Second time, not quite the charm (better than the first though)
I should have known better. Why did I watch Sasameki Koto again? I mean, it was disappointing enough the first time. Oh wait... this is a different anime? Aoi Hana. That's pretty much my overall impression of this series. Though that's not totally fair. There's a reason I haven't (and probably won't) review Sasameki Koto. 'My mama always said if you ain't got nothin nice to say don't say nothin at all.' So it's fair to say that Aoi Hana is definitely an improvement upon SK. Mostly, this is in the area of the story. Aoi Hana has significantly more depth than its counterpart. While SK is about a tall shy girl going after her best friend the whole series, in Aoi Hana the tall shy girl is (for the bulk of the story) in love with a taller sempai and uses her friend as a shoulder to cry on. Literally. There is WAY too much crying in this series. Really, it's almost to an offensive level, so if you're a feminist do not watch this series. But pushing that aside, the plot is actually quite complex. The so-called web-of-intrigue for this series is vast and intertwining. This may be one of the few anime in which the characters seem to have a better sense of what's going on than the viewer. I personally didn't find this aspect bothersome, in fact I welcomed it. But I'm sorry to say that the good times didn't last. This is one thing that the viewer could pick up easily. The relationship is formed too early on so you know right away that eventually it's gonna break off. The post break-up portion of the series is certainly lesser than what preceded it. The web-of-intrigue degenerates into a well of self-pity, one-sided love, and reminiscence. The way I've explained it, this might still sound interesting... not really. But unlike the non-existent ending sequence of SK, there was still hope down the stretch for Aoi Hana. Sugimoto-sempai is able to get over her past love and seems willing to take Fumi-chan back. But Fumi denies her feelings and chooses to stay by Aachan's side instead. In case you're not seeing where I'm going with this, I wanted Fumi-chan and Sugimoto to get back together. That would've put this series at least in the discussion with the greatest Shoujo-ai anime there is, Strawberry Panic. It wouldn't be on the same level as Strawberry Panic, but still a firm number 2. Yes, the ending is VERY similar to the "ending" of SK. However, even if it wasn't the ending I wanted, at least there was something there. Going beyond the story and moving towards the other points of the review, the animation design I must say is rather poor. I liked it for the first episode, but then it just got old. I understand that it was meant to be a simple animation design, but this was poorly done for such a modern vintage. The scenery for the most part I don't have complaints; it's more the character design and structure. The OP and ED are pretty good and appropriate; also the insert song in the final episode is quite good. The characters are more than a sum of their parts, but still lacking overall. I must say that for a shoujo-ai anime, two of the three male characters are portrayed quite well particularly Kou. And to be fair, I liked the supplemental characters for the most part. The main characters were the weak link particularly Fumi. Sumika from Sasameki Koto was definitely the better tall shy girl. One last thing, I think one reason why Aoi Hana didn't reach the heights it could have is simply that it was too short. The difference between 11 eps and 12 or 13 eps is amazing. Basically there is one main thread that holds the story together, but when it snaps (i.e. the break-up) the series is left with too much to do in too little time. In conclusion, Aoi Hana is a good Shoujo-ai, if you're a fan of the genre I'm sure you'll enjoy it, I'd give it a 7.5 out of 10. But just so I can fit my rant in here, is there any Shoujo-ai other than Strawberry Panic that has a true lovers ending?