Houjou Academy is a private school, isolated from the rest of the world and attended by the heirs of rich and noble bloodlines. At the center of everything is the first son of the Hanabusa family, Kinu. Through direct or indirect involvement, he is responsible for the scars carried by the students of Houjou Academy--he is like their God. The cycle of base desire and higher love begins with the introduction of an unsullied girl named Nanaha, whose denial of Kinu's casual touch causes him to reevaluate his perception of women, and he cannot help but leave a scar on her as well...
** As a warning this is a long review because there are 6 couples not just 1 or 2 and they are all interrelated with a lot of plots going on in the story. I want to give a synopsis of the story by compressing the couples, summarizing my relationship with the characters, and breaking down the characters for the future readers. The couples can be looked at independently but as pairs to a massive whole. Bear with me.
Truly the best manga I have ever read, SO FAR. I mean it is amazing. The depth of characterization, the
length and care the author gives to the story, plot, and character development. It's truly amazing.
I am not finished with this manga but I am up to Volume 4 Chapter 3; but I couldn't hold off until the end because I think everyone who comes to this page needs to give this story a try. Now I'm already a fangirl of Osabkabe Mashin, however some of her work has been known to disappoint me and I haven't been shy to share this feeling. However, this one is excellent.
The first key is that the women were not ridiculously objectified where I wondered why they put themselves in this mess (well not so much). There are two stories that have that in them, however one of them was truly understandable; while in the second he made up for it in the end. The women also do not objectify the men in any way. Majority of the women are strong and independent if not carry the trademarks of absurdity most women seem to have inherently (either in reality or in mangas). What are the trademarks of absurdity I speak of? Hmmm, threatening your boyfriend that you'll sleep with someone else if he doesn't do something. Threatening to break up with him...basically emotionally and sexually blackmailing him. If one female hasn't done it, she knows someone who has.
Before I go into the details of the many couples (so far I've read about 6 couples and 4 of them are main) and the story I want to make mention that this plot is not necessarily complex but there is a lot going on. It can be characterized as dealing with rape, attempted rape, attempted murder, sexual abuse, power plays, levels of sexual violence, physical abuse of a child and teens, all wrapped in teen angst and heartfelt romance.
It's intense and all of the characters are emo, even the ones who are deemed lighthearted. When I have read Osakabe Mashin-san's work in the past I have always felt she was doing some serious social commentary and nothing really perverse. In one of the letters to the audience she basically admits to wanting to do this, since she talks struggle into the characters when she dealt with their psychological make up. So basically this is not a funny story and it shouldn't be taken as one. It has serious social ramifications and really is a nice perspective into the human psyche based on the role each character takes up and the dependency they all have on one another.
As I mentioned before, there are several stories going on at once that are interrelated which may make the entire thing appear complicated. So I want to warn people that it may seem confusing but each couple is getting their time in the sun and we're seeing how everyone is relating with each other in each arc and their transitional growth.
Now off to the story. The story really revolves around Hanabusa Kinou and his relationships. This is his relationship with his parents, family members and close family friends and their abuse, his interaction with women...and his friendships in general. Through his friendships we meet people like. Wasaka Aki, Naroti Akemi, and Hatoba Yuu. I will begin with these four as well as Hanabusa Kinou before I get into the the two side romances. By the way they are all within a prestigeous boarding school. Although he is the main character and Tadano Nanaha is the main female character; they do not dominate the story and sacrifice other characters. I felt an equal balance among everyone.
Hanabusa Kinou is a really troubled youth who is the first son and heir of to the Hanabusa Family. He is rich, extremely handsome, intelligent and physically superior and skillful in all that he does. All these attributes are more of a curse and burden than anything else. Because of these problems he's been abused to the point where he despises women and is sexually impotent around them and takes up the identity of being a homosexual. This is until he meets Tadano Nanaha. She's actually a very clear headed girl who has a male best friend that I will get into later, with a sweet and unassuming disposition. She's forthright and honest to an extent, she does use her sexuality and blackmails Kinou from time to time. It's a bit frustrating to see her character in action especially when in the beginning she's actually fun and insightful and this is broken down to stupidity from time to time within this dramatic story. However, I don't hate her character and I actually quite like her because she does redeem herself. Yet, the extent to blackmail is a bit reaching and does negatively impact her character in my opinion. Their love story is actually quite nice overall and far from atypical. I was extremely excited by it and it delved into the Hanabusa patriarch and matriarch who are comedic and fun couple that I couldn't get enough of. So that's something to wait for. I will get into my issues of the almost neglectful role of the parents in relation to Hanabusa Kinou but not now.
Moving onto the second couple. The second one, and not following the order of the book is Wasaka Aya and Hatoba Yuu. He's extremely intelligent, probably the most intelligent and you'll understand what I mean in the manga, he's extremely handsome and has been obsessed with Wasaka Aya. At first your given this feeling that it's power and control and maybe resentment but this develops into a deep love. The characterization is powerful and the situation their in is very twisted in a way. Wasaka Aya is intelligent, but you're unsure if she's in love with her cousin who is also Hanabusa's "bodyguard" Wasaka Aki or Kinou himself or someone. She's a bit insecure of who she is and much like everyone there is dealing with a huge burden and role. While Hanabusa is dealing with being the heir apparent of the Hanabusa Family, Wasaka Aki dealing with being the "bodyguard", Hatoba being on scholarship; Aki deals with being human and always in control. She's basically seen as inhumane, almost saint-like. Hatoba manages to break down that pedestal but at risk of her mental stability of sorts. The relationship does become genuine but definitely follows something close to her writing in Kindan for them. She is obsessed over and objectified to an extent. The resolution is seen throughout the story. Great characters and I liked who they're growing into maturity.
The third couple and my favorite is most definitely Wasaka Aki and Rokushou Momo. Wasaka Aki is a man's man. He's of few words but gets his thoughts across whenever he speaks. He's utterly masculine, handsome, a great body, and intelligent (aren't they all). His roommate is of course Hanabusa Kinou. He is also in love with tea and likes drinking it. He also happens to be devoted and pledges himself to the Hanabusa heir, Kinou. He meets up with a clumsy girl who has serious issues. I think I loved her character the most because it's so raw. Although she has issues, she doesn't appear weak or unstable from many traumatic experiences. She's sweet and endearing and an innocent who's thrust into a horrible family life. I liked the story because the two seemed so opposite. An almost cold and ruthless guy falling for someone so beguiling and sweet is a bit odd, to say the least. It's like he sees her as his salvation. I felt they brought out the best in one another and I felt the author should have spent more time on her. This couple also goes through a series of mishaps but become richer from it. Lots of emo in this story and the characterization is breathtaking as well as plot line for them.
The fourth main couple is Naroti Akemi and Beniko (last name I can't find). Naroti burdens himself with a lot of drama because of what happened to Beniko in their childhood and his horrible relationship with Kinou who basically treated him horribly although their the same age. Beniko is close with all the boys and I think she has the deepest relationship (as a female in a platonic relationship) with Kinou (in particular) and good friends with Aki aside from Akemi. Out of all the women she knows Kinou best since they were childhood mates. Naroti's family like the Wasaka are servants to the Hinabasa family but they are also ridiculously wealthy. Naroti and Beniko have the deepest love I would say since they were in love with one another since childhood. Beniko could be a bit silly but she's a diehard fangirl of her boy Naroti so she NEVER had any affections for Kinou or Aki besides friendship, or for anyone else. It was great because she was such a fangirl she never blackmailed although she was silly. Beniko is sweet and innocent but she also faces deep insecurity and the bond between her and Akemi goes beyond friendship and love but the fact that he inadvertently destroyed her but also gave her reason to live. You'll read about that and it's interesting to see that in play.
The Minor couples:
The two minor couples are the Hinabasa Family patriarch and patriach and how they met. Plus Tadano Nanaha's best friend, Murofushi, and his rather abusive relationship with Mimasaka.
I'll start off with M/M. Murofushi as mentioned is best friends with Nanaha, and has much much deeper feelings. He's a fun character and a bit naughty and risque and for some reason that draws you in. Initially I didn't know what to feel about him because he could have been an enemy you weren't sure to like or not for Nanaha's affections but he's far more than that. He is deeply obsessed with Nanaha but in a good way and considers himself her knight and protector. Just for that you love him and wished you had one just like him for yourself. Mimasaka is a young girl who comes from a wealthy background, by the way her and Murofushi and Tadano are wealthy and smart because of they passed the school's exam and can afford to go. Mimasaka ends up in a love contract with Murofushi. You don't understand the purpose and I'm still a bit confused as to why Murofushi asks her for this contract. You come to understand why she accepted and I won't ruin that for anyone and you really pity her character because of it. But I loved her as much as Momo because I pitied them so much. They became the girls of my heart so to speak because I felt like being their friends for all the pain they face. Murofushi is understandable but you don't get why he sort of sells himself to do what he does when he doesn't need what she gives him. Not really anyway. Hopefully their relationship gets rectified in the final volume.
Then comes an all time fave couple the Hinabasa Mama and Papa relationship. This was a bit surprising of a story because I wasn't expecting it to be added and to get two parts chapters within the volumes. It's so cool to read. He's her sensei and she's his student and from their we get a crazy love match that is along the lines of Kindan but approved. It was a fun diversion and it was cool. I loved it and wanted more of them. The mom is so cool and laid back and knows what she wants. Kinou's dad is uber cool, used to be uber hot and still is, and adores the ground his wife walks on. ^_^ I do have some issues though on how they never saw what was going on in the life of their son and the trials and tribulations he faced. They protected him to an extent but couldn't do the whole thing. It's a bit depressing and I don't hold it as a grudge against the parents because the boy never said something and it wasn't like they could be with him all the time. However, I felt they should have been aware of the father might have faced the same when he was growing up. It's interesting as to whether he did or not.
There is also a bonus mini something that has to do with nothing but he looked like Wasaka Aki...I think it's because Osakabe Mashin said everyone she works with thinks he's the hero so she gave a bit of a story for someone who looked like him. It's a cute read.
I realize this is a long review but it has a lot going on and it's amazing to read. I think everyone will have fun with it. Definitely worth all the marks I gave it. Osakabe Mashin has rectified her role in my eyes because after a few of her readings other than Kindan, I was getting disappointed. This is a masterpiece by her. The art was just top notch and the many stories (arcs), character, and enjoyment were above the charts. I loved it and can't wait for the rest.
I am really saddened by the fact that this manga is not that popular with many readers. Because of all the mangas I've read, this one is my favorite.
Story: The story in general is about pure love. The couples involved in the story have their own ways in showing how great their love is for their partner. To put it simply, the love depicted has already crossed the borders of what typical love is. Typical in a sense that there is only a tingling sensation. Yes, that element is also here but on another level. Because once you've captured the message, the sensation is
different - it's heartfelt and not merely a tingling sensation.
Art: The art is also wonderful. The characters and the setting were magnificently drawn. And I believe that the author really took time in doing a good research on this. The boarding school for the elites really does look like one. The characters are drawn with an aura showing who they are.
Characters: The characters are rich teenagers studying in an elite boarding school. They are not normal teenagers in a sense that they have already experienced LIFE more than an adult does.
Moreover, the characters are simply not there to make you feel the youthful spring of love. Rather, they are there are spices to make you feel how great love can be. Though most of the characters are rich, they are not princes and princesses in a fairytale.
Enjoyment: I really enjoy reading this manga since there are no others like this. It's very unique and heartfelt.
Overall: For the overall, I think this is the best. I'll repeat it again, this story is so unique. I tried finding some alternatives for this but I haven't found any. And the same goes for the degree of feeling. I haven't read other mangas that made my heart swoon.