Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Twenty-eight-year-old Hana Kisugi is at the end of her rope – she works in what she terms a sweatshop, her boss is cruel, and her boyfriend just dumped her for being “boring.” She's thinking that maybe life would be better if she got a do-over when she slips and falls on the stairs…and opens her eyes in the body of Hana Yamada, a seventeen-year-old girl. Now Hana has to live as this other Hana in a boarding house filled with people who think she just has amnesia. What happened to Hana Yamada? And is this really the do-over Hana Kisugi thought she wanted?
Mizue Odawara is one of a handful of shoujo authors never before published in English who is getting a double digital release. Which Hana? and A Devotion that Changes Worlds have both been licensed and translated by Futabasha, much in the same way that Chieko Hara's Legend of the Rainbow and Amber Silhouette were both released earlier in 2019. Odawara, however, is of a much more recent vintage, with Which Hana? dating to 2018, and the story is very much in keeping with the basic trends of contemporary shoujo manga.
The story follows a twenty-eight-year-old woman named Hana Kisugi who is at a very low point in her life. She's been taken advantage of at her terrible job (she describes it as a “sweatshop”), dumped by her boyfriend, and sees no real potential in her future. As she's thinking that she'd like to start over (but not die; she's clear on that), she misses a step on the long staircase she's descending. The next thing she knows, Hana is opening her eyes in a strange room full of unknown people who somehow know her name – except they think she's Hana Yamada. This quickly turns out to be because Hana has somehow found herself in the body of a high school girl who also fell down some stairs and is also named Hana. Wondering if this is the result of her final thoughts before she fell, Hana realizes that she's stuck for the time being and accepts the diagnosis of amnesia that she's given when she's rushed to the hospital.
There is, of course, more going on here, as Hana finds out when she tries to find out if Hana Yamada is in Hana Kisugi's body. As it turns out, her old body is no longer alive, which begs the question of what happened to high school Hana's original soul. Given that the switch happened presumably because of Hana's desire to have a second chance at life, and what she learns about Hana Yamada's life, it feels very possible that Hana Yamada similarly wished as she fell downstairs, but in her case, not to exist. That would mean that some deity decided to honor both wishes while not technically killing a seventeen-year-old (body-wise, at least, but gods aren't known to sweat the details). This is all speculation, but given that only one person seems to have had positive interactions with Hana Yamada and that she didn't appear to have had any friends at school to the point where she may have been ostracized, it seems like a safe one to make.
That one person who liked the original high school Hana was, of course, one of the two romantic interests in the story. The boarding house Hana finds herself living in has two young hot guys dwelling there, both the grandsons of the landlord. (They're cousins, not brothers, in a good shift of the usual dynamic.) Haruki, the elder of the two and closer to Hana's internal age, seems to have had some sort of relationship with Hana Yamada, although he won't divulge what that was. Haruchika is also seventeen and immediately knows that there's a different soul living inside Hana Yamada's body, making him the first true confident Hana has in her new life. He also seems not to have been all that fond of the original Hana Yamada, although their relationship appears to have been more on the front of ignoring each other than outright hostility. Inarguably, he's the better choice for the body Hana now finds herself in, but she's also a woman in her late twenties on the inside, which complicates matters. As of this volume there isn't much focus on this potential love triangle, however (not until the final pages, anyway), which serves the story well. Hana trying to figure out what she's going to do with this new life, and whether or not it's for real and ever or if Hana Yamada is going to somehow come back and try to reclaim her body, is much more important at the moment than which cousin she's going to end up with.
As of this volume, Which Hana? isn't anything particularly special. It isn't what you'd call generic, as it does offer its own distinct twists on the body-swap romance and Hana bears more similarities to the heroine of Idol Dreams than some of her flakier counterparts. The art doesn't stand out, but it is more than competent, and the translation has only one typo and reads smoothly. If you don't need anything groundbreaking or just are a fan of the body-swap story, this is pleasant reading.
Overall : C+
Story : C+
Art : C+
+ Focus on Hana's adjustment rather than the romance moves things along.
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