Monday, August 12, 2019

Missed It Monday - Takane & Hana Volume 1 (Manga Review)

Yuki Shiwasu
Missed It Monday - a series where I review manga and anime I missed when they were new in the effort to find more great series to read.

Takane & Hana volume 1 - 6.5/10

Takane & Hana Volume 1 (Shojo Beat/Viz) is the story of a 16-year-old young lady, Hana, who pretends to be her older sister and attends an arranged marriage meeting with a 26-year-old heir to a large corporate conglomerate, Takane. Hana's father works for Takane's grandfather's company so keeping those two happy is important. But right off the bat, Takane knows Hana isn't the older sister, and displays his characteristic rudeness. Hana does what she does best and immediately puts him in his place. She thinks things are over, but now Takane is intrigued.

Takane & Hana is filled with all the classic plot and tropes of this type of story (common girl and rich corporate heir, totally different personalities, but find each other interesting anyway). However, what separates it so far, and perhaps overcomes the ickiness of a 10 year age gap with an adult man interested in a high school girl, is how rotten (but never actually mean or misogynistic) Takane's personality is, and how sassy and brash and bold Hana's personality is. What will sell you on this, if it does, is their personalities. Because the plot is so old in the genre, and there are definitely problematic elements. But if you feel like wading through that (acknowledging its problems while also looking for something of value) then you might really like the lead characters.

Let's start with some of the problems though:
- She's 16 and a high-school student, he's 26 and an adult man. Yuck
- Her dad is in a precarious employment position: so between her young age, and her dad's job, Hana is at a severe power disadvantage to Takane and when there is a power imbalance, there is huge potential for abuse and manipulation.

Sadly, there are moments where this is played out. For instance, Takane tries to pick Hana up at school. Hana isn't having it, and rejects his gift of roses (a gag that gets ever more intricate), but eventually Takane, insists she gets into his car by saying: "Have you forgotten that your father works for our subsidiary?" That is really really really a problem. We're basically telling young women that to protect their family, they need to get in cars with strange older men, and that the men don't have to listen when the woman says "no." Very very problematic.

There's also the first kiss, which actually occurs at the end of the first chapter. I have problems with a 26 year old kissing a 16 year old. However, it is done in a slightly interesting way: there are three unsuccessful kabe-don where Takane clearly doesn't know what to do next, and Hana calls him out on it, putting him in his place as always. And so finally, on the third one, she makes the move and kisses him, potentially taking some agency in the situation. However, kabe-don are problematic themselves, it is a power move by a man, showing force over a woman. Not cool. But the way it is done here, shows no malicious intent by Takane and it is Hana who eventually takes the power. This is a good example of the subtle ways that this very traditionally problematic story has some new twists.

So in the end, it is the personalities of Hana and Takane that make this rise manga above its otherwise cliched and problematic premise. Hana is strong, mouthy, and fearless. She also has no idea what he could see in her and expresses that she doesn't really know what his end-game is. Takane is emotionally stunted, in that his behavior is a mix of head-over-heels in love mixed with how an elementary school boy might go about it (teasing, being mean, denying it etc...). However, it is clear to the reader that he really does like her and that she's pushing him out of his comfort zone.

The biggest relief readers will find is that Takane is not the asshole misogynist of so many of these type of shoujo manga (I'm looking at you "Happy Marriage"). While he is rude, he is never mean, never steps on her autonomy, never controlling (outside of the inherent power dynamic). We get the sense that he is a (slightly) more modern shoujo man - still stuck in the trope but with a great inner core, rather than someone who needs to be redeemed after doing horrible things (Not only "Happy Marriage" but "Peach Girl" and a host of others suffer from redeeming the hot guy who does bad things and repents). I'm really really glad that these two characters actually seem on relatively equal footing and that both are nice people at their core. Their banter makes this manga work: the take no prisoners approach of Hana to calling it like it is, and calling Takane out is well done.

The art is very good. The characters are all clearly differentiated. The anatomy is solid throughout. It's more of a current shoujo style than the classic late 90's early 2000's that I love, but it thankfully isn't moe at all. There are amazing facial expressions throughout. There is some chibi and superdeformed in moments where it is appropriate for the comedy. Backgrounds are very simple, but there is nice use of accent screen tones. Overall, good art.

So I'm actually curious to see where this series goes. It has been well reviewed so it's been on my list for a while now. I'm definitely going to pick up the next volume. Volume 1 of Takane & Hana gets a 6.5/10 but could easily improve with future volumes as the problematic elements get weeded out and we spend more time with their character evolution.


Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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