Friday, October 15, 2010

My Top 5 Yuri Manga: #2 Aoi Hana

Aoi Hana~ Even the name is kind of sweet, although you can immediately tell the style of stuff if it has a 'hana' in it, since hana means flowers. So yes, this manga is a particularly gentle, soft-style, relaxed one. It epitomizes slice of life for me, and the writing is nice, where the characters develop and learn about themselves gradually. It has, as far as I've noticed, very few cliches in it (and before I am corrected, tropes are not always the same as cliches); so if you like clear cut and stereotype-ish things in your manga (I mean stereotype in the best possible connotation), this series will be somewhat difficult to follow. Notice how I also emphasize its slow, gentle nature. 

This manga is very much a slow paced one, so if you're an action fan (like me!), a psychological manga fan (like me!), a horror fan (like me!), or a fantasy-sci-fi-otherworld-magic fan (like me!), it's not necessarily for you. But if you've got the patience inherent to people who read seinen seriess, or the love of something that really unfolds as it goes along, and holds unexpected, but gentle surprises, take a look at this one.

Credit for this picture goes to Akiranyo. :D

Aoi Hana is a story that focuses on these two high school girls, Akira Okudaira (the shorter one), and Fumi Manjoume (the taller, long-haired one). They were super-close childhood friends ten years before the start of the manga, and Akira always used to help out Fumi and comfort her. When the manga begins, Fumi meets up with Akira again, though they both go to different girls-only high schools in the area. They each have their own circle of friends, and they each try out different clubs; epitome of slice of life, seriously. 


There's bunches of little events throughout the manga, which is an extremely relaxed one, and it's sometimes like viewing moments of these girls' lives through a lens. Drama club, plays, smatterings of romance, sweet moments, sad moments...

At times, it does feel episodic, (Even though it isn't), and overall it has a hazy, comfortable feel to it that's enhanced by the style of drawing, and the random watercolors that the mangaka inserts at beginnings of chapters or volumes. Super mellow, with a floaty, nice kind of humor that comes around from time to time.


Look at that picture. Is it not uber-mellow, relaxed, soft, sweet, and gentle? Anyhow, I don't want to paint the manga as being excessively relaxed, though. Fumi goes through a lot of crap sometimes--she realizes that she's a lesbian, and comes out to Akira about it, and Fumi also gets in a relationship with this other girl named Sugimoto (who looks pretty manly, haha), then shit happens and I'm not going to spoil it. 

But basically, this manga has a lot of themes that should be recognizable to all of us who have gone through high school. Feeling as though you want to belong, as though you want to do well, being nervous of failure or being a misfit, and wanting to be confident and comfortable with you you are: stuff like that's well-scattered in the manga, and there are complex relationships when it comes to the romance part of it. Unlike other yuri manga, there are males in this, and though this might piss off the yuri purist, it does definitely add another shade to the manga, and brings up some issues and some thoughts on relationships. 

Sugimoto and Fumi, from the anime

 If you're not content with simply reading the manga, or perhaps if you have a vested interest in animation and prefer it to images, there is an anime for Aoi Hana. The opening is appropriately soothing, and the animation quality is pretty good, though I haven't watched the entire thing. 

The artwork is of great quality. I might even say top-notch, since it's obvious that the author has drawing skills, but as the style of the manga is inherently relaxed, and loose, easy-going lines, it tends to also have a 'plain' feeling to it. Interestingly, that plain feeling also goes very far sometimes both for comedy, and for serious moments, so I like it. Heh.

Plot in Aoi Hana isn't really straightforward, as it's a comfy kind of slice of life. You don't really root for the two childhood friends to get together, because it seems that they aren't interested in each other...at first. Then stuff kind of tumbles along, travelling smoothly, and then you find yourself kind of hoping, and wishing that luck could pass through the fourth wall and reach Fumi and Akira. Spoiler: Fumi does, in fact, like Akira. But the way it's approached, and the way it happens, is still very mellow and at times, realistic. I like it. There's nice twists, and unique mentions and things that happen in Aoi Hana, even if there's no direct plot like 'collect all the shards of this round jewel' or 'ways to make the other person love me,' or 'save the world and Mars and the magical world on Mars.'  It admittedly moves a bit slowly, but it goes into everything with such detail and such close scrutiny that it's a pleasure to move along with it. I seriously binged on this manga at lillicious. Binged on its mellow slowness. 
    Sweet Blue Flowers. It really fits the name!

Lastly, the characters are likeable. If there's any flaw to them, it's that a few of the side characters start to look similar to each other, and then you start forgetting which one goes to which school in the arc where they all get together to do a play. But otherwise, even the side characters have their own depth, and their interactions with the main characters actually feel meaningful and have a role in development, not just tacked on for shallow plot purposes, or to fulfill a characteristic. Everyone has their own history and role, and this manages to make a manga that's both filled with simple moments, funny moments, and sad moments. Aoi Hana is really good.

Responses to previous comments: 
WeeklySC, it's okay if you don't like manga. Not everyone will--to some, it's basically literature dumbed down into comic book form, or worse, pulp dime novels churned out by artists with little writing skill. It really depends on who you are, what your tastes are, and how you go about it. I'd still recommend some, solely because there are some badass manga out there (hell, there is f*cking Starcraft manga out there that's great to read). Technomac, I did the drawings in that blog post. Is my drawing style similar to someone you know? A Hermit, you'd better read it. :D

InformativeGamer, YES. Though sometimes I like Luka's voice more than Miku. Wicked805er, you'd rather read Naruto? What? : | Though fine, there is sometimes yuri fanart of Naruto girls. Ain't reading it unless it gets injected with some serious yuri, though. Derek, things are never wasted on people. The very act of reading someone else's article on it, or even skimming and looking at pictures, does something to you inside. :3 Anyone ever read the book Connected, by Nicholas A. Christakis? Very interesting nonfiction book. Repeats a bit, but the points it raises are pertinent (Regrettably there is no yuri. I say nonfiction needs more yuri, now!). 

Thanks for all the comments! They are appreciated in many, many ways.  

36 comments:

  1. quite a following you have amassed.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Characters were likable, but I didn't like the ending to the anime. Not sure if I should check out the manga.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very nice, I'll take a look at it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sounds like a very nice read. I'll definitely give it a look.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Good read. Everyone loves yuri, hahaha XD

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nice review bro.
    Getting closer to your all time favourite manga :D

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thing that makes yuris so good is the drawing style

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love you so much for actually replying to commenters, please please please keep up the great writing I really look forward to the next post, because all your reviews just hit me in just the right way!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I don't think it's for me, I share your tastes

    ReplyDelete
  10. i like slow paced mangas, thanks for the info

    ReplyDelete
  11. i've never read a manga but thanks to your post im about to.

    ReplyDelete
  12. just postin to say I started followin ya and I enjoy the posts so far! check out my blog some time if you get the time.

    ReplyDelete
  13. i never know what to pick up to read. you are really helping sort through the bullshit

    ReplyDelete
  14. will def be checking this out vsoooN thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  15. interesting blog ima have to keep updated on it

    ReplyDelete
  16. I still think manga is underrated in the west, it is a visual kind of novel really, not kids comic's.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I think I read this one already.

    ReplyDelete
  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  19. My only Anime experience is DBZ so sorry if that question was retarded. I do enjoy the TV shows though, not so much the comics...To each their own

    ReplyDelete
  20. sounds like itd be right up my alley

    ReplyDelete