Yuri Manga: Himitsu no Hanazono

March 5th, 2004

Himitsu no Hanazono (The Secret Garden) – Fujii Mihona, 1999

This wonderful shoujo manga was, for a long time, a standard Yuricon auction item, and we often give it away as prizes for our various contests. Why? Because it’s so damn cute! Who doesn’t like a Cinderella story where the handsome prince literally sweeps Cinderella off her feet?

Misono is a cute high school student who sings well and is cute – and happens to be a champion long-distance runner. This very year she’s the anchor for her region’s relay team – a very great honor. She’s training incredibly hard to be worthy of it. The problem is, she’s developed a minor injury in her foot that bothers her all the time. Nonetheless, she’s perservering, at least in part to make her stepmother proud.

One day, as Misono is practicing, she comes across a secret gazebo covered in roses. Intrigued by them, and by the angelic voice she can hear singing among them, she wanders over to the garden. She sits down on the bench for a short rest and falls asleep, surrounded by roses and song. The beauty of the moment and the turmoil within causes her to cry. When she awakens, she’s startled to find that she isn’t alone. A handsome boy, the singer whose song she heard, has stumbled across her crying on the bench. He comforts her, wipes the tears from her eyes and generally is charming and romantic. Misono falls pretty hard, pretty fast. Little by little she learns more about Sakuya, the boy from the rose garden, and more and more she wants to be with him.

Thus begins a love story about a handsome prince, a beautiful princess, an evil stepmother, a jealous rival, a long distance race and a very wonderful, happy ending under the roses. But, let’s be real, I wouldn’t be writing about this manga if there weren’t Yuri in it. The thing is – I don’t want to give it away. ^_^ But tough, I’m going to anyway!

On the night of the ball, erm, a party for Sakuya’s grandfather, Misono learns that Sakuya already has a girlfriend, Himeko. Himeko isn’t a stupid child – she realizes exacly what’s going on betuween Sakuya and Misono. She sends poor Misono packing, in tears. Sakuya realizes what’s happened and runs after Misono. After a tense scene in which Misono learns that Sakuya is a love-child, they end up in Sakuya’s room, talking about their personal lives, and how they feel about each other. Just as things are about to progress past a kiss, Sakuya asks if Misono wants to know his secret…

Himeko learns that the two are together and practically breaks down the door to get into Sakuya’s room. When the door opens, Sakuya is looking a little ruffled, but Misono is dressed only in a single sheet wound around her body. Himeko throws a tantrum and screams at Misono that she thinks she loves Sakuya, but she can’t, because Sakuya’s a girl! Misono, with great dignity and charm, dressed only in the sheet, looks at Himeko, smiles, and tells her that she knows. (As an aside, I was pretty impressed with Sakuya – not too many guys in shoujo manga get as far as she did…you know what I mean?)

The story doesn’t end there, though. Sakuya and Misono still have all sorts of obstacles – their families objections, Himeko’s rivalry and Misono’s injury. In the end, however, the prince/ss quite literally sweeps her princess off her feet and they end up underneath the rose arbor where they met. All in all, one of the best early romantic Yuri shoujo manga out there.

Check out used bookstores to get your own copy of this wonderful love story.

Ratings:

Art: 9, typical, but well-drawn shoujo fare.
Story – 7, this is Cinderella, folks, there’s no surprises here.
Yuri – 9
Characters – 9

Overall: 9 It’s not perfect, but it’s way lots o’fun

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