FLOWER IN A STORM (Hana ni Arashi), by Shigeyoshi Takagi. First published in 2006, and first published in North America in 2010.
Riko Kunimi is a super-strong teenage girl, but all she craves is to be perfectly normal and to have perfectly normal friendships (and relationships) like every other girl. Unfortunately, she happened to have a chance encounter with Ran Tachibana, the young heir to a wealthy, powerful banking family. From that moment, Ran is determined that she and she alone will be his bride and will win her through any means possible. He literally storms her school to make his intentions known, and from that moment Riko must fend off both Ran and those who would exploit her to get to him. Will Riko stand against Ran's bizarre romantic onslaught, or will she submit to his strange charms?
Why does it seem so hard for shoujo writers to learn that obsessiveness and stalking DO NOT equal romance? Not every series is guilty of such abuses, but this series makes it all too literal.
Flower in a Storm tries to balance out the inherient sexism of its concept by making Riko very strong, with the idea that she could physically defend herself from those who would threaten her. That would be a fine idea, except that she's always complaining about her superpower and how some guy she had a crush on told her she was weiiiiird. Worse still, her super strength always seems to conveniently disappear or end up negated through some plot device when the plot needs to her be kidnapped. The story pays lipservice to Riko being a Strong Independent Woman (tm), but it counteracts that by having her complain about it and weakening her just so Ran can jump in and save the day.
Speaking of that weirdo, let's talk about Ran. My god, what a messed-up character he is, and the mangaka is clearly oblivious to how weird he is! Being rich beyond belief, he has no notion of restraing or limitation - he simply declares he will have something and does everything he can to get it. He will slavishly research his target and wield any means at hand to win. The mangaka wants us to think this as being romantic and devoted, but it's not so at all! It's bizarre and creepy to fixate on a girl you only briefly saw after a car accident! It's bizarre and creepy to burst into her school and declare a girl to be your bride, whether she likes it or not! It's bizarre and creepy to transfer into her school and sneak into your home so that she can NEVER GET AWAY FROM YOU! These are not the actions of a man in love. These are the actions of a psychopath who should be in jail. The mangaka tries to counter all this terribleness with quiet moments where Ran comforts Riko or tells her that he likes her just the way she is, but it's far too late and far too little to counteract all the creepy that came before it.
Flower in a Storm is far creepier than any horror manga I've ever read, because it wants us to think of a rich, psychotic stalker as a white knight and that a girl can be physically strong until it's inconvienent for her to be so, and that's all the personality she needs, and the fact that something like this was popular enough to be brought over here depresses me like few things can.
The artwork is shockingly plain for shoujo. Even the bishonen are simply drawn - more effort went into their stylishly tousled hair and wardrobes than their faces. Riko's not much better, as she's just a skinny limp-haired blank of a girl. The shading is light and simple, which makes everything look rather flat. I will say that I do like how the mangaka used screentones and patterns to craft or suggest objects in the background instead of replacing the background altogether. The composition isn't bad either, with a lot of variety in panel shape and layering. The panels themselves are mostly a bunch of talking heads. While the story is distinctive in its awfulness, but the art is more conventional in its dullness.
There's a brief side story and an author's note.
This series was published by Viz. Both volumes were published, and both are in print.
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