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Review: Hana Kimi (Complete Series)

Reviewer: Lissa Pattillo

Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Volumes: 23
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: September 2004 – April 2008

Synopsis: “Mizuki has transferred to a high school in Japan, but not just any school! To be close to her idol, high jumper Izumi Sano, she’s going to an all-guys’ high school and disguising herself as a boy! But as fate would have it, they’re more than classmates…they’re roommates! Now, Mizuki must keep her secret in the classroom, the locker room, and her own bedroom. And her classmates must cope with a new transfer student who may make them question their own orientation…”

Coming to its conclusion on English shores, Hana Kimi has run 23 volumes in total, spanning from September 2004 to April 2008. A charming shoujo story that’s spawned two live action television dramas and numerous drama CDs, fans around the world continue to show their love and support for the cross-dressing heroine and her friends.

The premise for Hana Kimi is a simple one: Mizuki Ashiya is a young Japanese girl, living in America, who finds herself attracted to a high jumper, in Japan, named Izumi Sano. Ashiya, having admired his passion and free spirit for high jumping, packs up her bags and moves to Japan, disguising herself as a boy to enrol in Sano’s all boy school. Mizuki wished to see Sano high jump in person but was shocked to learn he had quit due to the pressure. Now determined to get him jumping again, Mizuki’s adventures ensue! While there she befriends fellow students, goes through lots of wacky hijinks and gets the lucky break of being Sano’s roommate, all the while trying to keep her secret under wraps (or in her case, a thick denim vest).

Unlike some stories, which take a strong basic plot and coast off it, Hana Kimi does quite the opposite. It takes a plot that sounds shallow at best, and doesn’t reflect too highly on Mizuki as anything but a stubborn stalker fan girl, and builds up a really strong series based on emotions, humour and drama. It’s first and foremost a character drama, introducing readers to a sizeable cast of diverse, and fairly believable, individuals. When a Japanese television drama was created based on Hana Kimi, a subplot for Mizuki’s reason for seeking out Sano was added to bulk up probable cause for her determination. Lacking that in the original manga leaves it all a little flat, but with aforementioned attributes, manages a strong read from start to finish.

Throughout the story, Mizuki faces numerous obstacles as she struggles to keep up appearances, trying to maintain the appearance and attitude of a boy. Other little pretty boys in the school help to mask her obvious smaller size and feminine appearance. Sano faces problems when he learns Mizuki’s secret but must pretend that he doesn’t know, especially hard as her roommate and as a teenage boy with certain physical urges. Meanwile their mutual friend Nakatsu struggles with his sexuality as he finds himself attracted to Mizuki, believing she’s in fact a boy. There’s a bunch of other characters including the laid back doctor and Nakatsu’s Aura-sensing roommate (who brings a small bit of supernatural humour to the series).

The end of the series happens fairly quickly, working up to the final moments over a few volumes but actual defining events occurring quite abruptly. It’s not a picture perfect ending, which saves the story from trying too hard to please, but it may leave fans feeling unsatisfied with so little conclusion given to any of the characters past Mizuki and Sano. Hard to spoil twenty-three volumes of build up however and what’s presented by the manga-ka is able to ease the story to its fairly inevitable conclusion.

What manages to be the most interesting and admirable attribute of Hana Kimi is the level of consistency that the artwork maintained. Drawn by the manga-ka over the span of several years, a reader could easily sit down to read the entire twenty-three volumes without really finding much of a discrepancy in style from volume one to volume twenty-three when looking at the interior art. It helps to bring the whole series together as a whole, really giving the sense that you’re reading the same series you started, even volumes down the road. A lot of other series will change styles over time in reflection of an artist’s progression during longer stories, but with Hisaya Nakajo having such a solid and attractive shoujo style from the get-go, there was no real feeling of necessary improvement to enjoy the story.

Viz did a generic but nice quality job with the release of this series. The translations were easy to understand and kept the tone of the original intact as well as character names left unchanged and original-language/culture relevant jokes were addressed accordingly. The original covers from the original Japanese tankubon were used for each of the English-language covers and Viz released a hardcover art book for the series in November 2006.

Overall, while Hana Kimi doesn’t really tread any new ground, it’s still a charming read that manages to maintain being entertaining over so many volumes. Once readers can get over the weak premise and find themselves attached to the characters themselves, Hana Kimi is a sweet, fun shoujo manga series that’s full of memories.

Review written May 7, 2008 by Lissa Pattillo for MangaJouhou
Books recieved as a gift and/or purchased in-store from Chapters


Volume One


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: September 2004

Synopsis: “Mizuki has transfered to a high school in Japan but not just any school! To be close to her idol, high jumper Izumi Sano, she’s going to an all-guys’ high school and disguising herself as a boy! But they’re more than classmates, they’re roommates! Now, Mizuki must keep her secret in the classroom, the locker room, and her own bedroom. And her classmates must cope with a new transfer student who may make them question their own orientation…”


Volume Two


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: November 2004

Synopsis: “Izumi Sano has realized that his slender new roommate Miyuki is a girl, but he’s decided to keep her secret so she doesn’t get kicked out of their all-boys’ high school. Now they’re becoming good friends, without worrying about “guy” or “girl” stuff–or so Miyuki thought until Izumi kissed her one night! Before Miyuki has time to freak out, in steps a bigger problem: her American half-brother Shizuki, who’s not too thrilled to find out that his little sister is cross-dressing 24 hours a day.”


Volume Three


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: June 2004

Synopsis: “Izumi, his friend Nakatsu and our crossdressing heroine Mizuki are hired to work at a beach chalet run by the family of weird school nurse Dr. Umeda! But when Kagurazaka–Izumi’s high-jump rival–shows up with his two younger sisters in tow, the job gets personal! Kagurazaka’s attractive sister Tamami has a crush on Izumi too, and she sees Izumi’s classmate Mizuki as a way to find out about the object of her affections. And then someone realizes that Mizuki’s actually a girl…”


Volume Four


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: January 2005

Synopsis: “All-male Osaka High School is holding its annual war of the dorms, and for the students, there is no escape! Unfortunately, even though she’d be happy to just compete in the 500-meter relay, Mizuki is forced to enter the Cross-Dressing Pageant…and pretend to be a boy pretending to be a girl! Worse still, a rival dorm targets Mizuki as a threat to their athletic supremacy! Can dorm chief Minami Nanba make winners out of this class while dealing with his own secret traumas?”


Volume Five


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: April 2005

Synopsis: “It’s the final day of the School Festival, and two big competitions are still up in the air: the relay race and the cross-dressing pageant! You’d think Mizuki, an actual girl disguised as a boy at an all-guy high school, would be a better cross-dresser than her classmates, but things are never so easy–and what if winning the contest blows her cover? That might be a relief for her classmate Nakatsu, who doesn’t know that Mizuki’s a girl, just that he’s in love with her.”


Volume Six


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: July 2005

Synopsis: “When a reporter comes looking for a scoop on Izumi Sano, Mizuki’s own secrets are brought into the light! Can she hide the fact that she is actually a cross-dressing girl? Meanwhile, Mizuki’s classmate Nakatsu, unaware of Mizuki’s female-ness, struggles to choose between his girlfriend and “the love that dare not speak its name.” But a wrench is about to thrown into these relationships from two thousand miles away. Julia, Mizuki’s best friend from America, is coming from Japan to go to school!”


Volume Seven


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: August 2005

Synopsis: “Julia is Mizuki’s girlfriend?! As the shocking lie tears Osaka High School apart, Mizuki’s classmates make their moves on the blonde, blue-eyed transfer student! Then the whole class leaves on a school trip to Hokkaido, complete with an overnight stay at the hot springs! With their “chaperone” Dr. Umeda busy getting to know the locals, it isn’t long before people start taking off their clothes (to bathe, all right?). But how long can Mizuki’s gender stay secret inside the boy’s bath?”


Volume Eight


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: October 2005

Synopsis: “Tired of Sano and Mizuki taking their relationship so slow, Julia confronts Sano to get him moving faster. But Sano has more things to worry about…his younger brother, Shin, has run away from home! Then, when a photo of Minami, Nakatsu and Sano appears in a girls’ fashion magazine, the men of Hana-Kimi find themselves stalked…and propositioned!”


Volume Nine


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: December 2005

Synopsis: “Framed by a teacher?! Falsely accused of using a cheat sheet during an exam, Nakatsu must confess to a crime he didn’t commit or be kicked off the soccer team forever! As the power-mad teacher Kitahama extends his iron rule over the entire student body, can anyone save the students of Osaka High? Then, suave photographer Akira Hara sets his sights on another model…Mizuki!”


Volume Ten


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: February 2006

Synopsis: “Award-winning fashion photographer Akiha Hara wants Izumi, Nakatsu and Mizuki for his new photo shoot! But the handsome, bisexual Akiha may have a more than professional interest in his models. And has he figured out that Mizuki is a girl? Caught in the treacherous, seductive world of high fashion, can our heroes escape…if they even want to?”


Volume Eleven


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: April 2006

Synopsis: “Mizuki and her friends go to the country, where they meet and try to help a ghost pining for his lost love. Then, for the big Christmas dance party, Mizuki and Nakao are recruited to help make up for a shortage of girls–by dressing up as girls! This turnabout for Mizuki, however, proves to be the least of the complications that flare up when the whole ploy proves too successful!”


Volume Twelve


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: June 2006

Synopsis: “The Christmas dance party begins, and Mizuki looks for a chance to give Sano a present. Later, Mizuki flies home for New Year’s and an unexpected reunion with Gilbert, her first love. Though time has passed and her romantic hopes are now focused on Sano, Mizuki discovers that this old flame hasn’t been completely snuffed out in her heart!”


Volume Thirteen


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: August 2006

Synopsis: “Mizuki is broke, so she lands a part-time job with Akiha, the photographer. Among her first-day experiences: spilling tea on male diva supermodel “Alex.” This sparks a mutual animosity that is not assuaged when Mizuki discovers the model’s most closely guarded secret! Meanwhile, at Mizuki’s school, food is disappearing, with the culprits leaving flowers in place of what they’ve heisted!”


Volume Fourteen


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: October 2006

Synopsis: “Plumbing problems erupt in Dorm 1, forcing the residents to move into Dorms 2 and 3. Mizuki must now deal with two male roommates, one of whom introduces her to a dorm custom she could never have imagined! Dr. Umeda reflects on his past after hearing from an old friend, while Mizuki and Sano find their mutual attraction pulling them ever closer to the brink!”


Volume Fifteen


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: December 2006

Synopsis: “Unable to forget her near-kiss experience, Mizuki finds herself drawing ever closer to Sano, and not in a “roommates” way, either. The tension builds when Nakatsu asks Sano point-blank: Do you like Mizuki? Can Nakatsu and Sano’s friendship survive the answer? Meanwhile, Sano’s old high-jump rival returns, along with a surprising new challenger!”


Volume Sixteen


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: February 2007

Synopsis: “Sano’s little brother Shin returns! Shin has become a rising star of the high jump, and he’s determined to prove himself by beating his older brother. But that’s not the only blood on the track…the one coaching Shin is their father! Can Mizuki just sit back and watch as Sano fights the father he turned away from…and the brother who never forgave him for doing so?”


Volume Seventeen


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: April 2007

Synopsis: “As the giant track meet approaches, Mizuki and Sano face an assortment of foes: Sano’s old high-jump rival Kagurazuka, and Sano’s own little brother Shin! But Shin’s trainer is the one man Sano hates the most: his own father. Can Mizuki mend the rift in Sano’s family? While Sano focuses on winning, one person is focused only on Mizuki: Nakatsu, the other boy who loves her…”


Volume Eighteen


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: April 2007

Synopsis: “Under his father’s disapproving eyes, Sano faces his own brother in a high-jump competition! Then, a schoolwide treasure hunt turns into a grudge match between Kayashima and his self-proclaimed rival, Modoru the onmyôji, a traditional Japanese occultist. Will psychic powers or black magic prevail? But Modoru has something else on his side: the power of cuteness!”


Volume Nineteen


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: August 2007

Synopsis: “This is what it’s all been building up to…Shin, Izumi and Kagurazuka compete against one another in the high jump! Then, Sekime gets his own moment in the spotlight when his classmates see him with a strange girl. But if we’re talking “strange,” she doesn’t even compare to the woman who comes onto campus and sweeps an embarrassed Nakatsu off his feet…Nakatsu’s mother!”


Volume Twenty


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: October 2007

Synopsis: “Nakatsu’s mom is in town, and she has plans for her son: she wants him to go home after graduation to take care of the family business! Will Nakatsu give up his dreams of becoming a star soccer player? Meanwhile, another student at Osaka High School prepares to put his heart on the line. Nakao confesses his love to upperclassman Minami…but can Minami really have feelings for a boy?”


Volume Twenty One


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: December 2007

Synopsis: “Love is in the air at Osaka High School–bittersweet and true, as Nakao confesses his feelings for Minami, and Noe receives a Valentine’s Day chocolate from a girl. While the whole gang goes to the bowling alley, Mizuki finds some time alone with Sano. How much longer can she pretend to be a boy? How much longer can she hide who she is…and who she loves?”


Volume Twenty Two


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: February 2008

Synopsis: “When Mizuki is almost caught changing clothes, the school goes wild with rumors about a mysterious girl on campus! Can our heroine keep her secret, or will she be outed and separated from Sano, just when their relationship is blossoming?”


Volume Twenty Three


Manga-ka: Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: April 2008

Synopsis: “Mizuki’s secret is exposed…and her days at Osaka High School are numbered. Can she keep the friends she made as a boy…and does she have a future with Sano after graduation? The flowers of youth are scattered to the winds in the bittersweet final volume of Hana-Kimi!”

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Kuriousity.ca. Residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia she takes great joy in collecting all manners of manga genres, regretting that there's never enough time in the day to review or share them all. Along with reviews, Lissa is responsible for all the news postings to the website and works full time as a web and graphic designer.



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3 Responses

  1. I've been reading along for a while now. I just wanted to drop you a comment to say keep up the good work.

  2. I loved HanaKimi, it's one of my all time fave shojo series. I don't really think the ending of it was bitter sweet though, since everyone got what they were after in the end.

    What is good though is that there's talk of it getting an anime series as well. Long over due for that IMO

  3. Mockingbird says:

    To say that "Mizuki Ashiya is a young Japanese girl, living in America" is not quite right. Ms. Nakajo clearly sees Mizuki as an American girl, a nisei born in the U.S. to Japanese-born parents. The live-action dramas play this down, presumably to save on the cost of having to recruit and direct an actress who speaks American English and also Japanese (or Mandarin, in the case of the Taiwanese drama) with near-native fluency. But it seems to be an important part of Ms. Nakajo's conception.

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