Takane & Hana Volume 2
There’s a telling author’s note early on in Takane & Hana volume 2, in which Yuki Shiwasu reveals this is her first serialization, and she finds it “fun to get to explore deeper story lines.” The chapters of the first volume were created as one-shot stories, while here, she’s had to change her approach to thinking of it as a series.
That explains why there’s less humor here and more of a retreat to traditional shojo romance elements. Hana is talked into attending a fancy party for Takane’s family, so she again has to dress up older than she is and worry about playing the right role. Plus, her older sister helps her in a makeover montage.
It’s announced that if such a powerful business heir got involved with a high school student, it would be a huge scandal. So instead of spatting and sparking with each other — which is part of what I enjoyed about the start of the series, the way they contrasted their two backgrounds while seeing the strengths of each — now, it’s them paired against upper-crust society because of their shared secret, a more common plot point.
This sets up a repetitive element where Hana tries to get Takane to leave her alone, in order to protect his reputation, while he shows up to pursue her, in spite of what she says she wants. It’s a bit disappointing to retreat back to that old-fashioned view of romantic interaction, where it’s supposed to be amusing that he ignores her wishes because they’re meant to be together. Instead of playful teasing, although Hana keeps insisting she’s doing that, this sometimes edges into feeling mean, without the light-hearted humor.
Then Shiwasu introduces the cliche character of the best friend/rival. A former schoolmate of Takane’s from Italy shows up to try and take Hana away. This summed up the difference in tone of this volume to me — it’s more about jealousy than about the fun of discovering more about each other. Instead of dialogue and shared experiences, we get schemes and self-questioning monologues. I needed the humor and spark to get past the weirdness of a mid-20s businessman seriously being interested in a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl; making this a more conventional shojo makes that harder to ignore.
I’m still curious about the next book, to see if the author manages to get back to the fun and appeal of the original stories. (The publisher provided a review copy.)