As a guy that has come across little in terms of watching shojo-ai based anime, I have to say as a 'person looking in' this has been a wonderful experience, appealing to a new aspect of myself and reminding me what diversity is out there in anime. Please note that i've just finished watching the anime today and will probably be extremely biased toward it.
The story revolves around Manjoume Fumi whom has returned to her hometown of Kamakura after ten years living away leaving her dear childhood friend Akira Okudaira behind. With her return, the old friendship between the two is kindled immediately with the two striking up a closer friendship than ever going about their highschool lives. With Fumi going to Matsuoka Girl’s High School and Akira going to the prestigous Fujigaya Girls’ Academy the two make their own friends with Fumi, meeting the strinkingly handsome 3rd Year student Yasuko Sugimoto and Akira, meeting the 1st Year student Kyouko Ikumi, this encounter of fate leads to something more than friendship between the characters.
The first point I will look at will be the context to the story; the creators of Aoi Hana have done excellently in building the history of the characters with the scenes interwoven within the main storyline creating a real sense of emotional tension that lended to developing the 'true' personalities of the girls invloved, the effect this had on me was profound and really played a vital role in putting me emotionally invested to each of the character's storyline. The love polygon in particular had me rooting for the happy ending for all the characters involved, however, as with all Japanese drama the 'sad' ending was to be the likely outcome with winners and losers. The sub-plots within the story were also a form of relief from the high tension the main plot had and were actually entertaining to observe and absolutely suits the 'school life' genre which makes it a story where you can relate (following how it would be in real life but still distinguishing itself as fiction).
The second point i'll be addressing for the story is the genre of shojo-ai, the relationship formed was tackled extremely well (I lack the knowledge of other shojo-ai animes with a similar plot) and didn't create the awkward atmosphere that I expected watching this genre, in fact it actually made me focus more on the 'romance' and 'compainionship' aspect the anime had and actually reminded me of Hourou Musko which I rated quite highly.
The last point i'll be tackling is the length of the story, over 11 episodes I believe the story conveyed was very powerful despite the fact that I do agree that this could have been extended to 16 to 24 episodes but inversely the compression of the story made it more the impactful though I have to admit the dissappointment I have for the penultimate episodes, though I did leave the anime with a rather 'warm' feeling of contentment with no major qualms with the ending.
The animation for Aoi Hana was absolutely beautiful with the backgrounds and artistic style probably one of the most pleasing to look at from the last decade. It lends itself well into the story being illustrated and a particular scene, that with the grade schoolers acting out 'The Little Prince' was a true show of a story being portrayed solely through the animation of a few frames.
J.C Staff have done an excellent job on Aoi Hana and is probably at the top in terms of animation from the work that this studio has created.
The sound and music has contributed largely to making the anime as emotionally intensive as its been. I actually listened to the opening every episode of the anime when I usually skip it for other animes and to me is a good indication of an anime with good sound. The voice actors in particular were actually so befitting of each character with their voice reflecting their personality to a "T".
In conjunction with the story, the characters in the anime were actually quite well thought through and constructed though this might not be as obvious on the surface. The nuances and subtle changes and development of each character were actually quite hard to catch even the supporting cast in the anime revealed a diversity of aspects through little nuances in the story. To a veteran shojo-ai watcher I might just be babbling but personally the characters provided a change to my usual watching habits and has opened up a new aspect of characters and character development.
I know this was a spur-of-the-moment review, being my first ever anime review and all with quite a few bias's because of the resonating story it had on me but I really believe Aoi Hana was well worth watching, I did actually think the anime had a KEY animation feel to it and I definietly recommend the anime if you're searching for something new and want to break out of the usual tedium you perhaps watch.
Please leave a comment below on what you think of the review, positive criticism is also appreciated but please note this was semi-improvised :^)
Thanks again for reading the review! - Riseagain 04/12/13