Review – Hana ni Arashi volume 1

art by Luka Kobachi

Hana ni Arashi volume 1
Story & Art: Luka Kobachi
Originally serialised online @ Sunday Webry
Published by Shogakukan, 2018
Copy purchased from eBookJapan

There’s something about you
That takes my blues away
Life’s nothing without you
I can’t get through the days
I’ll never be cynical
‘Cause you wouldn’t have it
I believe in miracles, I believe in magic
-‘Unicron Loev’, by Raleigh Ritchie, 2016

What is it?: Nanoha and Chidori are two perfectly healthy teenage schoolgirls, spending time with their friends, running a literature club, going to class and hanging out together. They’re also secretly dating, sneaking bits of public affection out wherever they can.

From this core concept we get a series of short, sweet chapters, exploring the duo’s secret relationship with warmth and humour.

A recurring visual in the comic is the girls fingers reddening when they blush, which looks cute, but… is that a thing? I’ve never thought about this before.

What I think about it: I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to say that I was leery of the book’s core concept going into this; there’s a lot of negatives to be drawn from the idea of a lesbian couple feeling they should keep their relationship secret, after all. It would have to take a deft hand to take this idea and to deliver on it as a positive experience, a love shared between Nanoha and Chidori exclusively not for any fear of judgement, but because it’s theirs, and their business who knows. I don’t think that Luka Kobachi entirely pulls this off, but what they do give us with Hana ni Arashi is one of the least cynical presentations of such an idea I could ever imagine, something that could have more to say about the very hook it’s story revolves around, sure, but a story that more than anything wants to make your heart skip a beat on every single page.

The pair themselves are charming as heck. Chidori is a petite, dark-haired beauty, one who can come off as a little serious compared to her dear Nanoha, a taller, lighter-haired opposite to Chidori, more socially gifted and lively, at least when it comes to how they both present to their social circle. They’re not the most dramatically different characters, but enough so to make them both seem like unique and fully-realised characters.

An area where they do both line up similarly is in their sweet moments together, from the two of them wearing matching bracelets (visible on Nanoha’s wrist in the image above), to managing to have a public moment of Chidori feeding Nanoha by making it a fun thing the whole group is doing, even to just them daring to hold hands in public, each moment feels incredibly earned, and them both struggling to contain their joy and excitement is a highlight of just about every chapter.

The fashion sense Kobachi-sensei displays in scenes where the pair step out of school uniform is formidable, with carefully chosen outfits that feel real to what girls their age would wear. A small thing, but crucial to the series’ verisimilitude.

Something I do find surprising is how sincere the whole book is. Aside from a scene that makes a real point of how big Chidori’s breasts are (admittedly a scene deliberately about making Nanoha uncomfortable with other girls paying attention to Chidori) there’s no real concessions to any male gaze, and at no point does it feel like the pair’s relationship is there to pander to anybody. It genuinely feels like Kobachi-sensei just wants to give the reader a pleasant romance story, with none of the grosser trappings that can come with it. Whether that’s something that’ll be maintainable as the series continues is another matter, but for now Hana ni Arashi is a healthy look at an LGBT relationship, and that’s something to cherish from a publishing label ostensibly aimed at teenage boys, where romance tends to descend into fan service and harems more often than not.

I think that this is ultimately where I sit with Hana ni Arashi. It’s an incredibly good book, defying every expectation I had of it, and for every moment I’m apprehensive about its core concept there’s a million more moments where that very idea delivers a shot of cuteness directly into my heart. It’s not necessarily the most substantive book I’ve ever read, not by a long shot, but that doesn’t feel like the largest criticism when what substance it does have is some of the most emotionally affecting material I’ve ever laid my hands on. Highly recommended to anyone with a stomach for romance.

Hana ni Arashi is for fans of: Otome no Teikoku, Kimi ni Todoke

If you enjoyed this review consider dropping me a few pennies over at Ko-Fi. Comics ain’t cheap, but I am.

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