Schoolgirl yuri done right.
Despite her high school’s prohibition on part-time jobs, Hana Hasegawa has worked for a while at a small character goods’ shop when Hina Emori walks in to ask about a help wanted sign. Hana assumes that the tall Hina is older than she is, and is completely shocked when the school year starts and Hina’s a new first year student; suddenly, the fact that Hina knows way more about the shop’s various lines, and the casual nature of their on-the-job relationship becomes a bit galling to the other girl. Hiccups ensue as Hana tries to force an adjustment, all while letting her paranoia at having her job discovered, as rumor has it that a girl can get expelled for breaking the rule. Meanwhile, Hina desperately tries (and fails) to pretend that she doesn’t like cutesy mascot characters, in between entirely too much stress on her part over things like not having Hana’s phone number or wanting to get a photo together in their field day uniforms. Somehow in all of this, though, the two manage to build a tentative friendship.
I really loved this first volume! Although schoolgirl yuri is a pretty well-worn wheelhouse for Milk Morinaga (something she as much admits in her notes at the end of the volume), this comes across as a much fresher take on it than she’s managed in several years, and I’m totally delighted by it. It helps that although there seem to be some traces of her prior works here, such as in the tall blonde girl-short brunette girl set-up, Hana and Hina themselves are not obvious variations on heroines past like Akko, Nana, or Fujiwara, etc. etc. Hooray! I am genuinely thrilled, because as much as I’ve liked quite a few of these other girls, I am absolutely ready for some fresher figures.
Speaking of characters, I absolutely adore Hina in particular, although I do like Hana, too. Hina seems to be on the cusp of working out that she likes girls, as she does spend some time interrogating how she’s feeling toward Hana, and there’s a hint that she’s felt this way before about another girl. I am also entirely sympathetic to her inability to simply ask Hana for her phone number or ask her to take a photo together – oh, my sweet gay girl, I’ve been there! I get you so much here. If I totaled up the angst experienced and time wasted on similar things when I was a teenager, the totals would likely be embarrassing. Hana, by the way, is entirely oblivious to all of this, and there isn’t any sign yet that she’s moving in the same direction as Hina, although I’m sure its simply a matter of time.
After the larger format for Morinaga’s Secret of the Princess, I was wicked bummed that this turned out to be the same smaller-size format as Girl Friends and Kisses, Sighs, and Cherryblossom Pink. Ack! I know in their cases it wasn’t the fault of Seven Seas, as the format was the same size as the Japanese one. I thought maybe it had to do with original publishers and the magazines they ran in, and while Princess did run in Hirari, and none of the others did, its still the same parent publisher as Girl Friends had (Shinshokan) (Kisses, Sighs was published by Futabasha, and ran in Yuri Shimai). So… who knows. Oh well. All that aside, it’s a solid release, and I’m always pleased at how many women do credited work on releases from Seven Seas, especially when its their yuri titles.
So, Hana & Hina After School is a terrific addition to the corpus of yuri manga available in English, even as it is an addition to a sub-portion of the larger genre that there’s really more than enough of for my tastes. It must be doing something right if I’m bored with the high school girls but still loved it, right? Anyway, however you slice it, this is definitely toward the top of the barrel of yuri available in English. Highly recommended. Let’s encourage Seven Seas to do stuff a bit more like this and less like the slimy likes of Citrus and Netsuzou Trap!