Title: Flower In A Storm Vol. 1
Author: Shigeyoshi Takagi
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
MSRP: $9.99 US
Pages: 200 (paperback)
Riko is a normal girl (as we are constantly and overly informed in each episode) with un-normal superstrength. Until the day when Ran Tachibana, rich heir of the famous Tachibana family, breaks into her classroom, claiming her as his bride. When Riko refuses, he gives her until 5 o'clock to to escape him and he'll let her go. While Ran has unlimited money and infinite favors, Riko has superhuman strength.
First of all, the characters. Riko is constantly reiterating that she's "just your ordinary, every-day high school girl" (often said as she's running insanely fast, saving balloons for children, and generally putting her superhuman abilities to use), and it's obvious she just wants to belong. However, it's constantly being repeated gets tired quickly, loses all its irony, and starts to feel like the author felt we wouldn't get it. Riko isn't a character I'm particularly attached to, but she is a very interesting character, and very realistic, because she's just like any other insecure teen, trying to hide what makes her special because it's what she's been taught she should do.
And then, there's Ran. Ran is also an interesting character, charming, creepy, odd, and lovable, all at the same time. It's obvious he really is in love with Riko, and his sincere adoration for her is something I definitely liked: but it doesn't change his stalking her, and being slightly insane. Overall, they're a cute, strong main pair.
But they're the only strong characters: supporting characters, like Riko's friends (the shaved-headed student council member was good for a laugh or two, but not much else), he assassin, etc. have no personality and are really flat and one-dimensional, which is disappointing. The side characters are basically just there for the sake of the plot, which isn't how it should be.
The dialogue was pretty weak, even at times between Riko and Ran, especially at the beginning. It seemed a little awkward and repetitive, weirdly worded: but once you got more familiar with the characters, the dialogue got better, and was redeemed by Ran's romantic gestures.
And then there's the plot. Ran chasing after Riko only lasts through the first episode or so, and after that, you'd think the- admittedly shallow- plot would sort of fizzle away. But I felt like the author did a great job with it from there: every chapter has crazy, often funny misadventures of Riko and Ran as Riko slowly starts coming around to Ran.
The art wasn't particularly special, just your traditional shojo style: big eyes, unnatural beauty, inordinate amounts of rose petals floating around. But, it's still very pretty, and nice to look at and try to draw.
There's also a bonus manga, called The Need For Artificial Respiration. It's a nice contrast to Flower, more serious and realistic, and its shortness leaves it feeling even more poignant. On the other hand, Flower in A Storm feels kind of rushed and unreal.
Overall, this manga definitely has its flaws: lacking side characters, a slightly shallow plot, and repetitive chapter beginnings, but if you're new to manga, it's definitely worth a try, and I still loved it anyways. I recommend picking it up at the library (or used on Amazon) if you see it.
(By the way, the 2nd and final volume is out August 3rd!)