Review: When Hikaru Was On the Earth… (Vol 1)

(art by Miho Takeoka)
(art by Miho Takeoka)

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Volume 1
Volume 1

Considering I’m a fan of the Book Girl light novels, I knew it was only a matter of time before I got around to taking a look at When Hikaru Was On the Earth, as both series are written by Mizuki Nomura and illustrated by Miho Takeoka. It’s difficult to not compare the two stories, especially when they’re both set in high school and involve a supernatural character to help drive the central plot (i.e. the “book girl” is a yokai and Hikaru is a ghost). The tone for both series is similar as well, juggling lighthearted scenes for character bonding with much more somber sequences that delve into their deeply-personal thoughts and feelings. All that said, I feel Hikaru (for this first volume at least) is a much more straightforward story, which can be both a bit good and a bit bad for it.

The story of Hikaru begins with Hikaru’s funeral. A classmate named Koremitsu happens to attend, and before long he finds himself roped up in the task of helping fulfill the ghost of Hikaru’s dying wish: delivering a set of presents to Hikaru’s fiancée (Aoi) on her upcoming birthday. This turns out to be no simple matter, however, as only Koremitsu alone can see and hear Hikaru. On top of this, Aoi wants nothing to do with Koremitsu: a hot-blooded boy who has been (wrongfully) deemed a dangerous delinquent by all his peers–nor does Aoi want anything to do with Hikaru: a casanova who had won the hearts of many girls and delighted in it. The setup is an engaging one, and the story does well to establish a number of meaningfully-paced relationships.

Though the central plot is fueled by Koremitsu’s efforts to vicariously pass Hikaru’s feelings on to Aoi, this volume takes the time to build upon Koremitsu’s relationship with Hikaru as well. It makes for a sweet story of friendship, and my favorite scenes were those that delved into their pasts and gave some insight on how they regarded one another.

The prose for this fan translation manages well, but it did feel like further proofreading was needed overall. (I also did not care for the reliance on FULL CAPS for all boisterous dialogue…) And while Hikaru‘s plot is not as ambitious or thought-provoking as that of Book Girl, the more down-to-earth (pun not intended) protagonists of Hikaru may manage to resonate just as much with readers. I personally didn’t feel I connected much with the various girls of Hikaru‘s cast, but I do see potential for them and the series in general, and will surely give later volumes a read in due time. I recommend giving this a try if you are looking for a high school drama with themes of romance and friendship.

Cho’s Rating: Recommended

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