Thursday, April 9, 2009

Yuri in a Reverse Harem? Hanasakeru Seishōnen Anime Episode 1

When people say "reverse harem anime", they normally envision an unremarkable Plain Jane grabbing the interest (romantic and otherwise) of a gaggle of androgynous, sloe-eyed bishonen eye candy. With a certain delightful exception in Ouran High School Host Club, however, there tends to be about as much yuri in the reverse harem genre as there is oxygen on the moon.

So, it came as a neat surprise to see some yuri pop up in Hanasakeru Seishōnen, a reverse harem romantic drama that has turned out to be surprisingly good, as far as the first episode goes. (I half expected another terrible Angelique, or a bland herione like Akane from Harukanaru Toki no Naka de.)

Hanasakeru Seishōnen is about a teenage girl named Kajika, the sole heir of the head of the Burnsworth conglomerate, who was sent to live on an island by her father after her mother was murdered when she was a little kid. She grew up with Li Ren, the heir of the Fang conglomerate in China, and a snow leopard named Mustafa.

Her father decides to send her to Japan to attend a high school there for 6 months, and she quickly befriends another girl named Yui. After she has only attended school for one month, however, Kajika's father summons her and Li Ren (and her other bishonen body guard whose name escapes me ^^;;) to America. Naturally, Kajika is annoyed that her father broke his promise, but he tells her that she has a special destiny ahead of her (dun, dun, dun), but he won't tell her what it is until he sees her future husband also seated in his office. Because Kajika insists that she cannot wait that long to find out, her father informs her that he has found three very special young men who have no idea who she is or what her name is, but they're unknowingly being set up to meet her and she needs to choose one of them to be her future husband and get the guy who she chooses to reciprocate if she wants to learn what her special future is as soon as possible. Kajika, recognizing that her father counted on her playing the game, agrees to do it. My bet is that she'll simply choose Li Ren in the end.

Even though the story is ridiculous (durr, reverse harem), the pacing and execution are well-done. The first episode never drags and by the time it's halfway over, it has covered Kajika's time at the Japanese high school before moving on the the main arc in America. This series also boasts some pretty shoujo artwork. :D It doesn't stand out (Kajika visually resembles Akane from HaruToki), but it's pleasant and stylistically reminiscent of 90s shoujo art, in a good way. I definitely prefer this over some of the overly polished, almost spiky artwork that has been the hallmark of several recent shoujo series like Earl and Fairy. (The Hanasakeru Seishōnen manga came out in 12 tankoubon from the late 80's through early 90's, by the way.)

Kajika is also an enjoyable heroine. She's rather unusual for a shoujo protagonist, especially one starring in a reverse harem series, but in a good way. And the series allows its bishonen characters to grace the screen without drawing excessive, self-aware attention to it, which is nice.

The yuri comes from Kajika's friend Yui in the first half. From the outset, Yui is enchanted by Kajika's silver eyes, and mentally calls her a "bishoujo." She flusters over her introduction to Kajika, while wondering why she's so nervous. After they become best friends, a few of the other girls notice Yui's close behavior with Kajika, to the point that they wonder out loud if she "swings that way." Before Yui can confirm or deny anything, Kajika defuses the situation with strawberries. (Don't ask; but it's a cute scene. ^^) Later, when Yui and Kajika are in the hallway, Kajika defends Yui from a sempai's bullying before kissing Yui on the cheek. Yui's reaction absolutely cements my conclusion that she is a yuri character. :3 Her dynamic with Kajika actually reminds me a bit of Wakaba with Utena...

Anyway, as Kajika has left the school by the second half of the episode, I'm assuming that Yui won't be appearing again, or if she does, it will be a minor appearance. Still, she provided some fun, light yuri, and in a pretty good shoujo series to boot, while yuri this spring season has otherwise mostly been found in moe and fan service-oriented shows. Regardless of the yuri, however, this is a promising premiere episode for people who like shoujo, and I'm going to keep following it if it continues to be entertaining.

Story: C
Art: B
Overall: B

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