The Bluegown Blog

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By alicebg, Oct 19 2017 07:09PM

2017 is shaping up as a good year for Milk Morinaga acolytes, of which I am definitely one. Hot on the heels of the one-shot Secret of the Princess (q.v.) comes an ongoing series, Hana & Hina After School [And if you think that title sounds a mite salacious, let me point out that the 'after school' activity referred to is a part-time job, so calm down]. The usual Morinaga hallmarks are present and correct, and this can only be a good thing.

The dramatic tension -such as it is - in Hana & Hina stems from the fact that part-time jobs are forbidden at the school the title characters attend. This is bad news for Hana, who is well established at 'Popuri' - a manga-themed novelty shop - and worse news for new girl Hina, who not only signs on at the same outlet but already has a reputation as a teen model.

After some tense initial encounters, the two girls strike up a solid working relationship which gradually emerges as friendship, though handicapped by the constant need to keep much of their activities secret from peers and authorities alike. How the relationship is likely to progress is barely even hinted at in this first instalment, though a crucial three-legged race (honestly) provides the most potent clue.

Morinaga neatly inverts the usual conventions of school-set yuri by making the beautfiul, sophisticted Hina the junior partner, which gives her occasional bouts of clueless naivety a piquant edge. Hana, meanwhile, takes her authority position a little too seriously, her frequent bluntness leading to moments of comic/emotional bad timing. To be frank, Hana & Hina works much better if you assume the characters are much younger than they are supposed to be, ie middle-schoolers rather than high-schoolers. In my own youth (yes, that long ago) I knew Hina-style girls of eleven and twelve years old who seemed both physically and emotionally mature but were actually still just little girls at heart. Hana and Hina's lack of worldliness seems a tad unlikely with presumed sixteen-year-olds.

However, that's a minor quibble: overall Hana & Hina showcases Morinaga's trademarks of exquisite characterisation, wonderfully fluffy outlook and utterly gorgeous art (with marvellously understated eroticism). No doubt, this is another saga I'll be following right to the end.

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