I have to start this review warning that it is not unbiased. This happens to be my favorite manga to date, and I admit to reading it completely about five times. This series was one of my “gateway manga” – meaning it was the first series I collected that was not based on an anime. For that reason I have a special fondness for it. Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, known as Hana-Kimi for short, ran in Hana to Yume magazine from 1997-2004. The complete series was published by Viz from 2004 to 2008.
The Gist: Main character Mizuki Ashiya transfers to a high school in Japan from America. There she seeks to find Izumi Sano, a high-jump track star, whom she has idolized from watching him on American television. The only problem is that Sano attends an all boys school, and Mizuki is a girl. So she cuts off her hair, binds her chest and pretends to be a boy hoping no one will find out. For Mizuki, keeping her secret is difficult, but she does have some help. Even with that, much hilarity ensues. Mizuki not only finds Sano, but ends up as his roommate. She convinces him to continue his dream of track, all the while trying to resemble “just one of the guys”. The series concludes in America with Mizuki preparing for college.
The Characters/Romance: What I find enjoyable about this title is Nakajo’s ability to portray the reality of teen awkwardness and hormones. The interactions of Mizuki and the boys she befriends are true to life, and watching the boys’ reactions to her, despite not knowing she is a girl, can be funny and endearing. The two boys that are her closest friends, Izumi Sano and dorm mate Shuichi Nakatsu, both have very strong feelings towards Mizuki. Poor Nakatsu, the soccer star, thinks he’s become gay! Then there’s Sano who is trying very hard not to notice the femininity of his roommate. All the while Mizuki is trying her darnedest to act like just one of the guys. As the story develops, the chemistry ignites between Sano and Mizuki, and both realize the awkwardness of their dorm room relationship. Then there are Mizuki’s worries of how to finish high school without her gender being discovered. Nakajo’s conclusion leaves very little unresolved and readers will be satisfied with the outcome.
The Art: From an artistic perspective, Nakajo falls in the category of typical shoujo – fluttery toning patterns and floral backgrounds. The toning is pretty simplistic, and the backgrounds are not ever that detailed. The romantic scenes are the ones surrounded in flowers, relating to the title of the series. I do like Nakajo’s sense of perspective and her composition as well. I find the school uniform designs a bit tacky, but casual clothing looks great. Where Nakajo truly shines is her character designs. The boys range in looks as the mangaka intended with Sano, Nakatsu, Hokuto Umeda (the school doctor), and Minami Nanba (the dorm director) being the main bishonen. There are several smoldering images of these guys throughout the title pages of the series. Mizuki, who is suppose to be portraying a boy, always has a feminine air. Even though she wears boys clothes throughout the series, Nakajo takes the opportunity to draw her in very flirty poses in many chapter titles and colored pieces. The colored works are beautiful, and you can see more actual pieces in the art book.
It’s not a series everyone will love, but it’s one of the best complete high school shoujo series out there.