I was a bit sad to see that this series sort of fizzled out on a lame note. This volume read a lot like… well, the author wanted to end it, and then just made everything happen that needed to happen in order to resolve the series. Mizuki is found out. Rumors spread through several different levels of scary, Nakatsu finds out, things follow through exactly how you would expect them.
I was most disappointed with the fact that Nakatsu’s reaction to the whole thing was only one or two pages. There was a lot that could have been done with him, but in a way such a non-reaction is sort of in the spirit of his character. He does roll with the punches.
There’s not even really an aftermath segment. That lasts about two pages as well, and I don’t even know why it was there. I guess just to offer at least a little closure.
There are a lot of series that are better than Hana-Kimi, but there’s a lot to be said about delivering consistent entertainment for 23 volumes. Each volume is good fun, most of the plotlines are enjoyable, there’s the necessary degree of silliness and expected behavior from any long-running shoujo romance like this… in short, it’s a really good version of exactly what a shoujo romance should be. I’ll miss it a little, even if it did take a long time for me to get around to reading the ending.
Yeah, this whole thing with Mizuki’s gender is playing out through this volume, and it goes down pretty much how you would expect. I don’t have that much to say about it.
The three RAs find out about it first, and Sano hops in to defend her when he happens across the meeting.
Then a rumor spreads around school. Hilariously, Nakao figures it’s about someone seeing him. The past few volumes have all had moments that made me laugh out loud. The best one in this volume was when the three RAs were discussing who the female was, and they first lay the blame on Oscar since his dorm has the most likely female candidates, then they question Nanba about Nakao, and Nanba assures them he’s seen Nakao’s junk, which raises other questions, and the manly one gets asked about his girly resident that was introduced a few volumes ago, then they all three sit and worry silently about the possibilities. It’s pretty hilarious.
But yeah. I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to end well, even though the situation in real life would probably just blow over if Mizuki didn’t say anything. Oh well.
HOLY CRAP YES.
So here is the climax of the series. Not only did Sano say it, without an accident forcing it out of him, or a misunderstanding making things obvious, or any other event influencing his decision… there was an entire chapter of Izumi forcefully grabbing Mizuki and making her stay put while he got everything he wanted to say out. It was divine. After Mizuki has some time to dodge awkwardly and digest everything, she says her piece, and there is a kiss. Again, the scene is very wonderful.
Notably, this is the only shoujo manga I can think of where the main couple takes 21 volumes to hook up that can get away with the line “He kissed me! He wasn’t drunk this time!”
There was a bowling outing among the main characters, which was notable because Kayashima was a creep and freaked Noe out. I always forget about Kayashima, then he manages to remind me of what an awesome side character he really is. Don’t ever stop being a creep, Kayashima.
Also, within the first couple pages, the characters manage to use the phrase “shit-eating grin,” which is one of my favorites. There just isn’t very many opportunities one gets to use that phrase, much like telling someone their face is “folding into a mask of ancient sadness.”
One of the things I have to give this series a lot of credit for is breaking the hearts of regular people. Normally in this type of series, the reader is forced to take the side of the most pleasant character, and everything will work out in that character’s favor. Any sort of rival character will inevitably be portrayed somewhat negatively, so you don’t have to feel bad when everything works out in the end. Hanakimi works a little differently. Nakatsu is the best example, because as Mizuki’s best friend, and someone who is in love with her that is not Sano, he will inevitably have his heart broken in the end, even though the reader would love more than anything else to see Nakatsu happy. He has pretty much resigned himself to the fact that Mizuki doesn’t return his feelings, but he’s such a happy guy and you can’t help but feel bad for him.
In this volume, the story deals with the graduating seniors, and the immediate impact on the characters is that Nanba, the RA, is leaving. For the entire duration of the series, Nakao has had a crush on Nanba that everyone, including Nanba, has been aware of. Since Nanba is straight, Nakao is perfectly aware that his love will never be returned, but the looming graduation deadline makes Nakao think that he ought to tell Nanba how he feels, in all seriousness, before he leaves for good. You know what the outcome of the story is going to be, so it’s absolutely heartbreaking to watch Nakao go through the motions. But you know why he has to do it, too.
Izumi’s growing jealousy about Mizuki and Shuichi spending time together gets worse and worse in this volume. He finally gets Mizuki to admit that Shuichi told her that he has feelings for her, which makes Sano feel bad since he basically had to scare the information out of her. It confuses Mizuki too, since she’s not sure why Sano would care. Sano says a few things that make Mizuki feel good to make up for it.
When relating all this to Dr. Umeda, the panel where he reacts in shock to Mizuki’s total ignorance of Sano’s feelings was worth all the buildup we’ve gotten for the entire series. I don’t really care what else happens now, because it will not be as awesome as that. I wish the series could have ended with that perfect page.
Also, there was a resolution to the Shuichi’s mom storyline. When she offhandedly asked him if he was going to go back to Osaka, I knew that there was a family business that Nakatsu did not want to run involved, and I was right. The story plays out as you would expect, with Nakatsu’s mom being stubborn, Shuichi being stubborn in return, and everything working out in the end. The only thing that really appealed to me in that storyline was the fact that Shuichi’s mom shared a bunch of memories of him as a kid to Mizuki, and seeing him without his hair dyed, sometimes half covered in mud after falling into a rice paddy, was really cute.
Wow, I thought I was witnessing the rather exciting phenomenon of Izumi growing a pair, but there was no such luck this time. With four volumes left, I know Izumi and Mizuki have to hook up at some point, which will likely involve Izumi telling Mizuki that he knows she’s a girl. Then telling her that he likes her. Because this is something that I can’t see Mizuki ever admitting since… you know, she’d be kicked out of school if he took it the wrong way.
The series is beginning to approach the problem of Mizuki’s graduation. Here, it introduces the fact that Mizuki will never be able to see her school friends again after she graduates, and will probably have to choose her college accordingly (I’m not sure if the problem with college came with people realizing she was a girl, though I’m not sure what difference that would make once she had graduated, or if it came from the problem of the college thinking she was a boy since she went to an all-boys school). She puzzles over the question of the future for a good part of the volume, and comes to some conclusion the reader is not made aware of. Disturbingly, this comes to her when Umeda reminds her that she came to the school to stalk Izumi, which is a pretty weird thing. I do wonder how her decision for the future will turn out, though if I were in her place I’d probably just go back to America to go to school to avoid the problem.
There’s more and more cute scenes between Izumi and Mizuki with each volume. This one teases so hard, because there are several scenes where Izumi is silently putting a lot of thought into his relationship with Mizuki, and he clearly likes her very much. There’s a really cute scene near the end where Mizuki and Izumi start acting like an old married couple while out with Nakatsu, and he asks them straight out whether they have a thing for each other. Izumi doesn’t answer and Mizuki misunderstands the colloquialism he uses. It was great. The scene is made better by the fact that Izumi is getting increasingly jealous of the friendship between Nakatsu and Mizuki. I think another talk between Izumi and Shuichi is in order.
Also, there’s another cheesy sharing-the-bed scenario, which will never get tired as long as it’s done right.
Speaking of Shuichi, his mother comes to town towards the end of the book. This was pretty fun in general, but the best thing to come out of it (aside from the Mizuki-Izumi bed sharing) was the perfect image of Nakatsu with his hair combed and his clothes ironed. I honestly did not understand what was going on for a couple panels until he messed his hair up again. Great gag.
Good Lord, the track meet is STILL going on. The preview promises it will end next volume though, so at least then we’ll get a bit of a change of pace.
We do get a little bit of a switchup in this volume, to be fair. I’m guessing in celebration of the 100th chapter, the main story was interrupted with a side story featuring Kayashima, the bizarre supernatural character, and a scavenger hunt for all the residents of the dormitory. Kayashima has some sort of Onmyouji rival character with spirit ferrets (or weasels, or something). The story was pretty mediocre (pretty typical competition-type story with lots of comic mishaps and a pretty predictable ending), but I’m a big fan of Kayashima, so that kept things interesting.
While the big Nakatsu moment from the end of last volume carries over a bit into this volume, though disappointingly, nothing comes of it. Nakatsu says some things that make me feel a bit better about his role in the story (how he’s not really going to be heartbroken since he knows Mizuki likes Sano, that he’s a pretty tough guy that can take lots of abuse like that, and that he’s always on Mizuki’s side, et cetera), so now I don’t feel terrible every time he does something nice for Mizuki.
The one thing about this track story is that it’s providing lots and lots and lots of opportunities for Mizuki and Sano to grow closer. I’m not all that interested in the situation with Sano’s dad since the tragic relationship with his brother was probably enough traumatic family background for one character, but seeing Mizuki run between the Sano brothers and the father and reporting everything back to an increasingly relieved Izumi was pretty nice.
The father situation is pretty much resolved by the end of this volume, which leaves… well, just the track meet for next volume. I don’t see as much romatic possibility for Sano and Mizuki in the competition between Shin, Izumi, and that rival character, so… well, let me just keep reading.
On one hand, this track event seems like it will last forever. On the other hand, there’s lots of stuff between Mizuki, Nakatsu, and Sano to make up for it. Plus, Mizuki gets to meet up with Sano’s brother Shin and Sano’s dad too, which is kind of cool.
I kind of like the little implications between Shin and Mizuki (he likes talking to her, he opens up to her even though he barely knows her, he prefers hanging out with her to a group of girls). I have to admit it’s a little weird that everyone falls in love with Mizuki, since they think she’s a guy and all.
The parts with Sano and Mizuki are very cute. Sano opens up more and more. He’s sort of a stoic guy, so hearing him speak his mind about his brother and his father is kind of unexpected. I don’t remember him being particularly open about his feelings, so it feels great when he lets himself get closer and closer to Mizuki.
But he also keeps running into Mizuki and Nakatsu together, too. Again, I feel really terrible for Nakatsu, because it will be inevitable that Mizuki and Sano wind up together, and Nakatsu is just such a nice guy. Plus, again with Mizuki not telling him the truth about her gender. Nakatsu even came to terms with the fact that he fell in love with a guy. His scenes, though they are cute, and the one at the end of the volume is particularly emotional, just make me feel so bad.