Despite being marketed towards Japanese teenagers, Shōjo manga can often be hilariously entertaining. Haru Hana is no exception.
Yamada Hana is an Osaka transplant who recently moved to Tokyo. Her excitement is quickly displaced, as just about everything goes wrong for her. She makes a fool of herself at school, can’t meet anyone to be her friend, and just generally screws up with everything. To top it off, her sister sells her into “slavery”…at a massage parlor. There she meets Haru, an empath who happens to give fantastic massages. The first time Haru touches Hana, we learn of her strange condition that causes her to comically break out in hives whenever she is touched by a boy; green tea is the only way to make them disappear. From this point (which is, at most, 15-20 pages into the series) is when the story truly begins.
Haru Hana is insanely funny, with manga stereotypes everywhere. Characters go chibi-style on a fairly regular basis, and often contort themselves in very strange ways. The overall art style is filled with a lot of shading, and characters are presented with thin but heavily inked outlines. Most of the angles are standard manga fair, although there are some real creative panels throughout the (short) series. Panel transitions are generally well handled, although there are a couple of spots where speech bubbles are arranged strangely, which can make following the proper order a bit difficult at times. This is the exception rather than the rule, though…the layout is mostly well done.
I realize that Haru Hana is technically a Shōjo manga, but it still has some absolutely hilarious parts to it. Much of the humor seems reminiscent of Kerero Gunso, so if you like witty, fast-paced humor, this one is right up your alley. However, as previously stated, this IS a Shōjo manga, so naturally romance appears throughout the storyline. The romance and relationship portions of the storyline are easy to follow, and present themselves organically. That is, it doesn’t feel like this was a comedy manga with some romance thrown in; despite the humor, Haru Hana is, at heart, a love story. I think its simplicity is part of the reason why it works so well. It’s not until the last 100 or so pages out of the 554 pages that the storyline really amps up. Most of the manga is spent just sort of watching the characters, and following their daily lives.
One of the best parts about this series is its short length: the entire thing is available in one volume. While I enjoy collecting manga as much as the next guy, buying multiple volumes can get expensive real quick. Being able to purchase the whole series in one volume (similar to Azumanga Daioh) not only helps save money and shelf-space, but it also somehow makes the story feel a bit more cohesive (at least, to me. YMMV with that one.)
I know most guys would scoff at reading Shōjo, but if you like quirky manga you should definitely check this one out. While it does indeed have a romantic storyline, there is enough craziness to make you want to read just one more page. Recommended.