Hana no Kishi, Vol. 1 by Mai Nishikata
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Ever since the day Ran Kurono's older brother, was killed while protecting Sei Ohtori, she has dedicated her skills and life to one day becoming the First Knight of the next head of the Ohtori family, even concealing the fact that she's a woman forever. For generations the Kurono family has served the Ohtori family as their First Knight, but 11 other lower knights with ill intentions of using the Ohtori family's authority vie for that title. Not only that, but Sei is being tested to see if she is suitable for having the title of head of the family. Upon entering Saint Locks Academy, the days of both Ran and Sei's trials begin, all the while being helped by Sei's untidy and unrefined fiance, Ibara Tennou.
Hana no Kishi is a series by Mai Nishikata (西形 まい) that spans 5 volumes. As far as I am able to tell, it is currently not licensed in North America - the only way to read the story would be by translated versions online. (I read the manga here.) It seems to now be completed, and should be available to read on various sites until (and if) it is licensed.
The series follows Ran Kurono's life as First Knight (which is similar to a body guard, or even servant in some sense) to Sei Ohtori. It's really a sweet story, focusing on the friendship between Ran and Sei, and later Ran and a number of other Knights. It's very light on the romance, which I found worked very well. The characters and situations came across as believable, in context with the story, and I found the series quite enjoyable. More so in the later volumes - the second felt somewhat weaker, though I can't really place a definite reason on the why.
The artwork is quite pleasing, too, and flows very well from frame to frame. Mai Nishikata has a good understanding of facial expressions really makes her characters beautiful without going over-the-top with it. I did notice anatomy seeming off in some scenes, especially when showing a character walking swiftly, or running. They seemed stiff and incredibly awkward. It might be intentional, to express how the character is tense, but I am not so sure.
While the series does seem a little short, it has a definite ending and does not drag on and on (and on and on and...) like some similar mangas do. It is well thought out and that's really what I appreciate about it. It is also likely I will purchase the books should the series become available in Canada.
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