Sunday, March 12, 2017

Hana & Hina After School Vol. #01 Manga Review

A secret between you and me

Creative Staff:
Story & Art: Milk Morinaga
Translation: Jennifer McKeon
Adaptation: Shannon Fay
Lettering And Retouch: Rina Mapa
Logo Design: KC Fabellon
Cover Design: Nicky Lim
Proofreader: Shanti Whitesides
Assistant Editor: Jean Grunigen
Production Assistant: CK Russell
Production Manager: Lissa Pattillo
EIC: Adam Arnold
Publisher: Jason DeAngelis

What They Say:
Hana's new co-worker, Hina, is cool, tall, and stylish - the total opposite of Hana. While the two get off on the wrong foot, they soon come to rely on each other and even become friends. But part-time jobs are against school rules, and if word got out they could be expelled. As Hana and Hina work together to hide their after school activities, their relationship grows deeper. Can the two girls keep their job (and their feelings for each other) under wraps?

The Review:
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
With spring looming on the horizon, we're about to see our yearly influx of romantic titles hit their peak -- and what better way to ring that in than with the latest title from yuri sensation, Milk Morinaga? Morinaga, who has published works like Girl Friends and Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink, has really been one the yuri genre's pioneers -- particularly in the West considering its earlier disposition toward Girl X Girl manga and the lack of publishers picking up said material. However, with Seven Seas Entertainment becoming the new messiah concerning bringing yuri to the west, we're receiving steady doses of material as adorable and innocent as Hana & Hina. So before we get to the review itself, here is a well-deserved thumbs up to Seven Seas -- keep up the great work, guys. We all need a little more yuri in our lives.

Our story begins in a lavish toy shop, filled with rare and high-quality character goods. Hana Hasegawa, a freshman in high school, spends most of her time working here, keeping her part-time job a secret from her school. Everything seems to be going pretty smoothly for Hana until her manager decides to take in a new employee -- Hina Emori. Hana is immediately stricken with awe at how beautiful and mysterious this new girl is. And as if becoming a senpai to someone so cool wasn't going to be hard enough, Hana soon finds out that Hina has an incredibly extensive understanding of character merch, being a secret collector herself. Of course, Hina is too scared and embarrassed to admit that to her new coworker.

From this point on, things proceed the way they normally would in any expository section of yuri manga. Hana and Hina slowly, but surely become closer to one another, both not particularly understanding their feelings. It isn't until several months later when summer ends and the next semester begins that Hana finds out Hina was actually her underclassman the entire time. Considering Hina does not look younger than her by any means whatsoever, Hana is taken aback. Fearing that the school might catch onto their pre-existing relationship if both girls immediately flock to one another in the halls, Hana tells Hina that she mustn't approach her at school. Of course, Hina is upset by this but reluctantly accepts and the distance between them begin to grow.

As this distance becomes greater, it's increasingly evident that neither of the girls is happy. And when Hina starts to become popular in school due to several appearances as a model in a teen magazine, Hana's jealousy becomes present. She's upset that everyone in school except her gets to talk to Hina all the time. This increase in popularity for Hina is what ultimately starts breaking down the idea that the girls can't come into contact at school. I mean, everyone else does it right? What's the harm in one more?

The problem for Hina is a bit heavier, however, as she seems to at least slightly understand her feelings for her senpai. This is even more evident in the later section of the book when both girls are slated to compete in a relay race together. But just minutes before the race, Hina winds up hurting her ankle. Incapable of hiding anything from her overattentive counterpart, Hina tells Hana that she must still compete in the race so that the two can take a celebratory picture together in the end. Of course, Hana takes on the burden herself and feigns injury so that Hina wouldn't blame herself for the loss. Hina discovers this after the race and, instead of getting upset or angry, her desire to be with Hana grows.

All throughout this volume, the relationship between Hana and Hina constantly fluctuates, the way normal relationships do. These characters, having only known each other for several months, still have a lot they aren't ready to talk about. But as the story goes on, they become increasingly more aware of the other's feelings, shaping the beginning of a beautiful friendship and leaving plenty of room for that inevitable moment when they fully realize their true feelings.

In Summary:
Hana & Hina is a classic example of what the yuri genre stands for. There isn't a single moment wasted in this volume as every page brings you closer and closer to the inner-workings of its two realistic and unique protagonists. Thanks to excellent pacing and structure from the treasured Milk Morinaga, you are not going to want to skip out on this if you're a fan of the genre.

Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Seven Seas
Release Date: March 14, 2017
MSRP: $12.99

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