Title: Aoi Hana aka Sweet Blue Flowers
Company: J.C. Staff
Format: 11 episodes
Dates: 2 July 2009 – 10 September 2009
Synopsis: Okudaira Akira is a freshman at Fujigaya Girls’ Academy. It is on her way to school one day that she has a serendipitous rendezvous with her childhood friend, Manjoume Fumi, who is now attending Matsuoka Girls’ High School. As the two girls become re-acquainted with each other, the new people they meet at their respective new schools send their lives into a whirlwind of drama, love and pain that forces them to look deeply within themselves.
Artwork: Gorgeous, almost dreamy.
OP: A real mood-setter.
Ending: Status quo ante bellum?
An added perk: Not everyone’s a lesbian!
The newest addition to the soon-to-become-completely-cliched schoolgirl yuri genre is Aoi Hana, Kasai Kenichi‘s newest directorial effort. There are many delightful things about this anime, but a few problems with plot prevent it from achieving excellence.
Aoi Hana‘s strengths are many. The animation is fluid and the character designs, despite being in JC Staff‘s infamously unflattering style, still manage to be reasonably elegant. Stylistically, the show is almost impressionistic; objects in the background are not well-defined, and simply blend into masses of color. This is an excellent aesthetic choice; I was definitely drawn into the characters’ dreamy, vibrant world.
Other supporting aspects of the anime are solid as well. The soundtrack (especially the OP) provides great mood-setting music, and never feels out of place. The voice acting, although a bit jarring at first, grew on me as the series progressed. I came to love Akira’s cute high-pitched squeak and Fumi’s delicate whisper as much as I came to enjoy watching them move and interact on screen. All in all, Aoi Hana is an all-around excellent aesthetic experience.
Certain aspects of the plot are innovative, as well. For starters, the characters of Aoi Hana don’t live in a parallel yuri-verse where men simply don’t exist; it is soon revealed that not every single character in the series is gay. Men play a very prominent role in the unfolding of the plot. The series is (arguably) not a love story between girls. Rather, it is an examination of heterosexual and homosexual relationships and the differences between them. There are instances within the series where characters are shown to be surprised, confused or even apprehensive about the concept of homosexuality; Fumi struggles with her own identity as a lesbian, and Akira is unsure of how to react and respond to Fumi’s coming out. A careful discrepancy is made between real lesbians and “acting” lesbians; girls who simply look up to a boyish figure because of bad experiences or dead-end relationships with men. The series attempts to question the rationale and implications of such decisions.
Which is all good and interesting, but every good story needs a resolution, and this is exactly what Aoi Hana lacks. The exposition and development of the plot are excellent, but there seems to be a lack of a credible conclusion to the story. In fact, it seems that the story has simply turned 360 degrees and ultimately, we have gone almost no further than the end of episode 1 at the end of episode 11. This is frustrating to me, because I expected a drastic shift in character relationships, or at least some tangible change in character dynamics at the end of eleven episodes. Rather, the questions I raised at the very beginning of the series remain largely unanswered. What kind of relationship does Fumi and Akira really have? It is one of love? Platonic love? Companionship? Who knows? Kasai fails to answer the central question of the series, which ultimately leads the ending to be disappointing.
Not only does the main plot not reach any sort of conclusion, but most of the sub-plots of the series remain dangling as well. In fact, the final episode of the series seems to start its own subplot, something that really shouldn’t be happening at all. I definitely feel as if I’ve been watching the first half of a potentially excellent series as opposed to a complete series with no conclusion. It is rather regrettable that Aoi Hana doesn’t tie up its own loose ends; I feel that were a second season to be made, the two series viewed together could be an absolute masterpiece, assuming the second season continues to expand upon the wealth of excellent background material in the first. But for now, as I have to evaluate Aoi Hana without its hypothetical second half, I can only regrettably call it “good”, as opposed to “great.”
The Rating: 7
Reviewed by: Akira