Takane & Hana
高嶺と花 (Takane to Hana)
Shoujo – Comedy, romance
5 Volumes (ongoing)
When her older sister refuses to go to an arranged marriage meeting, 16-year-old commoner Hana is forced to stand in and meet rich heir Takane. His attitude makes Hana storm out in anger, but to her surprise, Takane seems to take an interest in her! Hana finds herself enjoying spending time with him, but what will happen when he learns the truth?
One of the more popular — and hated — setups of shoujo manga is a story about a somewhat ditzy pushover falling for a demanding, cocky, often condescending jerk.
The bad news: Takane is a demanding, cocky, often condescending jerk.
The good news: Hana doesn’t take any of his attitude and in fact turns it around so that she’s insulting him.
Hold on. There’s a trade-off: the romance suffers as a result. Not so much because Hana is naive about her feelings or that Takane isn’t interested in her as well, but because of the age gap. You see, Takane is 26, making for a 10-year age difference.
Not only that, Takane is part of the upper class and is expected to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps to lead a major conglomerate. Hana is just a typical high school girl, so this would be a scandal on multiple levels. To make this more palatable for a wider audiences, the two leads say they aren’t officially dating with marriage in mind. They just enjoy each others’ company, and they can’t help if their heart races. (Although if they make the other’s heart skip a beat, it’s a victory, like in Teasing Master Takagi-san.) If you are the type to look forward to physical displays of affection (or even passionate declarations of love), this series isn’t going to deliver on that front.
Now, it is true that Hana kisses Takane in the first chapter. Takane & Hana was originally a one-shot, and I believe it wasn’t until the second volume that it became an official serialization. But with this switch means a more platonic romance, a level that’s somewhere between hanging out and casual, monogamous unofficial-official dating. Even then, and even with parental approval, the fact that a high school girl is hanging around a businessman and doing date-like things is bound to make some readers uncomfortable.
So, Hana and Takane continue to hang out after their disastrous first meeting. Yes, Takane knows Hana is Hana and not 23-year-old Yukari. A lot of the chapters cover the typical storylines you’d expect: jealousy, suspicious characters, hiding Hana’s identity and relationship with Takane, etc. The early chapters don’t feel too disconnected from the rest of the series, but you can see Shiwasu start to really expand the world in the second volume and beyond. Even so, I’m concerned the series will plateau sooner rather than later. The only overreaching arcs so far are hiding the truth about “Yukari” from the world at large and a love triangle involving Hana. Both of those surely can’t be kept up for the entire run.
The real entertainment factor comes the back-and-forth between the two leads. Hana is feisty and sarcastic, which is why Takane likes being around her. Even though he gives her fancy bouquets and does other classic romantic gestures, Hana manages to turn the tables on him. He’s basically Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun‘s Mikoshiba crossed with the financial resources and self-praise of Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club. However, Takane can’t stomach crowds or asking for favors while Tamaki thrives on attention.
In short, he tries to impress her, she makes sarcastic remarks or pretends to not be interested, and the cycle continues until the problem-of-the-day drives them a little closer together. With the age gap and all the jokes Hana makes about Takane being old, fans of the comedic side of Dengeki Daisy would be a prime audience for Takane & Hana.
Surrounding the main cast includes Hana’s two best friends (Hikaruko and Mizuki), Takane’s flirtatious friend Nicola, Hana’s male childhood friend nicknamed Okamon, and their family members. I do like how Hikaruko is one of those characters who wears glasses and has her hair in braids. She can take off her glasses and let down her hair to become a beauty, but she always go back to her “geek” style. It’s nice not to see her become one of the usual running gags or makeover girls. Okamon, their guy friend, is also a nice guy: he carefully watches Takane as a concerned friend even though it’s implied he like-likes Hana. More characters are introduced, and it’s possibly they could be promoted from recurring characters to a part of the main cast.
Besides the hilarity of a rich guy with no common sense and a girl who insults him in order to do what she wants him to, the visuals play a large part in the comedy. Takane’s face always twists in a half-smile when he believes Hana made an honest confession, and Hana does a perfect impression of the unimpressed emoji. Otherwise, particularly if you’ve read other comedies like Maid Sama! or Oresama Teacher, the style should be most readers. This is Shiwasu’s fifth published work, and her first manga to go beyond one volume. Despite being a relative newbie, the manga looks great and doesn’t suffer from a lot of awkwardness or ugliness. Takane’s idea of high class fashion is often way off the mark, but generally Takane and Nicola’s world isn’t too exaggerated with high technology or things like that.
No honorifics are used. No terms like omiai, which are often used in English adaptations, are kept either. (Well, aside from kimono.) Hana calls her sister “Yukari” instead of “Nee-chan” here. Jokes involving Takane’s name are explained via footnote. Otherwise, there’s not much else for me to say.
If you liked some of the other manga I mentioned in this review, Takane & Hana should be on your radar. It’s rewarding to see a fun heroine full of snappy comebacks, a spirited verbal tug-of-war that is based on fun reactions rather than a love-hate relationship. However, the age gap is a hurdle for many readers. That will also probably prevent the series from being as rewarding as other romances.