Monday, December 16, 2019

Missed it Monday - Takane & Hana vol. 3 (Manga Review)

Highschool girl eats a tomato, young man in a suit is yelling int he background, in a field of tomatoes
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime that I didn't get to read/watch when they first came out.

Takane & Hana vol. 3 - 6.5/10

Look, "Takane & Hana" (Shojo Beat/Viz) is what it is. It's a not-very-deep, comedy about a young wealthy businessman and a high-school girl who are definitely NOT dating each other, spend most of their time picking on each other, and have some natural chemistry between them.

It's not emotionally sophisticated, it's not realistic, it's not even really okay morally/ehtically (the age difference at her young age). But it's also very chaste, kinda cute (because Takane really does like her, and while he's a dick, he isn't really a dick to her - he's actually sweet and caring in an idiotically incompetent and emotionally stunted way), and ultimately it's a fluffy read.

I'm not going to sit here and praise it as a series, but I'm not going to endlessly bash it for its various old-fashioned messages and themes either. By this point (three volumes in), either you roll with it for what it brings to your life in spite of its many problems, or you stay clear (and rightly so) because of its many problems. I still enjoy it, but want to acknowledge that its still basically upholding old social dynamics of the rich man who will take care of the young helpless girl who will become his housewife someday.

At least, unlike that god-awful series "Happy Marriage," to which it bears some superficial similarities (along with many other similar series), Hana gives it back to Takane as good as she gets it, and in many ways is in the drivers seat of this story. The series shows that Takane is actually nice by allowing him to be grudgingly nice, rather than the awful old shoujo trope of "mean guy, does mean stuff, but is hot, and so is therefore labeled 'nice.'" On the surface, Takane is actually only good at his job and everyone knows he's pretty much useless at relationship stuff, and she calls him out on that, as well as his aristocratic leanings, and everything else he does. I do like that re-positioning of her role as somewhat commentator.

But, let's be honest, it still isn't enough to feel as though we've crossed the divide into a true story of female agency in a male dominated society. It just doesn't offer enough commentary on society for that. Maybe it's due to the comedy, or mabye just not thinking that big.

But imagine if it was a story of a 25 year old female CEO who decided to date a 15 year old boy. Would we get a light comedy romance about that? I doubt it. And if we did, we'd probably hear a lot more about "robbing the cradle" or other concerns as well as derogatory statements about the woman ("Why can't she get someone her own age?" or "That's why she shouldn't be working so hard"...). But when an older man dates a younger woman (and by young, we mean a minor child), it's not seen as a big deal, either in our world or the world of the comic itself.

That being said, here's what happens in this volume (volume 3). By the beats:
- Hana is upset at Takane at a party he's thrown
- Hana needs help studying and Takane isn't actually a bad tutor
- Takane works so hard at his job AND tutoring her that he gets sick
- Hana cares for him and he doesn't hate it
- They go on a vacation with some of her friends and one of his
- Takane shows he's actually pretty socially awkward and pulls back
- Okamon, Hana's childhood friend, continues to slowly pursue Hana
- There's a cute final scene at a festival during the fireworks

When I read that list back, the volume seemed even more out-dated than it did when I read the actual comic. I guess their banter saves it. She's strong, plucky, like a good shoujo heroine (even though she's missing some of the drive and over-coming-it-all-ness that I like). Takane's grudgingly nice only in that he doesn't want people to see just how much he likes her or that he can be vulnerable. If there was more in the way of how his vision of masculinity is getting in the way of a deeper, kinder relationship, it would be awesome. But the comedy apparently comes only from their bickering and then the sweet ways they each feel about each other during the quiet moments.

But I can't deny that I enjoy it. I'm not entirely pleased that I enjoy it. But at least I'm aware of its flaws (only some of which were outlined here). So yes, just like potato-chips and dip (all fat, no nutrients), we can love something we know isn't good for us. I don't love Takane & Hana, but I am pulled into it, and will probably continue reading it. I will also be honest, that if I was paying full price, I probably wouldn't keep reading, and that's important for you to know. I buy them used because it's an older series. So yes, I gave this a 6.5/10 for what it is, but also because it didn't cost me as much. I really might have reviewed it even more harshly at full price, and that might tell you more than all the words I wrote.


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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