The opening pages of Takane & Hana offer a uniquely Japanese twist on the meet cute: the couple in question are set up by a marriage broker who thinks she’s introducing a twenty-three year old beauty to a twenty-six-year-old bachelor. The bride-to-be, however, is a sixteen-year-old high school student who’s posing as her older sister — don’t ask — while the potential groom is an impossibly handsome jerk who’s angry that his family is pressuring him to settle down. Guess what happens next? If you said, “Opposites attract!”, you wouldn’t be wrong, though the course of true love hits a few potholes along the way.
I’m of two minds about Takane & Hana. My fifteen-year-old self adores Hana for being so smart and sassy, the kind of girl who says devastatingly true things and still manages to stay in other people’s good graces. My forty-five-year-old self, however, feels uncomfortable with the ten-year age gap between its lead characters. While Yuki Shiwasu cheerfully acknowledges the troubling power dynamic between Takane and Hana, she wants to eat her cake and have it, too: Hana’s incisive comments are supposed to level the playing field with the older, more experienced Takane, making it OK for the two to flirt, date, and kiss. At the end of the day, however, the economic and educational gulf between Hana and Takane still seems vast, making Takane seem like a predatory creep for preferring the company of a mature sixteen-year-old over a woman his age.
I know, I know: I’m humorless. A killjoy. A big ol’ capital-F feminist. But in a moment when we’re having serious conversations about power and consent, I’m having difficulty getting caught up in Takane and Hana’s romantic shenanigans, however much Hana sounds like a teenaged Rosalind Russell, or how wonderfully elastic Takane and Hana’s faces may be. Takane & Hana is unquestionably someone’s guilty pleasure — just not mine.
Takane & Hana, Vol. 1
Story and Art by Yuki Shiwasu
Adaptation by Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane
VIZ Media, 200 pp.
Rated T, for Teens