Monday, January 27, 2020

Missed it Monday - Takane & Hana vol. 4 (Manga Review)

A well dressed man and a young woman in a maid costume surrounded by white and pink roses
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review anime or manga that I didn't watch or read when they first came out.

Takane & Hana vol. 4 -  7/10 (*see full scoring rubric at the end)

My review of Takane & Hana vol. 4 (Shojo Beat/Viz) could continue my trend of warnings about, and bashing of, recent series which concentrate on adult/student relationships (see If I Could Reach You, O Maidens, Love at Fourteen, Daytime Shooting Star, etc...). But you are no doubt bored of those reviews and my kvetching.

So yes, Takane & Hana is about a high-school girl and an adult (25-ish) man. And yes, you should see that as problematic. But, this series seems deserving finding value in what the series does well while acknowleding the problems it does present. So instead of bashing Takane & Hana volume 4, let's talk about what it does right. Since in many ways, it does so much more right than those other series I mentioned, both relative to the relationship as well as overall.

Volume 4 finishes up the summer trip from the prior volume with a cute variation on the keychain exchange trope (where friends/lovers exchange keychains). We also get Hana preparing for the school festival, and Takane getting a mysterious new assistant at work. The assistant seems to be working for Takane's cousin who has his eyes on the leadership of the company.

So without giving spoilers for the various developments in the volume, I'd rather focus on what makes this series and volume work despite its problematic setup.

Maybe first and foremost, Takane & Hana is funny. Genuinely. He is an ass, all the time, but also clearly has the capacity for genuine feelings, just an immaturity with how to express them. In anything other than a comedy, his character would be completely unbelievable. But as an exaggeration of a stunted "adult" his over-the-top characterization as arrogant but with an internal heart works well.

And Hana, oh my, you can't not root for her. She takes everything, including Takane, by the horns and does it her way. She doesn't put up with his crap, she puts him in his place, and dishes it out better than anyone. In many ways, this should make her a role-model for other girls. Additionally, she's funny. She's funny in the deadpan way she deflates him which is accented by the incredibly drawn blank expressions in her face - the art just totally works for this.

So somehow, despite their strong (and sometimes abrasive) personalities, or maybe because of them, you can't help but like both characters. They just are so easy to root for, maybe because they are both strong and vulnerable in turns in their own ways. They wear their hearts on their sleeves, they try hard, they fail big and get back up, and they are growing (if very slowly). They clearly would do anything for each other, and also clearly do the right thing by others. They are fundamentally nice people. That goes a long way.

It's also a funny series without ever being mean in its comedy. It isn't risque, bawdy, or lowest-common-denominator. It doesn't poke fun at marginalized groups. It's making fun of its own characters, but not at their expense. It genuinely likes its characters and they genuinely like each other (even if they don't know it, or don't know why). That underlying kindness (the series towards its characters, and the characters towards each other) makes a difference

The series (and this volume) also moves at a fast pace. It doesn't belabor the points, it doesn't dawdle or waste time. It doesn't get boring. Good pacing is really important for a comedy to be successful and Takane & Hana nails it. Funny, kind, good pace, good characters, that's a lot!

So let's (quickly) talk about the fact that she's a high-school student and he's an adult. Yes, this is not okay, and is a theme that seems to be dominating many of the series I'm reading currently. But I can't help but feel slightly different about that problem here than in some of the other series. The thoughts that follow are not an attempt to excuse it or its problematic nature, just to situate it relative to others stories with this problem.

First, as a comedy, we're not meant to take it as seriously as the other series which are more intimate or emotional dramas. The genre shouldn't necessarily matter if we're thinking about it objectively, but it does. The weight we give things in our consciousness and in our critique is often different in different genres. Further, the point of the series isn't necessarily whether they end up together or not, it is the value in their comedic interactions and the way they mercilessly egg each other on. We're not just waiting until they hook up. Each moment where they are bantering has value in and of itself without any romance.

Second, there is no explicit or implicit romance occurring. They are just working on forming a balanced friendship with each other. They aren't anywhere close to anything romantic. One gets the sense that Takane is gentleman enough to wait until she's legal before doing anything at all even once they do realize they have feelings for each other. That isn't much, but it too is something that the other series lack where the romantic love is the point of those series.

Third, they aren't teacher/student. In other series, that dynamic adds a distinctly "double awful" to the situation. Not only do you have the child/adult power and developmental imbalance, but then to have the sanctity of what should be a protective and nurturing teacher relationship get destroyed is awful. So thankfully, they are total strangers in this series, so at least he is only violating one set of mores.

And fourth, finally (so much for brief), I have always struggled to understand why an adult would want to be with a child (and teens are very much still children) so finding an emotional center for the adult characters in these relationships has been hard for me. Other than just saying they're pedophiles, why else would they want to be with a high-schooler?

BUT, Takane is presented as totally immature and stunted in his development due to being the outcast of the family, as well as still insanely rich and thus insulated from real life, coupled with his own emotional baggage from his past, it make some sense that he might be attracted to Hana as a way to recreate and relive a part of his youth he didn't have. It doesn't make it right, but at least gives a plausible, non-pedophilic, reason why he might be interested in Hana. The evidence of some emotionally plausible reason for him to pursue her helps this be less problematic for me (if only slightly).

We also get some insight into Hana's reasons for spending time with him in this volume. She has expressed in the past a desire to help him achieve his work goals. Here, she tells her friends that she pushes him to his limits even after he's had a hard day at work, because it seems to give him energy and pumps him up. She also admits that she enjoys giving him hell.

At the end of this volume, she has a great metaphor to explain what he means to her. She says he's like carbon dioxide. It makes soda interesting to drink. A friend asks: "So he's not like oxygen?" and she replies "no" and implies through her internal dialogue that the world wouldn't end without him (like a world without oxygen), but it would be boring (like a world with flat soda). In some ways, they almost treat each other the way an older brother and younger sister might. Again, this is at least in some ways a plausible motivation why she would want to hang out with an older man.

So there you have it: it's funny, charming characters, and well written for comedy. And the central premise (while problematic) doesn't kill the series because of its inherent problems. With that in mind, this was a strong volume in the series. See below for the full rubric of its score. But Takane & Hana volume 4 gets a 7/10 despite featuring an adult and child on the path towards a relationship. To be honest, I can't believe I could even write that last sentence, and yet here we are.



  • Story interesting (0-10) - 7 - fast pace keeps it fresh
  • Characters interesting (0-10) - 8 - you can't help but like them both
  • Quality prose/writing (0-10) - 8 - for comedy, there is great characterizations and punchlines
  • Emotionally plausible (0-10) - 5 - I struggle understanding why they spend time together given the age gap, but its more plausible here than in other series with high-school-student/adult relationships

BASIC SCORE (average) = 7/10


  • Emotional insight/depth (0-5) - 0 - didn't help me understand life better
  • True LGBTQ+ representation (0-5) - 0 - nope
  • Female agency (0-5) - 3 - for a comedy series about an age mis-match, Hana keeps doing it her way
  • Character growth/change (0-5) - 1 - there's some slow development here, with each growing up
  • Quality art (0-5) - 2 - it's simple art, but I love Hana's deadpan faces as punchlines
  • Other bonus (specify) (0-5) - 1 - it gets an extra bonus point because I just can't help but liking the series even though it's totally not my normal style

BONUS POINTS (sum/8) = 1


  • Homophobic/transphobic (0-5) - 0
  • Misogynistic (0-5) - 0 
  • Fan service (0-5) - 0
  • Child/adult relationship (0-5) - 2 - not romantic yet, but it is the end premise, but they don't even realize that's where they're headed
  • Exploitative (0-5) - 0
  • Other problematic (specify) (0-5) - 0

PENALTY POINTS (-sum/2) = -1

(Basic Score + Bonus Points - Penalty points)


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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