Despite the title, Hen is NOT Hentai. It does have sex, strong language, yuri, and other elements that might make you think "Hentai."
Chizuru Yoshida is not your typical high schooler and she's all too aware of it! She has a talent with getting what she wants from her male lovers and often comes across as cold and manipulative...
In truth, despite her experiences with guys, she has never been in love. That's until the fateful arrival of newly-transferred student, Azumi Yamada, at her school. It was love at first sight for Chizuru—indeed an unexpected turn of events for the story's vixen!
Not only was she in love but with all things another girl. Chizuru goes through a brief stage of anger and denial and tries to convince herself that she couldn't possibly be attracted to such a simple-looking, shy, and naive girl! To her despair she finds herself constantly thinking of Azumi, so she finally resolves to become friends with her, but it's not too long when she starts to push things along with Azumi...
The strong point of Hen is the surprise that the main character has when she falls in love with another girl. You get a sense for how her mind works and the stops and starts it goes through as her instincts act on their own, which is something that not every mangaka can capture successfully. It tells you that the mangaka knows a thing or two about the human brain and it makes you wonder how much personal exposure he might have to gay culture.
I like that many of the panels are dedicated to simple changes in facial expression, or reactions to a strange comment
from someone else. It's a nice touch and it makes this series feel more like an anime than a manga.
There are some low points: there's a lot of sex in this manga, too much for a 16 year old character like the protagonist, and the ending is rushed. Eventually, the side story between two males kind of takes over the romance between the two lead female characters.
As much as I like the artwork, the story and characters are nothing special. At the beginning, it all makes sense but progressively,the situation with Chizuru becomes more unrealistic. There is suspense, but only a very small amount. So personally, reading this was only enjoyable because of the artwork. It is more of a shoujo-ai than a yuri, but there are some sex scenes, both heterosexual and lesbian.
The first half of Hen is superb. The other half makes me want to throw up.
Chapter 1 to chapter 56 deserves an 8 or maybe even a 9.
Chapter 57 to 60 is a 1.
Remaining chapters are a 4 or 3.
Overall, despite how much I hated the almost forty chapters, I loved the first half of the manga enough that I couldn't lower the score below a 7.
If you read a few chapters and want to keep reading for whatever the slightest reason, I'd suggest reading up to chapter 56 and stop there.
You will want to keep going but trust me, don't. Don't ruin its
wonderfulness and become disappointed by the ending by reading on past chapter 56. It's almost as if the mangaka just gave up on the original story and drew random crap to drag the manga on longer.
This is such a difficult series to review because there are so many things that make it unappealing, and yet I still like it. On the one hand, I know its trashy reading, and on the other, it's just too damn fun to completely ignore the value of sheer enjoyment. I like to think it's a parody or something. But this is the author of Gantz we're talking about. It's not especially deep.
I have read up to the beginnings of volume five, and damn does this story just take it's sweet time getting anywhere. Though the whole point of the story is the Big Gay
Love between two girls, as is made pretty obvious by the cover/synopsis, the main girl spends the first 150 pages of the 221 page first volume TOTALLY MACKING ON LIKE 4 DIFFERENT DUDES. For real. She finally meets the girl she likes, and then, as a method to stay close to her, continues boning one of the aforementioned dudes. This is seriously the least gay gay story I have ever read. There is actually lesbian shenanigans later on, but they are few and far between, not to mention incredibly shallow.
This is so obviously the "Idiot Male" perspective on girls liking other girls, and if you have a sense of humor somewhat like mine, that can be funny, but otherwise... yeah. It's pretty bad.
Hideous. Atrocious. They have skinny pipe legs and the main girl has boobs that hurt to look at, exploding in aggrandized waterballonish granduer off of her 3 inch wide torso. Their mouths resemble belly buttons at times. It's like if Barbie's had the ugliest faces possible. It's consistent, I'll give it that, but it's... Well. to be the nicest I can be -- it takes some getting used to.
The main girl is the most bizarre in my eyes -- she's so unrealistic that she realistic. Or rather, the way she reacts unrealistically is believable because she's such an unrealistic character to start with. Sort of like how after a while you just start accepting the (lack of) physics in a mecha show, you accept the fact that Chizuru has simply not felt emotion before, and thus her ridiculously exaggerated reaction to a normal crush somehow makes sense. Other characters, however, are much more logical and realistic. The male characters are the most believable, and Azumi at least manages to be slightly more than the typical fantasy of the innocent girl (though I should emphasize "slightly").
I personally find myself enjoying this a lot. It unfolds like a sort of slice of life story about the ridiculousness of Chizuru making everyone around her confused/turned on/scared/all three. If nothing else it's interesting just to see the stereotypes on gay women that are exposed, as well as the obvious interference of a gay female being written by a dude -- in fact, sexual/gender stereotypes are prevalent here. If it's read as parodying those, it's frickin awesome. Bu if you read it unironically, than it's even more amazing when moments of truth break out of a deluge of misinformation and cliches.
In good conscience, I cannot by any means call this "good". I gave it a 7 only because I somehow manage to enjoy it, despite it's obvious faults. If you don't mind reading something mindless but fun in a trashy sort of way, I'd say give HEN a try. Just don't expect too much from it.
Hiroya Oku is an alchemist of storytelling. He closely studies theories behind storytelling in every popular media, imbibes them, and somehow transforms them into a truly original story that no one has ever seen before.