Takane & Hana, Vols 11 and 12

Takane & Hana, Volumes 11 and 12 by Yuki Shiwasu

Sometimes my interest tends to wane a bit at more long-running comedic series, but Takane and Hana is still going strong, even when some of the plot points tend to get repetitive. The main way this manga manages to actually get me rooting for a romance between an emotionally stunted businessman and a high school girl is the way it deliberately shies away from things progressing very far physically. As the 11th volume opens Takane and Hana are dealing with the emotional fallout from when Takane got carried away….and kissed Hana on the nose. The over-the-top angst combined with Shiwasu’s dynamic rendering of psychological turmoil makes the opening chapter extremely amusing. Things aren’t kept light for long, as Takane’s evil cousin Yakumo figures out the relationship between Takane and Hana and decides to kidnap her. I’m trying to remember if this is the second or third kidnapping in this series, but it does provide the opportunity for some impressive, action-movie heroics as Takane and Okamon attempt to rescue Hana.

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Volume 12 features my favorite cover so for this series, Takane’s twisted grin combined with heart hands captures the wacky appeal of this manga. Takane is recuperating from his dramatic rescue attempt, and Hana is determined to put more distance between them again because she doesn’t want their relationship to cause issues for Takane. This is circling back to a reset of their previous relationship dynamic, where Takane is bombarding Hana with an endless stream of unsuitable gifts and she’s growing more and more frustrated. Okamon ends up enlisting himself as Hana’s beard as he prevents Takane from grabbing Hana and carrying her out of a diner by proclaiming that he and Hana just recently started going out.

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Takane ends up getting relationship advice from Nicola on a speedboat, and his attempts to rehearse speaking to Hana as well as “chill out” feature the emotional anguish and hilariously tortured facial expressions that Shiwasu is so excellent at portraying. These two volumes continue doing what Takane & Hana does so well – set up over the top comedic situations combined with a core relationship that is actually very sweet.

Takane & Hana, Vols. 8 and 9

Takane and Hana, Volumes 8 and 9 by Yuki Shiwasu

At 9 volumes in Takane and Hana continues to have story arcs centered on wacky shenanigans, but since those shenanigans seem to be prodding along the romance between Takane and Hana at a glacial pace, I tend to just sit back and enjoy the story.

Most of this volume is taken up with Hana’s realization that she actually cares for Takane, and stumbling through events like Valentine’s Day and dinner with her family while she’s burdened with newfound awareness of her own feelings. There are still plenty of moments of culture shock as Takane isn’t sure what to do the first time he encounters insufficiently marbled beef. There could only be so long that Takane could survived in forced poverty in the position of a mediocre salaryman, mostly because while he is an emotional idiot, he’s actually exceedingly good at business. His current company ends up creating more of a manager role for him, and he’s clearly moving up.

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Takane’s grandfather is pleased with the success of his machinations to force his grandson to grow through vicariously experiencing poverty, but now he’s worried that there will be no time for Takane’s romance to progress. Since exercising familial authority through housing worked so well the last time, he decides to provide Hana’s family with an elaborate mansion to live in as part of a made-up “testing program.” They all move in, only to find out later that they are also required to live with Takane. Takane and Hana end up setting some rigid boundaries around their new living situation, but they aren’t rigid enough for Okamon. Okamon has been lurking on the margins with his carefully deadpan expression, but he hasn’t weighed in on Takane and Hana’s relationship before. I was delighted that volume 9 finally featured Okamon being more direct and also presented a chapter from his point of view. While Okamon may firmly be fulfilling the role of “second lead guy” so familiar in Korean dramas, and I don’t think that he represents a serious threat to an eventual resolution for Takane and Hana, it was a nice change of pace to get to spend more time with him in this volume. I’m expecting that Takane and Hana cohabiting in a mansion will provide plenty of antics for at least 2 volumes.

Takane & Hana, vol. 7

Takane and Hana Volume 7 by Yuki Shiwasu

This volume continues to explore how Takane and Hana deal with his changed circumstances as he adjusts to live as an ordinary businessman. It is a slightly more serious volume than usual, but there’s some great character development.

Takane and Hana 7

Hana continues to show up at Takane’s shabby apartment to feed him dinner, although he’s started to get a little better about fending for himself without the advantages of his former wealth. They share a genuine moment of connection when Takane says “Thank you” without his usual posturing and bizarre grimaces. Hana immediately checks to see if Takane might be coming down with a cold because she’s stunned at his behavior. One thing that this descent into poverty confirms is that Hana is indifferent to Takane’s wealth and status. She’s been commenting all along that his over the top gifts and lifestyle doesn’t impress her, and her willingness to hang out with him in poverty just reinforces everything she was saying earlier. Takane might not totally internalize this shift in their relationship, but he actually starts acting less arrogant in his job, and starts making moves to pull off some complex business deals independently. Takane and Hana eventually achieve a sort of new normal in their relationship, and the roles get reversed a little bit when she gets sick and he has to take care of her. This continues to be an entertaining series, and I’m finding this shift away from over the top wealth-related shenanigans to have more emotional depth and resonance than I was originally expecting. I’m curious to see if the series continues to have more of this emphasis on the character relationships or if it goes back to more broad comedy. Shiwasu is executing this series so well, I’d be fine with either option!

Takane & Hana, Vol. 6

Takane & Hana Volume 6 by Yuki Shiwasu

I should have read this volume earlier this winter, because it had a great Christmas story in it! But Takane & Hana can always be counted on for some breezy shoujo antics as it explores the potentially problematic relationship between a high school student and an heir to industry who become friends after Hana subs in for her sister at an arranged marriage meeting with Takane.

The volume opens with Takane standing Hana up for a date due to his workload, so she goes out with friends instead. It turns out that he was actually planning on surprising her with a Christmas date. Takane is incapable of doing anything less than a grand gesture, so he appears before Hana in a custom designed cashmere Santa Suit. Hana realizes that he planned the whole thing after she made a random comment about how normal people celebrate Christmas, and she’s touched by the gesture.

The major storyline in this volume centers on Takane suffering a reversal of fortunes when his grandfather takes away his access to all his bank accounts, his high-powered job, and his apartment, telling him that he has to prove himself by working his way up to the top. Takane’s occasional glimpses through Hana of how common people live do not prepare him at all for being cut off from his credit card. As he slowly starts to adjust to the horror of cheap suits, convenience store lunches, and public transportation, he cuts off contact with Hana, not sure what to do if he can’t appear before her with elaborately expensive presents. Hana is mystified and confused because while he certainly is in the habit of being busy with work, he’s never cut off contact with her for such a long time before. As always, Shiwasu is a master of exaggerated facial expressions, and seeing Takane react to his changed circumstances is both sad and hilarious.

One of the things that has me rooting for this relationship between a forthright high schooler and an emotionally stunted captain of industry is Hana’s habit of confronting Takane and pointing out when he’s being an idiot. Takane rejects her offers of help, but she’s not going to back down. A rich person learning who they are after a reversal of fortune is a very common plot trope, but seeing how these particular characters take on this challenge makes it interesting in Takane & Hana.

Takane & Hana, Vol. 4

Takane & Hana, Volume 4 by Yuki Shiwasu

This is my far one of my favorite current light romance reads, mostly due to Takane’s surly facial expressions and imperious manner and Hana’s excellent way of totally deflating him with a cutting remark. This volume opens with the aftermath of the big school trip, where handsome scions of industry decided to hang out with a group of high school kids.

In this volume, some major conflict arises from the corporate world, as Takane’s evil Uncle decides to assign a new, alarmingly efficient assistant to him. Kiragasaki acts alarmingly unemotional, although sometimes he looks more animated when the light glints off his glasses. He observes Takane closely, but doesn’t have much to report other than his stellar performance and dedication to his work. When Kiragasaki figures out that Takane is meeting again with a girl from an arranged marriage meeting he manages to discover the truth about who Hana is.

One of the frequent plot elements in Takane & Hana that I never get tired of is seeing how the couple supports each other in their unusual relationship. Kiragaskaki ends up going to Hana and requests that they break up, because he sees how other people in the company will use their relationship against them. Hana has some hard decisions to make, but Takane’s unshakable confidence ends up being rooted in reality, because he sees his excellence at his job as a shield against corporate manipulations. Takane wins Kiragasaki over by just being himself and rising above any corporate plots.

Aside from the more serious core story of the volume, there are plenty of hijinks as Hana steps through some manga plot staples like preparing for the school festival. Each volume of this series is breezy and fun, and made a little more lively and unusual due to the odd-couple nature of the relationship, and Shiwasu’s gifts at comedic art.