I’ve enjoyed Takane & Hana ever since its first volume came out almost four years ago. What I didn’t expect then, however, was the degree to which if would become not just a better comic but one of my absolute favorite comics. Yuki Shiwasu’s art and comedy have been consistently delightful, and the series has largely nailed its handling of the romance as well. All good things must come to an end however, as this week’s Vol. 18 is the last. Does it live up to expectations and deliver a conclusion worthy of the series?
So what’s it about?
Here’s a plot summary courtesy of Viz Media:
Despite many unexpected obstacles, Takane and Hana register their marriage license and are officially married! But when is their actual wedding day going to be? And what’s in store for this spirited couple once they move into their own place together? “Happily ever after” is just around the corner!
So, is it good?
Artistically Shiwasu delivers more of the usual, which is a good thing. This is a series built upon excellent facial expressions and body language from its characters. The dichotomy in styles used to render both exemplifies each side of the manga’s romcom persuasion. There are moments where Takane looks downtrodden and vulnerable, and others where his chibi self oozes punchability and arrogance. The titular couple’s volleys back and forth between sincere expressions of affection and guarded disparaging humor are made all the more impactful and funny by their visual signifiers.
The writing here is also quite strong. Much of the plot concerns Takane and Hana’s adjustment to their new home life together. Shiwasu manages to develop and and play with old character beats in ways that doesn’t feel overplayed or tiresome, but rather just like the natural progression of the characters’ anxieties. It’s a difficult task to convey happily ever after without draining a story of all its tension, but Shiwasu does so successfully. Takane and Hana grow and persevere, worry and stumble, reach out and push away. Ultimately this volumes conclusion feels like the only one that was ever possible, but that’s not to say it’s too predictable. Rather, both characters’ attitudes and arcs are allowed to progress naturally and their romance grows in the process, rather than dictating sudden changes in behavior or outlook for sake of a quick wrap-up.
In my time reading this series I’ve largely been willing to overlook the fact that the characters’ age gap would be beyond a red flag in a real life relationship. This is fiction after all, and such gaps are hardly unheard of in this genre to boot. With that said, to Shiwasu’s credit, she doesn’t shy away from addressing the issue. While your mileage may vary in terms of how well she addresses it and its implications, there’s something to be said for romance tropes being acknowledged for what they are. On the downside all the explicit acknowledgement of the giant age gap just calls to mind how troublesome such a relationship would be in real life, but again, the romance is well-written within its fantasy context.
I also appreciate that this volume takes the time to give most of the supporting cast some final moments of spotlight. My favorite example of this is Okamon and the way that his relationship with Hana is allowed to play out. Takane’s mother also has some nice scenes both in context of her relationship to him as well as as a character in her own right. On the downside, if there’s one thing this volume lacks in compared to the rest of the series it’s overdramatic gags. There are simply fewer of them as so much page-time is devoted to emotional earnestness. What gags we do get are funny however, and it helps that the final scene is particularly humorous.
Ultimately, Takane & Hana Vol. 18 is a fitting end to the series that never feels like it takes the easy way out. While certain plot events and character beats might not sound surprising on paper, the strong writing helps them feel natural and well-executed instead of like foregone conclusions inherent to the genre. The visuals and humor continue to impress, and my final feelings are of appreciation that I got to follow this series and its characters from beginning to end.
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