Monday, May 6, 2019

Hatsu*Haru volume 6 is a delight (Manga Review)

Hatsu Haru Shizuki Fujisawa
Hatsu*Haru Volume 6 - 9/10

This series is a delight, and Hatsu*Haru volume 6 is probably the most delightful volume yet.

Warning SPOILERS: I can't talk about this volume without some spoilers, so skip to the last paragraph if you don't want to know anything.

We pick up with Kai having just spontaneously kissed Riko at her childhood friend Suwa's wedding. Riko had been sad and wistful and happy for Suwa, and so Kai couldn't contain his love for Riko any longer with her looking like that.

There are all sorts of non-consensual spontaneous kisses in manga, and really, that is not okay. So it was my supreme joy that the spontaneous kiss here was turned into an absolute ass kicking by Riko. When we first met her in volume 1, she was protecting other girls at school by beating guys up. That aspect of her personality had been downplayed lately, but it came back in full force here and with great comedic fall-out. Apparently, shocked by the kiss, she beats Kai senseless and his family's reactions (and his made up tale about rescuing a cat to cover for his injuries) are priceless. Good to see the message being delivered not to kiss someone without consent.

Again, here are the real spoilers, so turn away if you must. In a prior volume Kai had failed to properly communicate his feelings for Riko. However, after the kiss, Riko hasn't been able to stop thinking about him - having already started on her feelings journey over the past volumes anyway - it reaches a head here and she can't deny it any longer. Just as Kai is going to call to apologize, she calls and asks to talk with him. Kai is desperate to meet with her and instead of letting Riko talk, he profusely apologies but finally, clearly, tells her his feelings for her. The moment is perfectly handled by Riko who says its not fair that he's doing all the talking since she invited him out and then proceeds to tell him she thinks she likes him too. He's shocked, can't quite figure out what to make of not being rejected, and then...

More great comedy. I won't spoil his reaction, but it's perfect, and again, there are some great scenes with his family reacting to the fall-out. I also don't want to give away the last few chapters of the volume where we begin to see their next steps, because those chapters had me non-stop smiling between the good feels and the comedy. The author has perfectly captured these two idiots and the interaction of their personalities in such a winning and authentic way, that it's impossible not to enjoy this volume.

In addition to the joyous follow up of their confession (a mix of cuteness and comedy), we also get an interesting side story with Kai's friend Misaki which will likely lead to further developments with his fake girlfriend Shimura. She was an annoying character at first, but has really come into her own, and this final chapter with the two of them really works (despite a somewhat shoujo manga cliche'd back story for Misaki).

Basically, this was a nearly perfect comedy/romance shoujo volume. The series has a light tone (in contrast to the more intense mix of drama, sadness, and light comedy of Ao Haru Ride) and the kindly funny tone is emphasized here with some absolutely perfectly crafted comedic moments. These aren't really gag moments, instead the comedy comes naturally from the way Kai and Riko interact (or don't). It's authentic comedy that really works.

As always, the art is really good. Fujisawa-sensei has a unique character design aesthetic, great use of screen-tones (including some nice screen tones in Riko's hair in one shot), lots of detail, and varied line widths. There are occasional panels where the anatomy doesn't seem quite right, but overall, this is very high quality art checking all the boxes for what I like in manga.

The series has been great (although I always wish we had more of Riko's inner dialogue) and this is my favorite volume so far. If you like romance/comedy shoujo manga, this is a great series and a great volume. Hatsu*Haru volume 6 gets a strong 9/10!


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