Takane & Hana Volume 1
I’ve found my next frothy romance manga to enjoy — Yuki Shiwasu’s Takane & Hana is ridiculous from the start but has a fun sense of humor, as the leads tell each other off while getting glimpses into each other’s very different lives.
Hana is 16, a high school student, but as the book opens, she’s been dolled up for a marriage meeting. She doesn’t want to be there, but her gorgeous, spoiled, seven-years-older sister, who’s supposed to be taking the meeting, blew it off. It’s with the heir to a hugely powerful business conglomerate, and since Hana’s father works for the company, he couldn’t say no. Thus the unbelievable, desperate attempt to substitute girls. But since they want the heir (set up by his grandfather) to bow out, it’s ok that Hana’s not suited for this.
I suspected I was going to like reading this volume from the first page, with a very grumpy Hana in full traditional dress. The fury in her eyes, restrained by her outfit and family obligations, intrigued me. Takane insults her, because he’s not interested in the matchmaking, either, which finally sets her off. He thinks she’s a gold-digger, and she finally insults him back, determined not to let him make a fool of her.
This is a screwball-style relationship, with each poking at the other to hide their feelings, and everyone having the right comeback. He’s, at first glance, super-desirable: rich, handsome, knows the right things to do and places to go, but he’s spent so much time on the proper behavior and excelling at work that he’s not very good with relationships. He likes that she’s not from that world and doesn’t care about status and pride and such. She, meanwhile, is standing up for “commoner” life by showing him different ways to do things. Plus, it’s neat to be pampered, particularly since she’s always taken second place to her beautiful sister.
Now, it is a little weird that the romance is between a 16-year-old student and a 26-year-old businessman, but… it’s a comedy. And people still do get married out of high school, just a couple of years older than Hana. And plenty of high-powered executives have wives much younger than they are. And his immaturity and lack of experience make him closer to her in mental age. And most importantly, it’s not bothersome in the way it’s portrayed. She has to be somewhat younger to make her lack of interest in pretense and proper behavior believable. Her youthful willingness to speak her mind is a core part of the character, and key to what attracts him about her. Yet she’s willing to stand up for herself and what she’s ready (and not ready) for.
Around her, he can be himself, and that’s pretty good grounds for a relationship. I had a great time reading this the first time through, just from seeing the “fish out of water” reactions of Takane having to go bowling or Hana in costume for a fancy restaurant. But the more I thought about it for this review, the more I realized how much of substance was lurking behind the scenes, such as commentary on how different expectations and pastimes are for the “elite”.
As extras, there are four-panel strips included imagining Hana as the beleaguered wife of Takane with triplets who act just like him. Funny stuff! (The publisher provided a review copy.)