Title: Nobara no Hanayome
Author: TOYOTA Yuu
Hana to Yume Comics, 2010
I am always happy when I find a new Hana to Yume tankoubon to buy at the bookstore. This one has such a cute cover that I couldn’t resist it! Aren’t they adorable? In spite of what the cover may suggest, what with the historical clothing and all, this is not a historical story. It’s set in modern times, and (as is common in shoujo manga) the main characters are in high school. So far this is a charming little story. It’s not break-out original or anything, but the art is very pretty, and the characters are likable. I can really see this as a series that could be licensed in English eventually. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. The cover indicates that this is the author’s first collected volume. I am amazed. There are a couple of one-shot stories she has done as well. The artwork is so clean and nice, I think she must surely have something published somewhere else, under a different pen name or something. Or maybe she worked as an assistant for someone else? I don’t know, but this book looks very nice for a beginner, at any rate!
YAMADA Chizuru has a little problem. She has just been abandoned by her very frivolous mother. Even worse, she was not only abandoned, but was also left to shoulder her mother’s staggeringly huge amount of debt. Things don’t look too good for the young high school girl. Just when it looks like the loan sharks are going to force Chizuru to do some unpleasant things to help pay back the money, she is rescued by an unexpected person.
It is KUZE Mitsuru, one of her classmates! But wait a minute. This isn’t the Kuze that she sees at school all the time. That boy is cute, but shy and timid and unassuming. While this guy here, this stranger who has shockingly taken over her debt from the loan sharks, acts like an entirely different person! He is loud, confident, in charge. And he also happens to be the “sandaime” (3rd generation leader) of a feared Yakuza family! What is going on here?!
It turns out that her classmate Kuze-kun is, indeed, the same person as this yakuza boss. His school persona is like the Clark Kent to his Superman boss persona. He acts timid at school in order to not attract attention to himself. It would probably bad and cause his father problems if it were widely known that he was the heir of a yakuza family! Anyway, Kuze has taken it upon himself to buy out Chizuru’s debt. But why? It seems he needs a favor. As the young heir, everyone expects him to get married. Therefore, they are throwing their daughters at him and are trying to force him to become engaged to some daughter of one of the other families in their yakuza group. Kuze is not interested in this at all. Therefore, he plans to use Chizuru as a shield to ward away any potential matchmaking from the other yakuza. For the next 3 years, until they graduate from high school, Chizuru will pretend to be his fiancee!
Now wait a minute. While Chizuru is thrilled that the debt her mother left behind has been paid, she is NOT thrilled about this whole idea of him just buying her like she was a purse or something from a convenience store. She is a person, and can’t be bought or sold! Unfortunately, her financial situation clashes with her pride, and she has to face the reality of pretending in front of the yakuza family to be Kuze’s bride. But this doesn’t mean she has to be happy about it! It doesn’t mean she has to like her fiance!
Chizuru’s life is about to get much more interesting. She has to move in with a bunch of scary yakuza, take lessons on how to become a proper yakuza wife, deal with rival girls from the other families, and still go to school. She also has to deal with Kuze’s split personas (confident yakuza vs. shy school boy) and the idea that she is an item that has been sold. Still, Kuze treats her well, and sometimes he looks at her funny, as if there may be another reason he is helping Chizuru with her debt? But what could it be?
This volume appears to be a stand-alone one-shot book, however, I really think it can (and should) continue for more volumes. I really hope that this isn’t all we see of Chizuru and Kuze! (UPDATE: volume 2 is out, yay!)