Saturday, September 1, 2018

Hatsu*Haru Volume 2 cements this series as one to read (Manga Review)

I really enjoyed Hatsu*Haru Volume 1 by Shizuki Fujisawa and published by Yen Press (If you missed my review, you can catch it here). After reading Hatsu*Haru Volume 2, I can say that this is definitely a winning series for fans of straight-up shoujo high-school romance (ME!). It may not have the emotional depth (yet?) of ones like Ao Haru Ride or the comedy of something like Lovely Complex, but it is sweet, well drawn, and has some well written moments. It will give you what you want and won't make you work for it. A perfect end-of-summer read. Some volume 2 spoilers ahead.

In volume 1, we left Kai (popular boy but suddenly with a single-minded attraction) determined to make the best use of a starlit moment on a camping trip to tell Riko (the sweet, girl-defending, ass-kicking, heroine) how he feels. Unfortunately, he doesn't do it with words! Stupid boys, haven't you learned you can't just get a kiss whenever you want it! Has Harvey Weinstein not taught you anything yet? And thankfully, Riko has the good sense to push him away and accuse him of being a skirt-chaser to open volume 2.

Kai's friends pick up on the fact that he's secretly pining for Riko and set up a group date at the amusement park. We get to see Kai scared of the haunted house and although he frets that his macho guy image has been shattered, it creates a slight crack in Riko's perception (or lack there of) about him. Later there is a group study session and Riko realizes again that there might be something more to this boy who has been annoying her since elementary school. Spoilers over.

As with volume 1, the art in volume 2 is well done, and I'm growing to like Shizuki Fujisawa's character designs more and more. Maybe when the whole story is over, she'll do a bonus chapter or two from Riko's perspective, because I really really like Riko and although I like Kai, I would want to know her better. That is perhaps the one thing we're missing, the feminine voice (perhaps naturally since a guy is our lead character).

Also similar to volume 1 is the occasional line that is so well written that it elevates what is a fairly perfunctory (not in a bad way) story to one that demonstrates Fujisawa-sensei's talents as a writer. In this case, if I were to give you the following setup, what would you think?: Boy and girl are at the amusement park, boy sees the other boy the girl secretly likes, boy sees this other boy with another beautiful woman. Well, since this is shoujo, my first guess was "I bet she'll turn out to be that guy's sister." Right? It's the classic setup of mistaken identity. So what does Fujisawa-sensei give us? The perfect line where Kai says to himself: "Right, so now you're gonna tell me, 'oh, she's my sister.'" Took the words right out of my mouth. This shows Fujisawa-sensei is aware of the genre conventions and is going to go meta by having her character be aware too! It was perfect, and was one of several indications that the writing in this will be sensitive and thoughtful.

All in all, Hatsu*Haru Volume 2 gave me exactly what I wanted from it, the slow development of a relationship between two really likable leads and some excellent art and writing to support it. A strong 7/10.


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