Ai Morinaga is one of the few shoujo creators that I think is genuinely transgressive. Even when she’s writing a fairly conventional series she adds in a few moments that make me think she’s viewing her work with an element of knowing cynicism. Strawberry Chan is genuinely insane. Your and My Secret is one of the most wacked out gender bending shoujo stories that I’ve read. My Heavenly Hockey Club is probably her most accessible and conventional work published in English, but it still contains flashes of the insane humor found in Morinaga’s other series. I think I skipped a a couple volumes before reading volumes 5-7 of this series, but this is a manga that is easy to pick up midstream since there are no major ongoing story arcs.
Basically all you need to know about the series before reading it if you haven’t read the first volume is that the heroine Hana is only interested in food and sleep. She’s forced to join the field hockey club at her school. The hockey club is filled with handsome and rich boys who spend all their time going on vacations to eat local delicacies instead of training.
My Heavenly Hockey Club Volume 5
Hana is resolutely unaware that Izumi, the richest and most handsome boy in the hockey club may be interested in her. It almost seems like his feelings will be brought out in the open when the hockey club travels to visit the country inn belonging to an old (male) friend of Hana’s. Hana persists in viewing Daisuke as the innocent boy she knew in her youth but Izumi knows better. The Hockey Club is further rocked when Hana’s overdeveloped elementary school-aged cousin arrives and announces her desire to marry a rich man. She sets her sights on the bespectacled and usually stoic Itoigawa. Natsuki draws the hockey club into a match match with his father, a real life pirate. The final story satirizes the tired storyline of cute farming widow vs evil landlord.
My Heavenly Hockey Club Volume 6
The hockey club has always operated with a great deal of autonomy so it is a calamity when the Frenchman Yukio Francois de Saint-Martin announces that he’s their faculty adviser, bringing with him an overinflated ego and a passionate belief in psychic superstition. While the boys try their best to get rid of Saint-Martin, they find themselves suffering actual sports training and a trip to a ninja temple. The relationship between Hana and Izumi gets pushed forward a little bit when Hana starts acting like a typical girl. This is where I see Morinaga playing with shoujo stereotypes, because it is hilarious to see Hana with limpid eyes and flirtations mannerisms when I’m so used to her either stuffing her face or sleeping. A made-over otaku girl gives Morinaga a chance to comment a bit about manga creation and fan behavior.
My Heavenly Hockey Club Volume 7
There are a few Strawberry Chan-like moments in the first half of this volume as the rivalry between a pet chicken and a panda escalates to unforeseen levels of war. There’s something about the way Morinaga draws a chicken holding an egg in supplication that I just find hilarious. The rest of the volume shows the hockey club in crisis mode when Hana decides to get a part-time job working at a bakery. Izumi is suspicious of the handsome man who makes the cakes that Hana craves and abruptly decides to turn the hockey club into the pastry making club in order to keep an eye on Hana.
Even though it had been a long time since I’d read any volumes of this manga, it was easy to dip back in to Hana’s misadventures. I was glad I’d saved up three volumes to read all at once. While My Heavenly Hockey Club doesn’t feature Morinaga at her most satiric, there are still plenty of moments that shows she doesn’t take shoujo manga too seriously. I do not think I will ever be able to think of the explosive nosebleeds that manga characters get when they see someone cute in the same way ever again. I think Morinaga’s sensibility is all too rare in the manga that gets brought over to the US, and I was reminded again how much I enjoy her work.