Photo taken by me of my own copy. Strangely there aren’t many high resolution images of covers floating around anymore. Oh well. As you can see, I lucked out this time and this used copy is in terrific condition. I wish they could all look this good. I got some former library books with all the stickers and it is not pretty. ; w ; The cover art itself is quite nice. I definitely like the summer theme going on.
Shigeru, Tsukasa’s fiancee, declares that she is willing to marry him and aggressively begins to pursue him. Tsukushi tells herself she doesn’t care, while Tsukasa tries to explain. This all culminates in Tsukushi telling Tsukasa that Shigeru is better for him because she’s from a good family. This pushes Tsukasa over the edge and he slaps Tsukushi. Things fall apart from there as Tsukasa slowly realizes that he’s done something terrible again.
In an attempt to prevent himself from hurting Tsukushi again, Tsukasa agrees to date Shigeru. But even more strange is that Shigeru is determined to become Tsukushi’s BFF; which creates a rather weird situation. This is made worse when Shigeru and Tsukasa, who were on a date, stumble across Tsukushi and Rui, who happened to meet, having tea. Shigeru invites them to her family’s onsen as a sort of double date. Tsukasa is furious. Rui is just happy to go to some hot springs. But poor Tsukushi can’t help but feel incredibly awkward.
So preoccupied with her conflicted thoughts and emotions, Tsukushi faints in the hot springs. Rui manages to save her before Tsukasa can and the two “couples” go off their separate ways. While Tsukushi shares a comforting evening with Rui, Tsukasa finally tells Shigeru he can’t date her anymore. She is furious and begins throwing stuff around. The noise worries Tsukushi, so she runs in to see if everything is okay only to find a half-naked Shigeru on top of Tsukasa. Misunderstanding she quickly leaves. Tsukasa tells Shigeru she can hit him as much as she likes until she is satisfied bringing volume 17 to an end.
I’ve stated before that Tsukasa’s behavior was really starting to grate on me, but the slap did not actually bother me. Now before you all gasp in shock, there is a reason for this. I do fully admit that bickering couples are sort of a guilty pleasure for me, which is why I enjoyed HanaDan in the first place, but there came a point where Tsukasa’s behavior become too much. I didn’t give HanaDan too much trouble for it since Tsukushi did not put up with his shit, but nonetheless, it was one of the things that did bug me. However after the novelty of cute bickering wore off, I did start to dislike Tsukasa and Tsukushi as a couple. He was crazy possessive and there was no way around that. This volume changes that. The slap is the catalyst for change in Tsukasa. We see him regret it and feel like maybe he can’t be with Tsukushi because he is an asshole who keeps hurting her. This level of introspection is quite rare for Tsukasa and I’m hoping it is only the tip of the iceberg. We still have 19 volumes to go, so there is definitely at least plenty of opportunity for Ms.Kamio to develop Tsukasa even more.
On top of that, we can finally see Tsukushi slowly beginning to realize her feelings. Whereas most rivals have, up until now, been introduced more for dramatic purposes, Shigeru is different. Because Tsukasa is actively dating her and Tsukushi is now free. She is forced to confront her own feelings. Although it’s not as pronounced as with Tsukasa, we see some growth from Tsukushi as well. Nonetheless, I did appreciate that even when Tsukushi is distressed and confused, she still can hold it together and pretend like nothing is bugging her. The overly drawn out dramatic tears and self-loathing often accompanied by momentary break-ups or serious lady rivals in shoujo works have been and still are a major pet peeve of mine. Thus I was very happy to see Tsukushi handling her break up with more grace.
As for Shigeru herself, I mentioned last volume I wasn’t sure how I felt about her since she was just introduced, but now I have a more solid idea. Out of all the female rivals, Shigeru is probably the most realistic and well-rounded rival. She’s not pure evil like the 3 croonies, nor is she entirely angelic like Shizuka. Even Sakurako, who was still quite sympathetic afterwards, acted in very underhanded ways. While Shigeru isn’t totally innocent, she doesn’t do anything underhanded. Yes, it’s obvious she is worried and jealous of Tsukushi and that’s why she basically forced Tsukushi into being her moral support for her and Tsukasa, as well as inviting her and Rui as a couple to the onsen. But at the same time, she seems to genuinely appreciate Tsukushi and rightly takes her frustrations out on Tsukasa. She can be somewhat self-centered, but I think she’s a pretty good character and I’m glad Ms. Kamio made her like that.
In terms of extras, Ms.Kamio’s side notes are interesting as usual. In particular, I found it quite heartwarming how she wrote that she was surprised that Tsukasa was voted as most wanted boyfriend as he’s not exactly a good boyfriend. She tells her readers in a light-hearted but firm voice whether they are sure about dating Tsukasa and Rui as both are self-centered. The anecdotal stories about her and her assistant Ms. C were also quite nice. These little stories, while they have absolutely nothing to do with HanaDan, are a rare glimpse at Ms. Kamio herself. I enjoy HanaDan. I would even say it is one of my favourite manga. So I am rather curious about its creator. From what I can gather she seems like a very sweet lady with a good sense of humour and a sound judgement. The one-page mini comic about her experiences at the HanaDan anime’s voice recording was also quite nice. I learned some interesting facts like that background crowd noise is actually done in-studio by everyone there. I always appreciate these extras, even if I don’t always mention them in my impressions.
Now I can’t wait to read volume 18 as this volume was so interesting and left off at such a critical point. Thankfully I have managed to stock up to volume 20 so far. It’s a shame latter volumes get so much more pricey though. :( Still this volume has renewed by drive to grab all the HanaDan volumes. It is a series worthy of tracking down. :)