Mangaka: Hisaya Nakajo
Ever since she first saw him high jump, Mizuki Ashiya has been inspired by Izumi Sano. So, being the stubborn, independent, airhead that she is, she decides to travel from her home in the US to not only meet him but attend school with him–at an all-boys high school. Surprisingly, her natural boldness gets her where most would never manage, and she ends up enrolling at Ohsaka High, and unexpectedly ends up even rooming with Sano! Mizuki, being Mizuki, is thrilled simply to be sharing an everyday school life with Sano and other classmates such as the goofy Osakan soccer player Nakatsu, the piningly girly Nakao, and the mysterious Kayashima (to name just a few). As she becomes comfortable with her friends at Ohsaka, Mizuki must struggle to keep her true identity a secret . . . even from Sano whom she is growing to not only admire but also love. (Of course, he actually discovered her secret in the first few days she was there, but he’s not about to admit that!)
This is my second time reading Hana-Kimi, and I must say that my opinions this time are quite a bit different, which is weird. The first time I read it, I had just read Koma Toki, and I think there were just enough random elements that overlapped that I was getting an odd mixture of the two going in my head. This time around, I really loved Hana-Kimi. The characters are a lot of fun–absolutely ridiculous, but fun. I think they’re off the stereotypical path, especially for a technically shoujo manga, enough to be particularly interesting. The plot is the same; it is a shoujo manga–a proper romantic comedy even–and it does read like one, but at the same time it totally doesn’t! I mean, most of the time, Mizuki’s the only girl around, and even she is trying hard to act like a guy. (By the way, a girl disguising herself as a guy and sneaking into an all-guys school in a foreign country is a really stupid idea–but it’s totally in fitting with her character.) As for the art, I have mixed feelings–Hisaya-sensei is a talented artist and she creates some really beautiful drawings (personally, I have a weakness for bishi Sano’s sideways glances), but then she’ll use panels with random square-jawed, cartoonish characters that are frankly ugly, although they do get the point across. But whatever. Also, do be warned that there are a few pieces that are a bit more ecchi/shounen ai–it’s all the fault of the crazy gay school doctor (but I still love him as a character)! I would really recommend Hana-Kimi for anyone looking for a fun shoujo story that’s just a bit off the beaten track.
Note: Also check out the wonderful TV drama spinoff of this manga, Hanazakari no Kimitachi e: Ikemen♂Paradise. The story is different, but the characters’ essences are the same, and it’s a lot of fun!