In Volume 1, we met Hana and Hina, schoolmates who share a (against school rules) job working at a character goods store. Hina has a second part-time job modeling. In Volume 2, Hana learns something world-changing – Hina also previously had a girlfriend. Fighting with herself about nascent feelings for the younger woman, this changes her own perspective radically.
In Volume 3 of Hana to Hina ha Houkago ( ハナとヒナは放課後 ), Hana screws up her courage to bring up Hina’s former relationship, only to have the idea shot down by Hina, who blames Maiko for making it all awkward. She assures Hana that she’s “normal.” Now Hana is thrown into a real tizzy. She still likes Hina – having found the courage to admit that, she is devastated that her feelings won’t be returned. Things become very tense between them. Will they get together? I’m not going to spoil this book, as you too will be reading it in English (Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3) soon enough! But…seriously…what are the chances that they don’t get together? Pretty much nil, since it’s a series by Morinaga Milk. ^_^
The what, though, isn’t really that important. The how is.
If there is any criticism I have of Morinaga-sensei’s work, it is the fantasy of it all. Stress exists only as an internal struggle – the character(s) wrestling with their own feelings. There’s almost no interaction with external difficulties. No disapproving parents, no prejudiced school administrations. It’s a handwave I’m glad to accept, as it allows the story to exist as it’s own thing, in the fantasy of a lily-scented landscape. This may be changing
(In the following notes, there may be some small spoilers. I’ve done my best to minimize them, but be warned.)
In Kisses, Sighs and Cherry Blossoms Pink, Hitomi merely fantasizes about a future in which she and Nana are adults and can be together. In GIRL FRIENDS (Volume 1 and Volume 2) Morinaga-sensei took a step outside the isolation of a “couple in love” and gave Akiko and Mari friends…friends who accepted them and their relationship. In the very end, Mari even gave some thought to the issues of coming out to parents and what school and work might think…in the future.
In Hana to Hina ha Houkago, it is through the existence of a previous relationship that Hana learns about Hina’s sexuality. This is not unknown as a plot complication in manga, and often is denied, as Hina does. But it’s also addressed later on when Hina speaks more honestly.
Hana still has the benefit of a friendship outside Hina and it is in that friendship that she finds the strength to speak to Hina, when the tension between them is becoming oppressive.
The ending touches briefly upon two new issues for a Morinaga-sensei work, marriage and coming out. They are both presented with a creative flourish, without connection to the “real” world, but both in unique and positive ways. In a sense, it’s Morinaga-sensei herself taking tentative steps with her hyper cute romance narratives towards something with more depth. With Otouto no Otto running in the same magazine, maybe Morinaga-sensei’s feeling more confident about her narratives “coming out.” I’d like to think that she is. In her next series, we’ll hope to get the characters navigating dating or living together. ^_^
Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters – 8
Service – 6 Sex is a thing that happens
Yuri – 8 See above
Overall – 9 for sexuality, coming out and marriage actually being addressed. ^_^
Morinaga-sensei shows us again that she’s strongest in a character-driven plot when she’s given the time to tell the whole story. At 3 volumes, I think Hana to Hina ha Houkago is her strongest work to date.