Hana to Hoshi (Flower and Star) is about Hanai Sawako, a former table tennis prodigy who quit the game in middle school. After she lost a tournament match to a girl named Hoshino Shiori, she lost her confidence and had a string of losses, finally tossing in the towel.
Hanai enters high school, ready to put her past in table tennis behind her. To her horror, Hoshino is attending the same school, in the same class, in the seat next to hers.
Hoshino is nothing like the looming, larger-than-life image Hanai built up of her after their game. Like Hanai, Hoshino is bad at reading people. But while Hanai is prone to overreacting and assuming the worst about people, Hoshino is easygoing and inclined to assume the best about people. Where Hanai thinks Hoshino secretly looks down on her, Hoshino...well, when Hanai wakes Hoshino up after she falls asleep in class, a half-awake Hoshino smiles and kisses Hanai, thinking she's still dreaming about her. Hanai freaks out and falls backwards, hitting her head and passing out.
Improbably but refreshingly, Hoshino admits that she was dreaming about Hanai the next time she sees her. Hanai, queen of the inferiority complex, explains it away, finding it more plausible that Hoshino would be trying to mess with her than have feelings for her. (Hanai's issues started with her parents, who always made it obvious that Hanai's older sister was their favorite.)
The more Hoshino proves that she genuinely cares about Hanai, the more Hanai's assumptions about her crack.
Enter Chika, an upperclasswoman and childhood friend of Hoshino's who is very obviously interested in her, causing Hanai to feel- gasp!- jealousy. That jealousy is the kick in the pants Hanai needs to realize Hoshino has never done anything ill-intended towards her. Not everything you might hope she'd realize, but it works. There isn't anything keeping her and Hoshino apart at this point except her own obliviousness, and if she got together with Hoshino as she is now, it wouldn't feel earned. She needs to grow more first. She can be hard to like at points, especially early on, but remains sympathetic enough to stick with in the interest of seeing where she goes. And her tendency to overthink things can be amusing.
Hoshino isn't terribly realistic, but is still a fun character. She quit table tennis prior to high school, but hasn't revealed why, so I'm curious about that.
Anyway, Chika notices Hoshino's feelings for Hanai and is jealous of Hanai. Hanai sees Chika kiss Hoshino in an empty classroom, and...!
Well, you'll see in volume 2.
I'm probably making this series sound more dramatic than it is. lol This series has a lot of dramatic plot points, but more often than not, it punctuates its scenes with broad physical comedy.
This volume also includes a short about Hoshino playing with the neighborhood dog she likes visiting since she can't keep pets at home and another short about Hanai's interaction with her family's grumpy cat.
Art: C+ Sketchier than I'd like. The biggest positive is Suzukin Kario's knack for funny facial expressions.