Archive for September 2010

Flower in a Storm

TITLE: Flower in a Storm
AUTHOR/MANGAKA: Shigeyoshi Takagi
RATING: Older Teen (16+)
SCORE: 7 (Good)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: Shigeyoshi Takagi, Ouran High School Host Club, romance, action, comedy

When I first heard about this series, I was a bit iffy about the summary. It sounded like it was going to be about some controlling, possessive, and possibly violent guy forcing a girl to fall in love with him, something that I do not consider romantic at all. However, after reading a handful of reviews that assured me that was not the case, I decided to give it a try.

Flower in a Storm is about a seventeen-year-old girl named Riko Kunimi. She’s known for her exceptional, almost super-human, physical abilities, but she wishes nothing more than to be an ordinary girl after the boy she has a crush on rejects her because of her above-average strength and agility. Her dream of living a normal life and finding a normal boyfriend becomes impossible, though, when Ran Tachibana, the richest, most powerful teenager in Japan, bursts into her classroom and proposes to her a gunpoint. (Don’t worry; it’s not a real gun.) Riko doesn’t know him at all, but he fell in love with her at first sight, and Ran is not one to take “no” for an answer. Determined to win a resistant Riko’s love, he decides to transfer to her school, turning Riko’s life upside down as he whisks her off for romantic dates while also dodging his many enemies from the business world, who want him dead.

This series is definitely over-the-top. Though it’s only two volumes long, it is jam-packed with exotic locales and exciting action scenes. It’s not realistic in the least — not many seventeen-year-olds run their own business empire, after all — but that’s part of the story’s charm. It’s pure escapism, and it’s easy to get swept away in the whirlwind that is Ran’s crazy life.

It also helps that Ran is such a magnetic character. Some might consider him a stalker — and, well, he kind of is — but he’s so silly and flamboyant that his actions don’t come off as creepy at all. (He reminds me a lot of Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club.) Even Riko begins to soon enjoy his attention, despite her initial reluctance to getting involved with him. Ran’s love helps her realize that she doesn’t have to be “ordinary” for somebody to like her; Ran loves her just the way she is, “superpowers” and all. As for Riko herself, she’s not quite as engaging a character as Ran, coming off as, well, kind of ordinary aside from her physical strength, but it is nice to see a shoujo lead who doesn’t have to always rely on a man to save her. In fact, in the last arc of the series, she’s the one who saves him when he is kidnapped by a rival.

Still, I would have liked for the story to be a little longer. Riko’s realization that she likes Ran too seems a tad bit sudden, and I would have liked to have learned more about Ran’s family life. He doesn’t seem to be on good terms with his parents, especially his dad, for reasons left largely unexplained.

The art in Flower in a Storm is quite stylish, with a great character design for Ran. Putting a guy’s hair up in a topknot is an unusual style choice in the modern era, to say the least, but Ran manages to pull the look off by pairing it with glasses and a suit with a skinny tie, giving him a kind of hipster vibe that suits his personality well. Riko, on the other hand, is given a very ordinary look, appropriate for a girl who just wants to blend in with everybody else. I also thought the many action scenes were well-drawn and easy to follow for the most part.

Flower in a Storm is a fun, breezy read for somebody in the mood to escape from reality for an hour or so. It’s not the greatest romance in the world, but the characters are likeable and the plot is fast-paced with lots of action and humor. Plus, at only two volumes, it’s definitely easy on the wallet!

Add a comment September 15, 2010

Haru Hana

TITLE: Haru Hana
RATING: Teen (13+)
NUMBER OF VOLUMES: 3 (released as an omnibus)
SCORE: 6 (Fine)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: Yuana Kazumi (mangaka of Flower of the Deep Sleep and A Million Tears), romance, humor, drama

I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for with Haru Hana. I bought it solely on the basis of the cute cover art and the fact that the entire series could be had in one affordably priced omnibus edition. (I’m always a sucker for omnibus editions…)

Teenager Hana Yamada has an unusual condition: whenever she is touched by a guy, particularly a cute one, she breaks out into itchy hives. The only thing that can cure them is drinking green tea. When she moves in with her older sister in Tokyo, Hana hopes for a fresh start where nobody knows about her weird disease. Unfortunately, her debut at her new school doesn’t go exactly as planned.

To make matters worst, her sister forces her to take a job at a local relaxation room to pay off her debts for her. Said relaxation room happens to be run by two good-looking guys: the owner Shinnosuke, an older gay man who provides refreshments for the customers, and Haru, the amnesiac masseur, who also happens to be one of her new classmates. Haru quickly becomes the bane of Hana’s existence, often touching her on purpose just to see her break out. But underneath his prickly personality, Hana realizes he’s actually a very kind and empathic person and tries to help him deal with his missing memories.

There’s nothing really special about this series at first. It’s a fairly standard high school romance in which the lead couple seems to hate each other at first, but begin to develop feelings for each other once they start spending more time together. It’s a storyline you see all the time, and even though it’s labeled by Tokyopop as a comedy, I didn’t find it particularly funny, since most of the humor centers around Haru touching Hana and causing her to break out in hives. I suppose it’s kind of funny when he (or another guy) does it unintentionally, but when Haru does it on purpose, it just comes off as plain mean and makes it rather hard to like him.

But things start to improve in the third volume, which is devoted almost exclusively to the mystery of Haru’s lost memories. The reason why Haru lost his memories is quite shocking, considering how light-hearted the rest of the series is, and gives the story some much appreciated depth. Though I haven’t read her other two works that were released in English, I strongly suspect that Kazumi is better at doing drama than she is humor, because while it took me several days to get through the first two volumes, I couldn’t put the book down once I got to the last one. I even started liking the pairing of Haru and Hana by the end, which honestly surprised me, since I wasn’t a fan at first.

I think the strongest aspect of the series is the artwork. I already mentioned that the cover art was one of the things that drew me to Haru Hana, and it makes me kind of sad that this is an omnibus edition, since that means we only get one cover. While the other two covers are provided as extras at the back of the book, they’re in black and white, which lessens their impact. I wouldn’t have minded paying a little extra to get them in color.

Still, the art inside is just as charming as the cover. It’s cute without being childishly cute. The characters actually look their age, and their eyes are only just a tad larger than necessary. I especially liked Hana’s design. No one would mistake her for being movie star gorgeous — her hairstyle actually reminds me a little of Lisa Simpson, of all characters! — but she’s adorable and attractive in an off-beat kind of way that’s refreshing compared to the prettier shoujo heroines you often see. I will mention that it was almost impossible to distinguish between Shinnosuke and his cousin Aoi, though. Their faces are pretty much identical, and even their hairstyles are nearly the same.  

Had this series not been released as an omnibus, I’m not sure I would recommend it. I loved the artwork, and Hana was a likeable heroine, but the humor fell flat most of the time and the plot didn’t really pick up until nearly the end. However, getting a complete, three-volume series for about $17 retail isn’t a bad deal, and I don’t regret picking it up. While it may not be the best series in the world, I feel I got my money’s worth.

1 comment September 1, 2010






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