Monday, June 24, 2019

Hatsu*Haru Volume 7 is our reward (Manga Review)

Hatsu Haru vol. 7
Hatsu*Haru vol. 7 - 8/10

Unlike many series which end once the characters get together, Hatsu*Haru (Yen Press) is giving us the joy of watching two loving newbies grow and change together in their fledgling relationship.

Hatsu*Haru volume 7 picks up with Kai and Riko having finally started dating after Riko eventually understands that Kai was truly interested in her and she comes to terms with her own feelings for him. This volume is the treat we get for all the past will-they-won't-they (which I love, too) as we watch the first months of their new relationship unfold.

The first chapter is so exceedingly cute it's almost painful (in a good way). Eating together at lunchtime, Kai notices that Riko only buys bread for lunch. She tells him that her mom is so busy that this is what she's always done. Kai, thinking that poor nutrition is why she's so short and petite, takes it upon himself to learn to make lunches. It turns out this is a hidden talent for him and suddenly he's making the most adorable bento creations each day. He is incredibly nervous to give it to her the first day and insists that it's from his mom. She knows its actually from him and the sweet and sensitive way she let's him know that she knows is one of the best written moments I've come across in a long time. The whole chapter continues from there in sheer joy.

The next three chapters follow Kai's attempts to move things a step forward with Riko. He can't understand, why for all his past experience, he just hasn't been able to kiss her yet. There is a classic Riko moment at the end of the first of these three chapters. As this story progresses, we also have the first problems arise between their dating friends Miki and Kiyo. Through their challenges, we learn more about Kiyo and Riko's past together. Things for the four of them come to a head and there is a super sweet resolution to it all at the end of the volume.

I love how our characters are slowly evolving. Kai's character keeps subtly opening up as he demonstrates the truth and depth of his feelings for Riko. He's sweet and insecure in ways we wouldn't have predicted in the early volumes. This comes across as an authentic dimension to his character now that he's truly in love. Same with Riko, we keep getting ever more nuanced glimpses into her personality and her past. It grounds the comedy and lightness in something more substantial.

What I continue to love about this series (and there are actually many things), is that there is no adversary, there is no bad guy or mean girls, there are no dark sides to the characters. Instead, these are just a bunch of genuinely nice high-school kids trying to be nice to each other. Wrap that up in some sweetness, and comedy, and romance, and very very light drama alongside stellar artwork and it's just made these first seven volumes a wonderful read. It isn't as deep or heavy as some of the romance shoujo I love like Ao Haru Ride, Kimi Ni Todoke, or Twinkle Stars, but not everything has to be heavy. Sometimes its nice to read a really kind, sweet story. I am so glad that it's continuing beyond just getting Kai and Riko together.

Volume 7 was a treat to read, a welcome payoff to the first six volumes, and hopefully we'll keep getting more volumes this enjoyable. I smiled the entire time I read it. An easy 8/10.


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