Pop Culture Gadabout
Saturday, February 13, 2010
      ( 2/13/2010 09:11:00 AM ) Bill S.  

“WHAT A RELIEF. IT’S NOT LIKE I’D WANT TO TOUCH YOU.” Hana Yamada is a girl with a problem: whenever the curly-haired teen has contact with a cute boy, she breaks out in hives. This uncomfortable and humiliating somatic condition becomes particularly severe after her sister forces her to work for two dreamy guys at a relaxing room (a.k.a. massage parlor). Handsome, but prickly masseur Haru proves the more problematic of the two: “Everyone touched by Haru ends up in a good mood,” his flitty business partner Shinnosuke explains -- except for our heroine, of course, who comes across all itchy whenever Haru teasingly comes into contact with her.

A three-book shojo rom-com by Yuana Kazumi, Haru Hana has recently been re-released as a single-volume “Complete Collection” by Tokyopop. This trend toward economy-sized repackaging is certainly laudable, though I have to admit that in this case the material itself left me cold. Kazumi has set up an interesting romantic dichotomy: Haru’s primary way of getting through to people is physical, but Hana can’t receive this from him. To heighten the contrast, our heroine’s primary means of expressing herself is through music, further delineating the storyline's Mars/Venus distinction ‘tween the physical and the intangible.

If our Hana were a more interesting character -- or if there were the least bit of uncertainty about whether girl will get together with boy -- this all might be more intriguing. But she isn’t, and there isn’t. Instead, we get plenty of loud romantic bickering, some mild bits of comic embarrassment and a fairly perfunctory subplot in the last book relating to Haru’s inability to recall a sinister event from his family past. The end result is a sweetly illustrated, none-too-touching romance that promises to be cleverer and thematically richer than it ever manages to actually be.


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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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