Takane & Hana is a romantic comedy series about a young sort-of-couple who get together as a result of deception at an arranged marriage meeting. Written and drawn by Yuki Shiwasu and published by Viz Media, the series delves into class differences and prejudice while still being primarily a comedy. Vol. 1 collects the series’ first four chapters, introducing the main characters, their economic situations, and their relationships. Does it do so effectively?
As expected given the genre, a majority of this volume consists of characters talking or otherwise living semi-normal lives. There’s no action here, and it’s not needed; Shiwasu does a great job showing how great a comic can be visually as long as the artist excels at conveying characters’ emotions. The facial expressions throughout are both poignant and hilarious; my favorite segments were those infused with comedy but I enjoyed the more serious moments as well. There are a lot of stellar physical details (the characters both have beautiful hair, for example) and the shading is great, too. The roses throughout are also impressively drawn.
I can’t recall reading any romantic comedy comics before this one, so I wasn’t sure if the plot would be my cup of tea. Thankfully, I enjoyed it for the most part. Takane and Hana meet as a result of an arranged marriage meeting gone wrong. Takane was supposed to meet Hana’s older sister Yukari, but Yukari didn’t want any part of it, so Hana went in her place. The pair’s relationship is fraught with conflict from their first meeting onward, and a lot of the manga’s humor stems from the witty ways in which Hana gets under Takane’s skin. Takane is rich and pompous with no respect for the less economically fortunate, so seeing Hana refuse to submit to his stuck-up ideals is a gratifying experience. I also appreciate the volume’s relatively slow pacing; these characters feel like a potential couple going on what might be dates, but their relationship status is still unclear at the volume’s end. Shiwasu actually gives the romance time to breathe, which is great.
With that said, the romance is also the source of my main concern regarding this volume. The age difference between the couple is substantial (ten years), which is uncomfortable when the younger partner is only 16 years old. Takane & Hana actually addresses this issue, and I’m thankful that it does, but your mileage may vary on how well it does so. It’s also worth noting that, while most of the pacing is well-done, there are a few moments that could have used more build-up or exploration. This is mostly the case when it comes to the characters’ thoughts about their mutual affection.
Overall, I enjoyed Takane & Hana Vol. 1. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but I definitely didn’t think I’d get hilarious confrontations of prejudiced attitudes about economic class. The artwork throughout is also great, and Hana is a very likable protagonist. With that said, this volume skirts a lot of lines when it comes to the pair’s relationship status, and the way future volumes develop it could make or break the series. Nonetheless, this is a fun debut volume and I’ll likely read the second when it comes out.