to travel back through Persia to take photographs. And despite the danger and uncertainty, Talas chooses to accompany him. There is no wedding, but once again, the two exchange promises and a token of their love.

That resolved, Smith and company make preparations, which include a chapter-long lesson in 19th-century photography. The wet collodion process is a lengthy, material-intensive endeavor involving various implements and chemicals. It’s largely the mixing of various compounds, so it’s less visually stimulating than the chapters on sewing or falconry, but if you are curious about early photography, it lays out the steps very clearly. When Smith finally leaves Ankara, he’s gained a couple camels, one fiancée, and the guard Nikolovsky on loan from Hawkins. The additional people bring a new dynamic to Smith’s travels, and considering Talas and Nikolovsky are tough, reliable individuals, spacey Mr. Smith appears to be in better hands than ever.

One more thing. For fun, Mori-sensei throws in a chapter about the watch that was Smith’s original engagement pledge to Talas. The journey carries the tone of a tall tale as the watch acquires a reputation so grand that Smith is gobsmacked when he chances upon it again.

Extras include Mori-sensei’s manga style afterword.

In Summary

A renewal of vows, a lesson in 19th-century photography, and then it’s back on the road for Smith. This time, however, Talas accompanies him on his expedition to take pictures of the Persian interior. Not the most romantic start to their life together, but with Smith intending to visit all the towns he’d passed through, it looks like we’ll see the happily-ever-afters of all the brides in this series.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: The Royal Tutor Vol. 12

Rich, handsome young men, each with his own distinct personality…this type of bishounen cast is a staple in shojo manga. And if you like yours with a generous helping of chibi humor, you should definitely check out Higasa Akai’s The Royal Tutor. Read on for my review of Volume 12. (For my reviews of other volumes click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

When Leonhard receives an invitation to the Kingdom of Fosein from Prince Claude, the princes set off on their first big trip together. Will this trip give Leonhard the opportunity to put his new language skills to some good use, or will he sink to his usual aggression?

The Review

Volume 11 closed with a tense moment between Bruno and Count Rosenberg. However, as Akai-sensei’s done previously, rather than escalate matters with the princelings’ most formidable antagonist, the mood quickly reverts to lighter fare. First with a conversation between Kai and Bruno about their experiences away from home, then an absolute deep dive into silliness in a single chapter story about the king’s facial hair.

Next, cute Prince Claude returns to the story in a three-chapter arc that takes place in Fosein. Yes, the Granzreich princes leave the palace again, but this time three of them go together and for leisure rather than work/training. This means there are no lessons, although the trip expands the horizons of the mostly sheltered princelings. Basically, we get lots of fun illustrations of the princes in civilian clothes playing tourist in Fleur, a city styled after Paris.

Although three the Granzreich princes are on this trip, the focus is mainly on Leonhard. In contrast to most Leonhard-centric chapters, this arc demonstrates that the study-averse prince can excel at a subject if sufficiently motivated. It also shows that the honesty of an adorable child can demolish the hotheaded prince’s pride.

Then the trip ends, and the story shifts to Licht out among the commoners. His job has kept him busy, especially with the opening of the second Café Mitter Meyer. It’s an occasion for celebration, but the mood plummets when vandals plague the business. This arc is less about Licht himself and more about the challenges faced by his employer, who turns out to be part of an ethnic minority. The unknown hooligans and their motives have my interest piqued for this arc, and the second café’s newly hired manager Herman offers readers new eye candy.

Extras include bonus manga, afterword, and first page printed in color.

In Summary

Kai and Bruno return from their journeys of self-betterment–just to leave with Leonhard on another trip outside the palace. This time, though, the three are traveling as tourists, and adorable Prince Claude acts as their guide to beautiful Fosein. However, this installment’s not all fluff and fun. Although Licht is enjoying the commoner life, his eyes also open to its rougher side when his place of employment becomes the target of vandals.

First published at The Fandom Post.

 

Manga Review: Hatsu*Haru Vol. 7

Ah…high school romance. It is a staple of shojo manga, and Shizuki Fujisawa adds another title to this list with Hatsu*Haru. Read on for the review of Volume 7! (For reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

After an uneasy start to their relationship, Kai and Riko are officially dating! But now Kai has a new ocean of relationship questions to cross — first up: what kind of lunch do you bring your girlfriend?!

The Review

As mentioned in my previous review, now that Riko/Kai are (finally!) an official couple, the trajectory of the plot is somewhat up in the air. The cover art might lead you to believe that Fujisawa-sensei’s going to start something between clerics Tarou and Kagura, especially since they’re the only ones in the main cast who haven’t been mingling. However, the pair only get a brief interaction that just gives Kagura one more reason to gripe at Tarou.

Instead, the narrative continues on the subject of playboy Kai blundering through his dating relationship with Riko as classes resume. Interestingly, Riko doesn’t get targeted by Kai fans like she did before; the reaction amongst the student body is relatively subdued. Perhaps the other girls learned their lesson in Volume 3? But even though Riko has no trouble defending herself, she can’t cook to save her life, so Kai resolves to make a bento lunch for her. The lunch-making arc is very cute visually, but it did have me concerned about Kai’s masculinity because he was acting out what’s generally the girly role in shojo manga.

However, in the next chapter, he reasserts himself as a hot-blooded young man as he agonizes over how to romance Riko into a kiss. If you liked the analogy of Riko as a black hole, you’ll enjoy Kai’s rants to Einstein as well as Ayumi’s pseudo-physics unified theory of love. Unfortunately for Kai, the only kind of physical contact Riko’s accustomed to involves her fists, thus he continues to be subjected to the punching bag treatment.

About the same time, Kiyo and Miki hit a rough patch, and it causes things to sour between Kiyo and Riko, too. Most of Riko’s flashbacks have been about Suwa-sensei, and now that he’s out of the picture (he doesn’t appear at all in this volume) we instead get backstory about Kiyo and Riko’s longtime friendship. Intervening between estranged friends is generally the purview of girls, but Kai takes it upon himself to act as a mediator in a reconciliation session. Again, not something you’d expect from the male lead in a shojo manga, but if you enjoy Kai’s sensitive side, there’s plenty for you to like in this volume.

Extras include story-thus-far, embedded author’s notes, bonus comic, and translation notes.

In Summary

The struggle continues for Kai in this romantic comedy. He’s won Riko’s heart, but nothing in their relationship is coming easy for him. If you thought this series was done making fun of Riko’s cluelessness or knocking the snot out of Kai, guess again. For now, it’s still entertaining, but I hope their relationship develops a new vibe before it gets stale.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Hatsu*Haru Vol. 6

Ah…high school romance. It is a staple of shojo manga, and Shizuki Fujisawa adds another title to this list with Hatsu*Haru. Read on for the review of Volume 6! (For reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Summer break has been full of endings and new beginnings for Kai and Riko both. Suwa’s wedding saw the conclusion of Riko’s long-held first love, but only time will tell if its departure leaves room in her heart for another. Can Kai safely navigate dating when love is involved, or will his uncalculated swing in the dark throw everything off course?

The Review

This volume has been a long time coming. After so many attempts by various people to help Riko get a clue, Kai confronts her with a confession that cannot be interpreted as anything but. It is a momentous, heart-pounding moment for our pair, but this being a romantic comedy, Fujisawa-sensei still finds a way to pull out the rug from under our besotted protagonist. Thus, the official formation of Riko/Kai is sweet and funny although I have to wonder about Kai’s health with him constantly winding up bedridden.

Considering it’s taken six (!) volumes for the heroine to realize the male lead wants to date her, I thought the series might put in a “happily ever after” there and end. However, the story continues, and I sense it won’t stop until all eight friends get paired up. What this means for our main couple is that they move on to dating and the excitement and awkwardness that comes with it. Riko’s never dated (I guess Hatano doesn’t count), and Kai’s never dated anyone like Riko. While it is strange the Kai’s Romantic Endeavors Group feels the need to continue monitoring the two, the comedy of errors that is Kai’s carefully planned first date with Riko brings a desperately needed fresh flavor of misunderstandings to their relationship.

Meanwhile, the things progress on the Takaya/Ayumi front. It’s not that they draw closer romantically; their relationship is still “fake boyfriend/girlfriend.” Rather, Ayumi gets a deeper understanding of Takaya. The narrative’s hinted strongly that the reason Takaya never paired up with anyone because he’s in love with his NOT BLOOD RELATED step-sister. Surprisingly, it turns out the attraction was once mutual. While the scenario’s not unknown in shoujo manga, Fujitani-sensei makes Takaya’s reflections on his step-sister both tragic and heartrending. As for Ayumi, our energetic school reporter gets to reveal her compassionate side. She’s a bit awkward in offering sympathy, but her earnest effort to help Takaya achieve closure makes her even more likable. Their relationship remains “fake,” but after this volume, I’m rooting for it switch to “real” soon.

Extras include story-thus-far, embedded author’s notes, and translation notes.

In Summary

Riko finally realizes Kai’s in love with her. The joke about our ultra-dense lead lady has gone on way too long, so it’s a relief for Kai’s efforts to finally pay off. Thus the next phase of their relationship begins. Granted, it’s still plagued with misunderstandings, but at least they’re on the same page about their desire to be together.

First published at the Fandom Post.