Tuesday, May 25, 2010
My reaction while reading Fujii Mihona's Himitsu no Hanazono ("The Secret Garden"):
This is a seriously cute story- I regret having taken this long to get around to reading it. It was a great surprise.
Hiyama Misono is the star runner for her school's track and field team, and she's training hard for the upcoming regional meet. She's pushing herself way more than she should because her stepmother insists that Misono "owes" her for raising her and should pay her back by becoming a famous runner. Misono is growing more and more disenchanted with running- something that she has always done more to fulfill other people's expectations than for herself.
While practicing, Misono hears someone singing in a mellifluous voice, and follows it to- wait for it- a secret rose garden.
She takes a nap there, and when she wakes up, she sees a charming "bishounen" named Sakuya. (Oh, you can see where this is going.) Unsurprisingly, Misono finds herself attracted to the mysterious Sakuya.
Some other things happen with Misono helping her school's Drama Club compete in a regional drama contest (where she again meets Sakuya, who gives her a rose before performing with another school's drama club) and competing in the meet, before she and her stepmother attend a formal party celebrating Sakuya's grandfather's birthday. Himeko, another girl who loves Sakuya, notices Sakuya's interest in Misono and tells Misono that she and Sakuya are lovers. A distraught Misono runs outside to the garden, and Sakuya runs after her and assures her that Himeko is lying. They go back to Sakuya's house and talk, learning that they have a lot in common and that they both like each other as more than just friends. They start kissing, but before things can go any farther, Sakuya asks Misono if she wants to know "his" secret. After Himeko realizes that Sakuya and Misono are alone together, she bursts into Sakuya's room and yells at Misono that Sakuya is (dun-dun-dun) a girl. Misono, wrapped in nothing but a sheet, coolly tells Himeko, "Yes...I know." (lol What a great scene.)
Himeko does everything she can to split up Misono and Sakuya, going as far as leaking Sakuya's "secret" to the public (causing Misono and Sakuya's families to be like, "you're a woman! And you're with another woman!") and ruining the costume that Misono was going to wear in the title role of the Drama Club's performance of Cinderella in another drama competition. Sakuya and Himeko are performing The Merchant of Venice in their school's drama club. The ending is lovely- I don't want to spoil it, but it's perfect for the fairytale-ish tone of the story.
Himitsu no Hanazono is a shoujo yuri gem from a time when happy yuri stories were extremely uncommon. (It came out in 1999.) It holds up well against more recent yuri titles. The characters are all likeable (aside from the wicked stepmother and snooty rival, of course), the romance is sweet, and the art is very pretty- even the clothing designs are eye-catching. (Which is something that I probably care about more than most people. ^^;;) The story is fairly predictable and the romance is a little pat (the ending was cute, but I still thought, "err...wow, that's moving a little fast there, isn't it?") since it's emulating the classic fairytale formula, but it's pleasant enough that it doesn't really matter.
I wonder what it was like to read this story when it was coming out in 1999.