Hana No Kishi (flower knight) has been a favorite of mine since it first came out. Nishikata really knows how to draw subtle emotions and I appreciated that this isn’t a story about cute girls who get cute guys. The series spans 5 volumes and has a complete story arc.
Story: Ran Kurono’s brother was a highly talented first knight – the protector of the Ohtori family head. When he was killed, Ran swore to take up her brother’s position as first knight and protect the future Ohtori head candidate – Sei Ohtori. They attend a prestigious school together though Ran masquerades as a male in order to not be seen as an easy ‘female’ target while protecting Sei. For the school is an Ohtori testing ground – both for Sei to become the future leader and for other ‘knights’ who would take Ran’s place by proving they are better suited. Ran will protect Sei at all costs because she believes in her and her goals for the future – even if that means having to deal with Sei’s irascible fiance Tennou. For everyone has secrets at the academy – and most of them involve the need or desire to remove Sei permanently from contention.
So why is this a worthwhile read? Really, it’s because the characters are beautifully written. This isn’t an overwrought “Rose of Versailles” type of drama nor a fun comedy such as Hana Kimi. Nishikata plumbs depth of emotion and respects all her characters – giving them gravitas and nuances. Sei is quiet, strong, and dedicated to her goal of ‘fixing’ her family’s bloody heritage; Ran is fiercely loyal but sweetly naive in the politics of Sei’s world; Tennou also comes from a high family and is fighting is own battles – between slacking off upstairs or slurping on ramen. A cast of other characters also come into play, each unique and distinct, as they ally with or try to take down Sei and Ran.
I had had hopes this would see an English translation/licensing in North America or Europe. But in lieu of that, I have the Japanese volumes and treasure them. There is a really lovely romance here interwoven with all the pathos. And the artwork is simply stunning. I love all the characters and the sweet but subtle story.