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Alethea & Athena
Hatsu*Haru volume 1 
26th-Jul-2018 08:30 pm
We finished our work today! Oh my goodness, it was so intense. So much typing. My fingers are starting to protest, I think. I'm having a hard time typing this properly! Fortunately, I have a pre-written post for today, because it's Review Rursday! And this week, we're very excited to present our review of Hatsu*Haru 1! Spoilers ahead!

This book was featured in Part 2 of our Disneyland Office experiments. We had finished the digital book we were working on, made up for lost time with the In/Spectre volume we didn't manage to work on in Part 1, and we were back to a physical book that would allow us to work with only one screen. So we packed it up with the Chromebook and headed over to Disneyland, this time with the addition of our tsuchineko pouch in which to carry pens for marking books with! We got to Disneyland, went on a ride or two while the lines were short (oh yeah, this is when we had to inspect Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters to confirm (or in this case, disprove) rumors of a secret target that gets you fifty thousand points; we also checked out the new Star Tours destination, which, as usual, had Stunning Visuals, but was a stretch as far as story elements), and headed over to our favorite little hidden spot to get to work. Then we delayed some more while we ate (biggest drawback of Disneyland Office: getting there expends energy and therefore calories), and got water, and basically just dawdled. But then finally! finally, we were able to get to work.

We worked for about an hour, and it was a little tough, because the Chromebook keyboard is not the same as the keyboard I normally use, and I didn't have a mouse, which made highlighting things (for looking into in more detail later, during the edit) that much harder, AND it was a little chilly that day, which made my fingers extra stiff. Nevertheless, we persevered, and we got about an hour of work and about forty-five pages done, almost finishing the first chapter! And then we ended up chatting with another guest for about four hours, effectively destroying any chances at further progress that day. But it was a nice chat.

Fortunately, this book is light on the text and didn't require a lot of research, so we were able to finish the entire edit on the same day as an episode of Mitsuboshi Colors, just in time for Gaston to show up and us all to go to Disneyland again. If not for the extra Disneyland trip and the fact that we're just as swamped as ever (if not moreso), the lost four hours wouldn't have been any kind of a detriment.

But enough about that. Let's talk about the book! It was offered to us one day when we were still busy, but we checked it out online, and based solely on a glance at the covers, we thought, "That looks light on text. Sure, let's do it!" Fortunately our cover-based judgment turned out to be accurate this time. We had no idea what it was about; the only thing the reviews on Amazon told us was that the protagonist was male. I feel like they made a rather big deal about that; maybe it's more unusual than I realize? I don't even pay attention anymore. But I'm sure there's plenty of shoujo manga out there with male protagonists. On the other hand, I'm also pretty sure that most of those protagonists are not the major playboy this guy is. I kind of want to say he's scum, but on the other hand, he's right that all the girls he's playing around with know what they're getting into. Okay, not all of them, as indicated by his first encounter with Riko...I mean, the first one the readers see.

Let me start over. Kai is a super major playboy and all the girls are in love with him. One day, he's talking about it with his friends, because one of his friends is fed up with his philandering ways, when suddenly who should appear but Riko Takanashi...to beat the snot out of him. He had accepted her friend's love confession, and then was spotted with another girl. And this is where we get to discuss a recent practice of translating "kokuhaku" to "asking [so-and-so] out." I feel like the first time I saw it, I thought, "Yeah, that could work." But then it kept coming up in different contexts where it most decidedly did not work, and so I would only recommend using it judiciously. (Translators, take note. There is rarely a "one size fits all contexts" translation for anything. Pay attention to what's going on, don't blindly use a formula.) In this case, it doesn't really work...unless I have a very different idea of what it means to ask someone out. In my mind, when you ask someone out, it's just on one date, to see if maybe you enjoy the other person's company. If that's what Riko's friend had done, then it wouldn't have been a problem to see Kai with another girl. But confessing your love to someone in a manga context usually is a way of saying you want to be a couple. On the other hand, it looked like Kai and Eri both took Eri's confession differently, because she said let's go out as friends at first, which really does sound like it's not necessarily exclusive. Oh man, this is why communication is so important. But the point is, Eri was upset about it, and Riko wanted to stand up for her friend.

And that's how we learn about Kai and Riko and how they've known each other since grade school and Kai has always hated her because she's always beating him up, and Riko has always hated him because he's always pestering her to the point of her losing her temper and beating him up. And so I was a little worried at first, that maybe it would turn out that the beating him up thing was just tere-kakushi (hiding her bashful feelings), and Kai actually started to get the same impression when she appointed him to be the other class representative (herself being the first one, of course). And that led to one of the best parts of this volume, where he thinks she might secretly be in love with him, so he pulls out one of his classic moves to make her swoon, and she grabs his face. Oh man, he totally needed that. Turns out, she was actually in love with the assistant teacher, and volunteered to be the class representative to help the teacher out. Then she voluntold Kai. We wanted to use that word, "voluntold," but it didn't really seem appropriate in the context, so I'm using it here.

And when Kai sees how cute Riko can be when she's being all in love and stuff, he falls madly in love with her! So it's actually the story of a jerky playboy having to work out his feelings for a girl he thought he hated, who also hated his guts. But now she's the only girl he really cares about, and he curses fate for ruining the springtime of his popular life. When his friends find out about it, it's super hilarious. He pulls out the, "It's my friend we're talking about, okay? My friend has this problem..." And Kai's friends are all, "Your friend. Okay, sure. Go on..." And they totally know he's talking about himself, and it's the best thing ever. You have to read it just for their reaction.

Kai's friends help him to realize that it's okay for him to be in love with Riko, but now he's faced with the challenge of winning her heart. Despite their long and unfriendly past together, he seems to think his biggest obstacle is the fact that she's in love with another guy. I mean, yeah, that is a huge obstacle, but you are going to have to change your own behavior, dude. But let's talk about Riko and her love for Suwa-sensei. He's only a few years older than her (he's a newly graduated teacher, so early twenties), and he and Riko have lived in the same apartment complex for years. Riko's mom was always working, and her dad, based on the clues given us so far, seems to have passed away. So she's usually home alone, and she's always getting into fights, so she always has some injury or another, and the only one who was there to look after her was Suwa. And this is the part that got tricky. The reason she likes him is that he kept telling her not to get into fights and to take better care of herself and whatever "because you're a girl." On the one hand, it's not fair to tell women not to do stuff just because they're women, but on the other hand, there are a lot of people right now who are very concerned about acknowledging people as the proper gender. So here Suwa was, the only person acknowledging Riko as the gender she wants to present as, but I get the feeling some people are not going to be too happy with him telling her not to get scars because she's a girl. Our society is complicated. There wasn't a whole lot we could do to make it sound less sexist, so we left it the way it was so the editors could maybe deal with it. Maybe if we weren't so swamped we could have dealt with it better. I don't know.

Anyway. Stuff happens, and it's cute. The end. There are other things worth mentioning, though. Riko tends to push herself too hard (I think I know a couple of people who can tooootally relate to that right now *shifty eyes*), so she got sick, and I really only want to mention it because of how Kai dealt with it. The thing about changing her into her pajamas was really funny, but the best part was that he made bunny apples for her. It was something he didn't have to do at all--if he wanted to make the apples easier to eat, he could have just sliced them. But he went to the effort to make bunny apples, and you know it's not something he normally does, because they didn't look that good. And despite that, he did that for her, just to brighten her day a little bit. And I think that shows that he genuinely cares about her, and it's not (necessarily) just a matter of wanting what you can't have, as some kind of a trophy sort of thing.

Then there was the class campout, which was great, because it's where Kai started turning down girls' love confessions. But even better than that is that Suwa caught him in the act! And he's totally supportive! He would probably also be supportive of Kai specifically going after Riko, since Suwa wants Riko to be happy but isn't romantically interested, but Kai can't tell him it's Riko because of all the complications, and it was just a really cute scene with Suwa being all, "You should totally go for it!" and Kai being all, "I really want to punch your face in."

And the volume ended with him and Riko looking up at the stars and he told her to close her eyes! What! What is he going to do!? We don't know! Aaaaahh! ...Actually, I'm not in that much suspense, because all I remembered was, "I think he said something significant at the end of the volume..." and Athena had to stop and think for a minute to remember it. But anyway, so far the series is super cute, and I totally recommend it!

You guys, this series is so good. You should totally check it out! And tune in on Tuesday for our review of Missions of Love 15! Wow, such a slow series... We translated volume 16 last week, and we love it. If only the readers would love it as much.

Today I'm thankful for finishing our first draft, getting to dig in and do all the research for this volume (I'm also terrified of it, but very interested in seeing what we can find), the weather not getting as hot as it was predicting last week, still knowing most of the words to Densetsu Seitan, and getting to read our review of Hatsu*Haru volume one.
27th-Jul-2018 07:45 am (UTC)
Kai's situation at the beginning of this manga sort of reminded me of Kippei, the similarly playboyish protagonist of "Aishiteruze Baby." Except in Kippei's case, the girls are always the ones making overtures to him, usually in a more "friends with benefits" "want to come over and play [ahem] while my parents are out?" way, rather than by making heartfelt love confessions. So, unlike Kai, Kippei isn't cynically going for whatever he can get from both girls who are just interested in him for more superficial physical reasons and more idealistic girls who are seeking some kind of more serious relationship.

Kippei also seems to mostly fool around with girls from his own school, without anyone involved making any particular effort to keep the various girls from finding out about each other. Kai, on the other hand, appears to go out of his way to date girls from a variety of other schools (one of his friends actually comments on this), and seems to be making at least some effort to keep the half-dozen or so girls he's going out with at any given time from running into each other and/or realizing that he's actively dating not just one, but multiple other girls simultaneously. So although both boys are basically users, Kippei tends to be less exploitative about it. Although that doesn't stop his domineering big sister from being sufficiently scandalized by his behavior that when their aunt suddenly abandons her five-year-old daughter Yuzu at their house, Big Sis decrees that Kippei has to become Yuzu's primary caregiver, so he can learn how to be responsible and treat girls properly, etc. (and also have a lot less free time for playboy-type activities).

Speaking of which, maybe what people find so unusual about "Hatsu*Haru" is not so much that the protagonist is male per se, but that he's the male protagonist of a relatively standard primarily romance-focused shoujo manga. Most of the other male-protagonist shoujo manga I can think of off the top of my head tend to be about boys learning to take care of younger children, as in "Aishiteruze Baby," "Gakuen Babysitters," and "Baby & Me." The latter is another older Viz title about a ten-year-old boy who has to take care of his literal baby brother when his mom suddenly dies and his dad is stuck working the standard workaholic salaryman hours, so that he's lucky if the ten-year-old is still awake by the time he gets home, let alone the baby. And in the other male-protagonist Nibley-translated shoujo (right?) title that comes to mind, "Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty," although the boy main character isn't literally babysitting the heroine, the plot so far is less about a potential romance than about his nurturing the psychologically and supernaturally-afflicted heroine and trying to teach her to interact with other people in general. (Is "My Monster Secret" considered shoujo? That also has a male protagonist whose primary plot function, at least initially, seems to be helping female characters preserve their potentially disastrous secrets, rather than becoming romantically involved with one or more girls.)

I think "The Young Master's Revenge" (about a boy who returns to Japan after years abroad determined to avenge himself on the female childhood friend whom he blames for an embarrassing kindergarten accident by making her fall for him and then dumping her--except that it turns out his feelings toward her are a lot more complicated than he thought and he winds up helping her instead) is also considered shoujo. At least, the mangaka, Meca Tanaka, usually does shoujo series. I'm not so sure about the similarly-themed "Masamune-kun's Revenge," which seemed to be turning into more of a shonen-type harem comedy by the end of the one volume of it I've read. In any case, I wouldn't call either of those titles standard rom-com-type shoujo series either, even if it turns out that both of them are technically classified as shoujo.

Of course, the Yen boy-protagonist title "Love & Lies" (set in an alternate Japan where the government assigns you an allegedly ideal prospective marriage partner as soon as you turn sixteen) doesn't fit this pattern at all, since its main plotlines all involve various romantic complications.
28th-Jul-2018 04:16 am (UTC)
We hope your previous opinion of Aishiteruze Baby doesn't affect how you feel about Hatsu*Haru!

Kai doesn't go out of his way to date girls from other schools, he just also dates girls from other schools. I'm not sure which comment from his friends you're referring to that indicates he's trying to keep them from running into each other. The only thing we can find is a comment from Kai himself about how the girls are well aware of the fact that he's a playboy.

I think the reason we were surprised that people thought a male protagonist was so unusual (I don't think there was anything in the Amazon reviews about "a male protagonist who's involved in a love story," just "a male protagonist") is that one of our earliest manga obsessions was DN Angel--a shoujo manga with a male protagonist. Most of the artist's other series had male protagonists, too.

We think the real reason people thought it was unusual is that it was for that publisher. Hana to Yume has a ton of male protagonists (and at least a few in standard romances, like Present wa Shinju).

You're right that we translated Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty! That's a great series. And it is shoujo, in case that's what you were really asking. I would say that there is a strong romantic element from the very beginning of it, but maybe the story focuses a little less on that after the first chapter. My Monster Secret is not a shoujo manga, and I'm not sure why you thought the story was not initially about romance, since the first thing he did was fail to confess his love and he continued to kick himself about it for several chapters.

Love & Lies never struck me as being shoujo, but since it was published online and not in a magazine, I can't figure out a target demographic. It definitely seems to be more male gaze than female. Either way, it's Kodansha, not Yen Press.
14th-Sep-2018 05:21 am (UTC)
"Voluntold" is funny—I could totally see it working as something one of the characters would say if it fit the line. This whole series is really funny. And reading about it (and your descriptions of it) is also hilarious. And then I start thinking about some of the things in later volumes and just lose it. Oh, man... (but it's got plenty of sweet and sincere moments too!! So good!)

I know I've read series in which the confession doesn't directly lead to going out, and needs a second conversation to clarify or proceed. So it definitely makes sense to see how the characters involved are handling it before choosing how to translate those things.

I do think "shoujo with a male protagonist" is worth remarking, even though I can think of several examples too. I'm sure they're still a pretty small minority of all shoujo manga written... and there is something just a bit different in that approach; I really enjoy a lot of those series. There also seems to be a recentish sub-trend of shoujo manga, about groups of boys rather than just individual ones. I think that can be nice—I want everyone to find happiness, not just the obvious meant-to-be main characters!!
16th-Sep-2018 04:10 am (UTC)
I can't take credit for the word. I know we got it from somewhere else, but I can't remember where. And I can't agree more; this series is great.

Yeah, one thing we're always wanting translators to realize (or not, because we feel superior if we're the only ones to catch on) is that you really should see how things fit into the overall everything instead of making everything one-to-one.

I mean, yeah, you probably want to point it out, just like you'd want to point out that a series is fantasy or high school drama. Unless we're talking representation, in which case, pointing out that men have taken the spotlight even in a genre that was supposed to be women's domain would help people know not to support that nonsense. ...I don't know; I guess I just don't care who the protagonist is as long as the story is interesting.

We want everyone to be happy, too! ...And I feel like that's not very uncommon, either. In fact, we've seen a lot of reviews that seem to complain about how all the characters end up in a romantic relationship at the end (including one about Hatsu*Haru). I guess the point is, you never know what everyone else is going to expect and/or want.
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