Hana Kimi 3 in 1 Edition

Hana Kimi 3 in 1 Edition by Hisaya Nakajo

I read Hana Kimi when it was coming out originally, and it is one of those series that I reread every couple of years. It is the reason why I remain such a sucker for cross dressing reverse harem scenarios, and I find it to be a great silly shoujo series. I was happy to see that Viz is releasing the earlier volumes in the 3 in 1 omnibus edition. Hana Kimi first started coming out several years ago, so hopefully this new edition will create some new readers for the series. This is similar to the other 3 in 1 editions from Viz, the first three books packaged together on fairly thin paper with no new extras.

One of the keys to enjoying Hana Kimi is being able to suspend a ton of disbelief for the first few chapters, because the heroine’s scenario in this manga relies on a staggering amount of coincidences that are possible only in manga land. Mizuki Ashiya has been living in the United States, where she became infatuated with a super-star track and field athlete named Sano Izumi. Sano’s high jumps are sublime, and Mizuki is inspired to take up track and field herself. Not content to only improve her athletic ability, she decides to move back to Japan, disguise herself as a boy, and enroll in Sano’s high school. Osaka High School happens to have dorms and she’s assigned as Sano’s roommate! Despite being a cross-dressing stalker, Mizuki is peppy and cute, with the type of reckless personality you might expect from someone who just casually moves to Japan as a boy because she digs someone’s high jump. When Mizuki gets to school she finds out that Sano has given up jumping due to a tragic past with accompanying psychological issues, and he finds her boisterous attempts at friendship rather annoying.

As you might expect from a manga set at a boy’s boarding school, there’s a large supporting cast. There’s the fabulously gay school doctor Umeda, soccer star Nakatsu whose feelings for Mizuki lead him to start questioning his sexuality, womanizing RA Nanba, and dorm mascot Yujiro. Sano and Umeda find out Mizuki’s secret very quickly, but Sano continues to pretend that she’s a guy. His attitude towards her gradually changes from annoyance to curiosity to fiercely protective. The three volumes cover Mizuki dealing with fitting in at school, the possible resurrection of Sano’s high jumping career, the sudden appearance of Mizuki’s older brother, and the consequences when Mizuki isn’t as watchful of her safety as she should be. The stoic hero with a tragic past is a pretty common type in shoujo manga, but I have to say that Sano is one of my favorite examples of this character. Nakajo does a great job showing the way he snaps to attention whenever anything that happens that might menace Mizuki.

Hana Kimi isn’t deep by any means, but it is one of my favorite comedic romance shoujo manga. Sano and Mizuki end up developing a close friendship partly because they aren’t at first relating to each other as a boy and a girl. I’m happy to see this series get more attention with this rerelease.

Review copy provided by the publisher

Basara Volumes 9 and 10

Basara Volume 9

As the ninth volume opens, Sarasa finds herself just where she wanted to be – with Nagi’s mentor Doctor Basho. Rescued after a shipwreck, she overheard an assassination plot as she was regaining consciousness on the beach. Unaware that Sarasa is so near, Shuri meets with Okinawa’s democratically elected president Asato. His thoughts are full of military strategy and contempt for the island which appears to be unprotected to the point of almost provoking attack. When he questions the president about his plans if Japan attacks, he replies that he doesn’t want to turn his country into a battleground and prefers to avoid fighting. Nakajin takes Sarasa around to see if she can hear the voice of the person directing the assassination. She recognizes the plotter as Nakajin’s older brother and main rival to the president Unten!

One of the most consistent things about Basara is every so often seeing the flashes of brilliant insanity that make Sarasa/Tatara such an inspiring leader. In this case the dramatic scene occurs at a bullfight ceremony where despite the fact that she’s blind she climbs the rigging above the ring and yells a warning to the president. Shuri foils the assassination attempt with a well placed coconut and yells a warning himself. Sarasa hears his voice and calls for him, ripping of her eye bandages as she stands in the middle of a herd of rampaging bulls. I’m not sure how lovers could be reunited in a more dramatic fashion. Seeing Shuri and Sarasa reunite after dodging bulls and assassins was very satisfying. What follows is a brief idyll, and Sarasa and Shuri contemplate their experiences in a way that shows how they are so far apart as people even though they love each other. Shuri has decided that he’s tired of having everything handed to him and even though he has nothing after being kicked out of his city, he’s going to achieve his ultimate goal of ruling the world with his own power. The lessons about work that Doctor Basho were trying to teach him have some unintended effects. Sarasa sees the peaceful democracy in Okinawa and vows to use it as the template for the new Japan she hopes to build as Tatara.

Basara Volume 10

The reunion between the lovers is brief, as they are separated quickly. Shuri shows flashes of his usual military brilliance as he defends Okinawa from Japan’s fleet. Sarasa has her Byakko sword back, and she calls upon Tatara as she goes to defend President Asano. Things are more complex then they appear to be on the island nation, as the true nature between the breach between Unten and Asano is revealed. Sarasa is worried that Unten and Nakajin will end up killing each other. Shuri fights a piratical battle on the sea, with some surprise allies from the Japanese army and a fireworks display from the nearby foreign fleet.

Shuri’s quick thinking and tactical brilliance show that he’s just as inspiring a leader as Tatara. While Sarasa takes action based on her emotions, Shuri makes the educated bets of a high stakes gambler. The fate of Unten and Nakajin might foreshadow an ending for Sarasa and Shuri. Sarasa shares some heartfelt conversations with Unten, who challenges her about trusting her followers with her secret. A new chapter begins for Sarasa and Shuri. She leaves to go back to Japan, leaving Shuri to fume that he has no way to get in touch with her. The end of this volume concludes with new trust between Sarasa and her followers, and new dangers as she has to find out what happened to Hayato.

Thinking back about the series so far, it is really amazing how much Tamura has been able to pack into ten volumes. Shuri’s suffered what would be an enormous setback and is in the process of starting to put his empire back again. Despite Sarasa’s meandering journey, she’s put together a group of devoted followers and is beginning to grasp what becoming the leader of a rebellion really means beyond just following along with other people’s expectations of the “Boy of Destiny.” Sarasa and Shuri are apart but they both now have the support of new friends, and it is easy to understand and sympathize with the motivations from each side as they slowly move forwards to a place where they’ll have no choice but to confront each other as King and Rebel.

Basara Volumes 7 and 8

Basara Volume 7

So the undercover Blue King Asagi’s manipulations are successful and Sarasa sets off to liberate her mother from the grip of the Red King’s General Kazan. As they travel on their ship, Tatara’s band encounters an unusual hunter – a young man who is taking on a whale all by himself armed only with a harpoon and a small sailboat. Asagi attempts to play the spoiler when they head into town, announcing Tatara’s presence in an arrogant and threatening manner. Sarasa yells at him, saying that isn’t the way they do things. The young whaler Nachi serves as the band’s guide, taking them on a meandering trip to meet his village that involves quite a bit of road reconstruction on the part of Tatara’s people. Tatara tries to gain the support of Nachi and his leader Hijiri. Chacha and Zaki head out to scout the situation and see something unexpected – Tatara’s mother refusing to leave the General even though she has the opportunity to do so. She comments to Kazan, “I cannot leave your side. Not until I witness your death.” Chacha vows to hide the potential complicity of his mother from Tatara. Up against impossible odds, Sarasa isn’t sure how she can succeed, but Hijiri promises to bring more allies if Tatara is able to successfully demonstrate his leadership.

At the same time, Shuri is traveling towards Kazan’s hideout, determined to punish his general for his insolence. As soon as Sarasa’s mother sees her, her internal thoughts highlight just how much her daughter has changed. She thinks “She’s only 15! She’s just a little girl!” and the General is determined to grab Tatara’s head as a trophy. Chacha confronts the General, thinking that the situation is her fault for not being more forthcoming with Tatara after her scouting mission. Sarasa is ironically saved by Shuri’s attack, but her eyes are injured and she throws herself into a burning building to rescue Chacha and Zaki. Hijiri tells Tatara that Zaki is risking his life for his leader, “Be proud of him boy! You have good followers.” Sarasa’s response is that no one is worth the sacrifice of a life and she blindly jumps on her horse to rescue Zaki. Hijiri decides that he’s figured out the secret to Tatara’s success as a revolutionary, “They don’t come to you looking for guidance…they just can’t bear to stand back and watch as you run ahead on unsteady feet bawling your eyes out.”

Basara Volume 8

The 8th volume of this series shows Sarasa and Shuri brought down incredibly low, but they’re about to head towards one of my favorite places in Basara, the Democratic Island of Okinawa. Sarasa has been blinded, and she doesn’t even have the consolation of her mother to help her with her illness. Sarasa’s mother confirms with Kaku that the prophecy identified Sarasa as the Child of Destiny all along. She decides to leave, saying “If I see her…if I hold her in my arms…I might undo… everything, turn her back into her mother’s girl.” Sarasa’s in a almost depressed fugue-like state as she deals with her injury and the burdens of leadership. Her people deal with the aftermath of battle in their own ways. Asagi, knowing Sarasa and Shuri’s secret, decides to scare her by holding her down and kissing her. Sarasa asks Nagi to make her eyes better sooner, and he points out that she has other senses she can now sharpen. Plots in the Red King’s city leave Shuri deposed and alone, dependent for the first time on the random kindness of his subjects who support him while the nobility turns on him. Even when being attacked, Shuri’s quick insight allows him to penetrate the truth behind the plot that is removing him from the throne, as he quickly grasps that one of his last trustworthy advisers has been turned only because his mother has been held captive. The scenes of Sarasa and Shuri facing their worst fears are juxtaposed with each other, showing how they deal with adversity in different ways.

Shuri escapes the city he’s worked so hard to build and ends up on the boat of Dr. Basho, the mentor of Sarasa’s trusted adviser Nagi. Shuri’s imperious mannerisms don’t tend to go over well with Basho’s apprentice Yuna and he soon finds himself doing the unthinkable – swabbing the decks. Sarasa is traveling towards Okinawa to meet Dr. Basho too, in the hopes that he’ll be able to assist with restoring her eyesight. Shuri realizes that for the first time he has no one to rely on but himself, and Sarasa tries to make the best of her own situation by exercising her other senses and visiting her people. Shuri sees Okinawa as a poorly-defended island paradise, noting that he’d have no trouble taking it over if he were still king. Sarasa is washed up on shore, and is rescued by another of Dr. Basho’s associates. Will the two lovers meet again in the next volume? Are there mysterious and complex geopolitical undercurrents tainting what appears to be a simple island paradise? Do you even have to ask?

Basara Volumes 5 and 6

Basara Volume 5

As horrible as many people think the Red King is, the Blue King is clearly worse. People are starving in his lands, to the point where infanticide and suicide are common occurrences, sometimes at the same time. Sarasa and Shuri are captured by the Blue King’s most visible subordinate, a crafty captain of the King’s elite ninja/bodyguard squad. They’re placed in a holding cell with a bunch of other prisoners and forced to run an uneven race where the elites have horses and everybody else has to run on foot. The course is booby-trapped to an astonishing degree, and there can only be one winner of the race even if the semi-finalists are forced to kill each other. One of the things it is fun to observe is the way Shuri expresses the depths of his feelings for Sarasa. When one of the contestants asks if she’s Shuri’s girl, he replies “Someday she’ll be a woman the likes of you won’t even be able to address.” Which prompts the question “Is she going to be queen or something?”

Sarasa somehow ends up being able to inspire revolution wherever she goes, because when she sees the corrupt Blue King rooting for the slaves in the race to kill each other, she makes an impassioned speech. While the Blue King is unmoved by the words of someone he deems as his property, Shuri declares that she’s a good woman and proposes marriage if they manage to live. The Blue King decides to use Sarasa as a sacrifice in a bizarre ritual, while Shuri appears to die in an escape attempt. Of course, with over twenty volumes yet to go, he’s not actually dead. Sarasa is determined to bring down the Blue King, not as Tatara but as herself. Ageha in his guise as an androgynous dancing performer arrives in town, and he seems to know absolutely anyone who is anyone judging from a charged conversation he has with the Blue King’s Captain.

Sarasa befriends a local rebel leader, and he rallies the depressed subjects of the Blue King. Sarasa wonders if she’s started something that can’t be controlled, and he says “History brought you here. This may be a river we cannot swim against.” Shuri’s been alive and disguised the entire time, and he makes a move against his older brother. As the Blue King is destroyed the Captain of the Guards Asagi feels nostalgic for the death of his unwitting duplicate. Shuri and Sarasa are briefly reunited only to be torn apart by an inconveniently timed flash flood. Those flash floods, always interfering with young love!

Basara Volume 6

One of the nicest things about rereading a series that I was pretty much following from the beginning is that I’m able to go back and appreciate again some of the details I’ve forgotten. I’d forgotten how great Ageha was in these earlier volumes. He’s so enigmatic and merciless, yet the reader assumes he’s going to be taking action to support Sarasa at some point. When Asagi decides that he’s going to go undercover in Tatara’s organization and manipulate everybody there like puppets, Ageha silently hears all of his plans and says nothing to Sarasa because if she gets fooled by Asagi, she’s not worthy of being the “boy of destiny.” Asagi just keeps hugging Ageha, declaring that he’s the only one who understands him, while Ageha silently muses that “There will always be a destroyer at the boundary of a new age…Now it’s getting interesting.”

When Asagi and Shuri confront each other, Shuri’s internal poor little rich boy tendencies are in full force. When Shuri hears that Asagi’s mother protected her son from his father by sending him away to be raised and swapping in a changeling baby in his place, he thinks about how his own mother never made an elaborate attempt to protect him. Asagi assumes the pose of an abused servant of the Blue King and immediately gets to work making everyone who supports Tatara start being suspicious of their young leader. Hayato is particularly susceptible to Asagi’s insinuations. While Sarasa doesn’t trust Asagi at all, she plays into his plot by being secretive about her plans to go off on her own to rescue her mother from General Kazan. Asagi’s entrance to the story as a foil for Shuri and Sarasa means that Basara will keep being interesting from a more cerebral standpoint as opposed to fights that are only determined on the battlefield. Asagi’s intercepting secret letters between the lovers, sending out mystical spies, and generally being evil. While Sarasa doesn’t trust him, she hasn’t yet uncovered the truth behind his manipulations.

Basara Volumes 3-4 by Yumi Tamura

I continue my rereading adventure through the delightfully epic manga Basara. There are female pirates, evil kings, and death races to look forward to! I’ll keep referring to Sarasa under her own name when discussing her internal thoughts, and as Tatara when people are reacting to her male disguise.

Basara Volume 3

Sarasa is continuing her semi-solitary quest, determined to succeed without the support of the villagers who she has sworn to protect. When she reaches the region where Suzaku village should be, she finds out that the village has sunk to the bottom of the sea. Instead she encounters rival pirates and an unexpected role model. Chacha has her own ship and when she captures the famous “boy of destiny” Tatara she promptly challenges him to a drinking game for his freedom. Sarasa gives it a try, but find an unexpected pinch hitter among Chacha’s crew to continue the contest. Kaku (Sarasa’s village adviser) drinks himself into a stupor in an attempt to help. Chacha is impressed with the loyalty that Tatara seems to inspire while Sarasa concludes after seeing Chacha “seeing a strong woman reminds me of what I should be.”

Sarasa vows to help her new pirate friends against the evil Shojo clan, and finds herself committed to a one-man mission where she has to steal a cannon and return to her companions quickly where they are pinned down in a race against the ocean tides. One of the things that I find admirable about Sarasa as a character is that she keeps moving forward even when to all outward appearances she is clearly over her head. While she might have internal doubts, she doesn’t spend too much time hesitating if it is clear that she has to take some sort of action. She’s rewarded by some strange quirks of fate, to the point where the reader begins to wonder if the land of Japan itself might be rooting for change in the form of Tatara. Tamura weaves together multiple storylines effortlessly, as while Tatara is battling on the high seas, Shuri deals with diplomatic intrusion from abroad in an explosive fashion and Shuri’s right hand man Shido is headed out to hunt for Tatara despite the tears of the new wife he is leaving behind.

Basara Volume 4

The fourth volume shows Sarasa wondering about the changes in her personality as she observes her enemies and thinks that she has the power to annihilate them. She wonders “When did I get so heartless? When did I start thinking like this?” The cost of war suddenly becomes more personal when she finds out that Shido and his men have captured Ageha. Seeing Ageha the former slave with his old master fills in details about his personality for the reader. Ageha knows he’s going to be used at bait to draw Tatara out, but he doesn’t stop taking the opportunity to needle Shido whenever possible, asking “Have you ever wondered between you and Tatara which of you is moving with the flow of history? Which has been chosen and which is fated to become obsolete?” Shido has unbreakable faith in Shuri the Red King, but it is clear that he’s been headed for tragedy from the moment of his introduction. Sarasa and Hayato head out to rescue Ageha and succeed against impossible odds yet again. While war on the high seas wasn’t particularly bloody, Shido’s death is both graphic and emotional as he realizes the truth of Sarasa and Shuri’s relationship and their false identities towards each other, thinking “They love each other, and they don’t know!” Ageha is both bitterly triumphant and sorrowful when his old master dies. Hayato struggles with his actions even though he essentially saved Tatara’s life.

Scarred by death, Sarasa and Shuri seek each other out. Shuri is facing a new threat in the form of his brother the Blue King and wants to scout out the situation while at the same time the Blue King has proposed an alliance with Tatara. It is the height of tragic irony that the only times Sarasa and Shuri can feel like they are being themselves is when they are together, unknowingly lying to each other but still finding a moment of respite in knowing someone who is unaware of the burdens of leadership and war that they both have to deal with. Tamura is great at creating dramatic tension because just as the reader wants to root for Sarasa and Shuri to get together and live happily ever after, it is easy to see that Tatara and the Red King are heading towards a potentially fatal confrontation.