Sweet Blue Flowers

Alt title: Aoi Hana

Sweet Blue Flowers
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aikaflip's avatar
Dec 20, 2018

There’s no shortage of anime with apparently gay characters and pairings, or "yuri/yaoi bait" as it’s sometimes called. In many—perhaps most—cases, these characters exist as comic relief (‘Yuru Yuri’), fanservice (‘Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid’), or their romance is “implied” (‘Hibike! Euphonium’), meaning they’ll occasionally act super gay, but actually aren't.

Aoi Hana does something that's quite rare for an anime to do. It attempts to portray non-straight characters openly and legitimately without invalidating their sexual orientation as a perversion or passing phase. It tells a story that touches on the pertinent issues of social expectations and the struggle of coming-out.

In the opening episode, we meet the principal characters: Fumi Manjome, a tall yet timid girl who recently moved back to Kamakura after being away for 10-years; Akira (Achan) Okudaira, a spunky longtime resident of Kamakura; and their respective families. Both girls are due to start their freshman year at closely neighboring schools—Fumi at the prestigious Matsuoka Secondary School for Girls, and Akira at the historic Fujigaya Girls Academy. The two were classmates and best friends in elementary school until Fumi moved away. After a tearful goodbye, they promised to write each other, but neither ever did.

Fumi is visibly downcast when we first see her. She developed strong feelings for an older cousin, Chizu Hanashiro, who didn’t take things as seriously as she did. Already marred by regret over some of the choices she made, Fumi’s depression is exacerbated further when she learns that Chizu is getting married soon. To cope, she takes refuge in books, and distances herself from social contact. Conversely, Akira doesn’t appear to have much interest in love or romance yet, but can envy people who do.

Yasuko Sugimoto, a popular senior at the Matsuoka Secondary School, takes an interest in Fumi. Her personality is similar to that of the character Saint-Just from the classic 1991 anime ‘Onii-sama e...’, of which ‘Aoi Hana’—among many other shoujo-ai—could be considered an offspring. Like Saint-Just, Yasuko has a more traditionally masculine demeanor, and is deeply admired by her fellow classmates. Initially, it’s unclear what Yasuko sees in Fumi, or what her intentions are. Maybe she’s attracted to Fumi’s coy disposition; maybe she’s just appeasing her own ego; or maybe it’s something else entirely.

If you expect to see any romance between Akira and Fumi, you’ll be sorely disappointed. This adaptation only covers the first 18 chapters of the manga, which centers primarily on Akira and Fumi attempting to rekindle their friendship, the relationship between Fumi and Yasuko, and the love interests of some of the supporting characters. Two complaints I sometimes hear about this series is that it has a somewhat abrupt, read-the-manga, ending, and the pacing is very relaxed. My own criticism would be of the sexual assault in the first episode that’s used as a catalyst to reunite Fumi and Akira. I wish they could’ve been brought back together under better circumstances.

Aoi Hana was animated with a tranquil pastel pallet by JC Staff (‘Shoujo Kakumei Utena’), and masterfully directed by Kenichi Kasai (‘Nodame Cantabile’), who brilliantly captures the non-verbal cues and body language of Takako Shimura’s bold manga. If you’re looking for a mature, unusually nuanced, LGBT anime, I highly recommend Aoi Hana. If you enjoy it as much as I do, you may want to consider buying the recently released Blu-ray from Nozomi/Lucky Penny Entertainment; the English title is ‘Sweet Blue Flowers.’ Apparently, Aoi Hana didn’t sell well in Japan when it was originally released in 2009. To have more series like this, it helps to support them.

7/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
7/10 characters
8/10 overall
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haize78's avatar
Dec 22, 2014

This is just a pretty average anime. If you're watching it for the love story: don't even bother. If you see it as the portrayal of a friendship, it just might be worth watching.

Animation and sound are nothing exceptional. It's a water-colour style animation, with soft pastel hues. It doesn't look bad, but nothing noteworthy.

The story and characters are pretty mediocre as well. Fumi relocates to this town after a ten year absence. She is heart-broken when she finds out that her cousin is getting married, gets re-acquainted with her childhood friend A-chan who helps her recover, starts high school, falls in love with a tomboyish girl who is her senior at school, is dumped and is consequentially heart-broken again, and A-chan naturally has to confort her again. That's pretty much it. There is then the parallel story of the aforementioned senpai's unrequited love, and then yet another schoolgirl in love - obviously unreturned - with the same boyish looking girl, Sugimoto-senpai.

Fumi is this shy, cry-baby character with a soft, thin voice. I didn't particularly dislike her even though she was crying all the time and in the long run it tends to wear down your patience; there was even one moment when she actually acted cool, when she spoke her mind to Sugimoto-senpai, telling her that she should grow up and that if your love is unrequited you should just gracefully give up. And this Sugimoto-senpai is the idol of the two girls-only schools attended by Fumi and A-chan, wherever she goes there are girls swooning, giggling and secretly taking pictures - makes you wonder about the wisdom of all-girls schools. Anyway, the only character worth mentioning is A-chan. She is nicely described. There isn't much development, but from the beginning she's a really likeable character and she remains so constantly to the end. Maybe Fumi thanks to all the heart-break does develop a bit, but just a smidge. The other character that takes up a lot of the screen time is Sugimoto-senpai, she is depicted as the school idol who all the girls are in love with but who is in love with the one person she can't have. And you do get a bit of backstory, but she lacks depth like all the other characters so she's just as inconsequential as all the rest.

I really don't know what else to say. It wasn't a bad watch, but really there wasn't anything memorable, not the story, not the characters, not the animation. One likeable character just isn't enough to save it from mediocrity.

3/10 story
5/10 animation
4/10 sound
4/10 characters
4/10 overall
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RiseAgain's avatar
Dec 4, 2013

Introduction

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.

Story

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.

Animation

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.

Sound

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".

Characters

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.

Overall

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

8/10 story
10/10 animation
8/10 sound
8.5/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
DatYandereGirl's avatar
Feb 5, 2013

Story

There's this shy girl who just moved back to the town she grew up in. She reunites with her childhood friend and they resume a friendship they thought had lost. Later the shy girl meets a boyish senior who all the lower grade students adore, because of course it's an all girls school. You've heard this before?  Not surprising really, why?  Because this is same story in every shoujo-ai. Aoi Hana does it good with a few subplots thrown into the mix to help keep things interesting. It's a very basic shoujo-ai story so it was mostly just a checklist anime.  Shy girl, check.  Childhood friend, check.  Boyish older girl, check. 


Animation 

The story being drawn out across the eleven episodes causes the scenes to drag. The subtle movements and facial emotions, beautiful. Watching a woman paint for a bit with only the camera moving and a voice over...   Not my thing.  May be yours, but it isn't mine. The animation follows the slow pacing of the story. While beautiful to look at it does get boring.

Sound 

 Such a beautiful song accompanied by the animation. The piano, the singer, that swell after the recap of the last episode.

The voice actor for Akira?  She matches personality, the way she looks, and brings the character to life. Sugimoto, typicl boyish girl in any anime. The voice actor brings a nice monotone voice to the character, matching her personality of being closed with everyone around her. Keeping her emotions to herself.  Fumi is the one I have a problem with. She's a shy girl, she would rather keep to herself. Her voice should be timid, and frail. 

Characters 

Fumi is really a basic character model for shy girls. She even wears glasses and enjoys reading. It's hard to become emotionally attached to a character that is really defined by one word, shy. The only reason I was cheering for her at all is because she is one of the main protagonists. Akira is fun, outgoing, and a blabbermouth. 

Overall 

If you want to finish out AP's shoujo-ai list, watch it. 

5/10 story
5/10 animation
10/10 sound
8/10 characters
7/10 overall
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tarent's avatar
Aug 6, 2012

 So I'm back to anime after a toku binge. My first thoughts? I am really behind. But I said whatever and decided to watch whatever I thought looked good and don't worry if I'm watching something new or old. I also decided to start writing reviews. So I sat down and asked myself which anime I should start with. I had an urge for some shoujo-ai, so I decided to rewatch this series. I promise my next reviews won't have long winded speeches of my life before them. Without further a due, Aoi Hana review.

Story 6/10

Okay, so there's this shy girl who just moved back to the town she grew up in. She reunites with her childhood friend and they resume a friendship they thought long lost. Later the shy girl meets a boyish senior who all the lower grade students adore, because of course it's an all girls school.  What?  You've heard this before?  Not surprising really, why?  Because this is same story in every shoujo-ai. Aoi Hana does it good with a few subplots thrown into the mix to help keep things interesting. I don't loathe the story, but usually I get really emotionally involved in a story, throwing myself into that world.  But I couldn't with this one. It's a very basic shoujo-ai story so it was mostly just a checklist anime.  Shy girl, check.  Childhood friend, check.  Boyish older girl, check.  You get the picture.

The basic story may throw off more veteran shoujo-ai fans, and the way it drags on and on will discourage all other anime fans. You really want to just yell; get on with it! There are only eleven episodes and it really drags those episodes out without getting to the obvious ending.  Which if you have ever watched a shoujo-ai or even a romance anime before, you can pick it out from a mile away.

Lastly, being a shoujo-ai there are to many non shoujo-ai romance subplots. By to many I mean they outnumber them. Between the love triangle, the love rectangle, and the brother subplot.(One of the girls friends fall for the protaganists brother.), it trails away from being that pure shoujo-ai creation.

Animation 9/10

A high score. Why? It deserves it. Why is it not a ten? Well, I have to refer back to the story. The story being so drawn out across the eleven episodes causes the scenes to drag. The subtle movements and facial emotions, beautiful. Watching a woman paint for a bit with only the camera moving and a voice over?  Not my thing.  May be yours, but it isn't mine. The animation follows the slow pacing of the story. While beautiful to look at it does get boring.

Sound 5/10

Oh, the opening. Such a beautiful song accompanied by the animation. The piano, the singer, that swell after the recap of the last episode. It's great, so what brings it down? All the other music. I can't really remember any of it, I think it was mostly piano pieces. They don't stick with you like the opening does.  The ending falls in with al the other non opening songs.

The voice actor for Akira, perfect. She matches personality, the way she looks, and brings the character to life. Sugimoto, typicl boyish girl in any anime. The voice actor brings a nice monotone voice to the character, matching her personality of being closed with everyone around her. Keeping her emotions to herself.  Fumi is the one I have a problem with. She's a shy girl, she would rather keep to herself. Her voice should be timid, and frail. Which it is, but to much. Fumi sounds like she's on her death bed. She sounds way to frail, she's much to soft spoken. The voice never matched up to the character for me.

Characters 5/10

Shy Fumi is really a basic character model for shy girls. She even wears glasses and enjoys reading. It's hard to become emotionally attached to a character that is really defined by one word, shy. The only reason I was rooting for her at all is because she is one of the main protagonists. Akira is fun, outgoing, and a blabbermouth. Akira is fun. I was much more interested in seeing what Akira was going to do in a situation than any other character. Sugimoto is the average boyish girl, though she does have the best(and most plotted out) back story. The others characters aren't particularly worth mentioning. The cast is lack luster and it's only saving grace is Akira.

Overall 6.25/10

This could have gone so much better. The short period of time to have with the characters doesn't allow you to grow attached or care. It's also very basic, leaving no room for many surprises along the way. You know what's coming before it happens, and you know what the ultimate outcome will be.

If you want to finish out AP's shoujo-ai list, watch it. If you're looking for a romance story that you can invest your time into and become attached to the characters and emotionally invested in the story, go watch Nana.  

6/10 story
9/10 animation
5/10 sound
5/10 characters
6.3/10 overall
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XxZeroeZxX's avatar
Feb 3, 2011

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?

8/10 story
6/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
7/10 characters
7.5/10 overall
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Galadriel's avatar
Dec 5, 2010

Aoi Hana (Sweet Blue Flowers)


Plot: "Shy, crybaby Fumi has just transferred into Matsuoka Girl’s High School, in the city of Kamakura. It’s been ten years since she moved away, leaving her dear friend Akira behind; and soon, the two are reunited once more. Akira is now attending Fujigaya Girls’ Academy, though she and Fumi still manage to see each other regardless. Between classes and social engagements, the two will experience love, the struggle to admit one’s true feelings, and the joy of companionship." (site synopsis)

Story: Yet another shoujo-ai work that came out last year. Aside from the other shoujo-ai that i reviewed recently, Sasameki Koto i liked this one slightly more since it accomplished in 11 episodes what Sasameki Koto couldn't do in 13 episodes. The story revolves around two high school girls, the energetic and cheerful Akira Okudaira and the shy, crybaby Fumi Manjoume. Back when they were in elementary school they used to be very good friends, they were hanging out toghether helping eachother until one day when Fumi had to move with her parents to a different place. The anime depicts the moment when she reestablishes in her childhood town once again and enroling in Matsuoka Girl’s High School. Fate has it that Akira and Fumi meet but since many years they haven't met nor talked they forgot eachother. Akira remained as cheerful and as energetic as always while Fumi remained the same old crybaby like in her childhood. However Fumi grew taller than Akira and it was understandable why they couldn't recognize eachother. The same day Fumi's mother took her to visit an old accquaitance of her and there Fumi realizes that the girl who helped her in the train the same day happened to be her old friend Akira (or Acchan as she used to call her). Unlike Sasameki Koto where there were only two main lesbian pairs here we deal with something a bit more complicated, love triangles, more angst and alot of unclear situations. Fumi and Akira quickly got along and reestablished their friendship, but will this remain the same? Here is where the complicated things start to happen. As soon as Fumi settles in Matsuoka Girl's High School she gets to meet a special upperclassmen Yasuko Sugimoto. It is not long until Yasuko tells Fumi that she actualy has feelings for her and she wishes to date her. At first Fumi accepted it, but since society doesn't view these things with good eyes they had to keep it a secret. However Yasuko is Matsuoka's school idol and things were not that simple. Another girl that had a crush one her Kyoko Ikumi, which happened to be Akira's classmate kept trying to become her lover but Yasuko's feelings for her were non-existant. She got rejected. There wasn't long until Fumi realized that Yasuko doesn't really love her, that she is actualy the object which should distract her from her true love. Unfortunately there won't be too much development between Akira and Fumi. I expected Fumi to have feelings for Akira since they've been friends from way back but its not until the end when she realizes that Akira was actualy her first love. Pretty complicated story which kinda resembles real life in its own way. Unlike Sasameki Koto, even though there was room for more development in this one, the ending seemed like a good point where you can finish a series without yearning for more. Unfortunately the author of the manga stated that because of low disk sales, this won't get a second season so the only option is to go on with the manga.

Animation and Sound: Splendid animation quality, design and directing. The background design were made in a proffesional way and the character designs as well, way better animation than what I've seen in Sasameki Koto. The sound was kinda forgetable and judging from my tastes, really slow ones but typical for slow-paced shows, but definitely not something that is on my tastes. Background sounds were good which fit the atmosphere of the anime.

Characters: What I liked about this show is that all and i mean all the characters were completely developed to their full potential, nothing was left in the dark absolutely no holes in portraying them. We face a theme that is rare in this kinda of shows "appearence different than personality" and yeah I'm pointing at Fumi especially. Her height kinda betrays the fact that deep down inside she is actualy very delicate, shy and a crybaby. I liked how the secondary characters such as Kyoko and Yasuko were developed almost the same effort was put in these characters like in the main ones.

Overall: Short but good, at times boring but in the end worth watching. Those that do not enjoy slow-paced/slice of life shows should really stay away from this one, but those that do enjoy them will find something pretty surprizing. The ending, at least for me, didn't make me yearn for more, its as if "hey, she realized in the end, so thats enough for me, i don't wana get into another love story, into another melodrama". Though i still wonder whether Fumi's love was one-sided or Akira had feelings for her as well but without knowing. Well first thing I will do is to keep with the manga since the possibility of having another season is unfortunately out of the question at this time. Probably later when things settle down a second season might not be something impossible.

~Enjoy and Cya Around~

9/10 story
9/10 animation
6.5/10 sound
10/10 characters
8.7/10 overall
PandaBeard's avatar
Aug 24, 2010

Life is hard. Paying the bills, Remembering the answers to that really tough math quiz, Choosing an anime or manga to satisfy that vampire-esque craving. Or sometimes its finding love. Aoi Hana is an anime that expresses many of those moments of struggle in a daily life, especially in the life of one of its title characters Fumi. Fumi is your average teenage girls just struggling with all of lives common struggles. School, friendship, love?

Premise is A typical. Nice twist in sexuality. Not uncommon is anime genres, I am not unmoved by its plot, with that said I must say that Aoi Hana can hold its own against any storyline. 

Animation was average. Certain background scenes looked beautiful, I find pieced well with its soundtrack makes for a calming and charming animation.

Soundtrack was also A typical, but it soothes and calms with its wispy piano blowing in the breeze with animation that compliments.

Characters I found well developed. Amazing reconnection between the title characters from beginning to end.

I must say that "Slice Of Life" anime just sells me. Had many different elements to that "Slice Of Life" feel on the wave of Honey & Clover, 5 centimeters per second, to even NANA. No matter what your feelings are towards same-sex anything. An anime fan or Otaku should put that aside and be proud that they watched a fine anime such as Aoi Hana.

PandaBeard!

7/10 story
6.5/10 animation
6.5/10 sound
8/10 characters
7/10 overall
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sleepercat236's avatar
Apr 12, 2010

Please, please disregard the official review. I understand that everyone has different tastes, but I believe ThePatches is unreasonably harsh. This anime presents a beautiful and touching portrat of first love. It is also among the most well known and well recieved Yuri anime, and is much loved by the lesbian community. Erica Friedman, President of Yuricon and ALC Publishing, says it best:

"But what really sets this series apart from the pack is the story itself. Fumi's struggle to understand herself in relationship to the people around her, her growth and her brutal honesty transports this story from the realm of the typical into a sphere of storytelling far surpassing most Yuri in general. This is a classic "character-driven" story, in which the depth of the main characters strongly affects what little action takes place." (Taken from AfterEllen, link provided below)

The anime is well worth watching and I highly recommend it. The story does progress somewhat slow and could perhaps also fall under the "slice of life" category. So bare in mind that it may take a few episodes to really get into it, but you will!

If you are looking for a more indepth or detailed review of this anime, Erica Friedman has reviewed it on her blog Okazu (http://okazu.blogspot.com/2009/07/new-anime-season-summer-2009-yuri-anime.html) and on AfterEllen, as sighted above (http://www.afterellen.com/TV/2009/9/aoi-hana-review?page=0%2C1). The review on AfterEllen does contain spoilers. You might read it after you have watched the anime. It provides some interesting background and insight.

9/10 story
8/10 animation
7/10 sound
8/10 characters
9/10 overall
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yuelio's avatar
Mar 26, 2010

First of all, if you were expecting hot lesbian sex action, this anime is defintely not for you. There's not even fanservice, or anything like that. Now that's not the reason of such a low score on this one, you see. 

Story 

Overall the story is quite dramatic and tries to be mellow and sad, almost all the time. Even the happy moments are stained of tears, and heartbreaking memories. Personally I believe is ideal for people who love to get depressed but not for me.

The love scenes on the other hand are always soft, shy, dull or without passion. It's true that there's more chemistry in A-chan's and Fumi's friendship that in ANY other relationships here. Putting out when Fumi is pissed of with ... won't tell, Akira and Fumi's friendship and the borning love of Fumi's friend for certain brother, every other relationship is dull, pathetic or too mellow or freaky to my taste. 

I just felt emotions two times, laughter in a ghost story cliche and sadness where the truth on Sugimoto's head is revealed to her. 

Animation 

The drawings are quite sweet but nothing that we haven't seen before. The only thing I must admit I like are the backgrounds and the soft colors used on every place. The use of light and dark is well suited  too for every environment... what a pity for the characters that have as dull moves and simple animations as a paper bag floating by the wind. 

Sound

Well the opening and ending were not very special but they are pretty kind and light, ideal for the job, as for the background music that makes you want to cut your arms several times with a little sugar on the top.  Hated the voices... they had to choose between not having any emotion at all as Sugimoto's or screaming babies as A-chan and Fumi's friends. 

Characters

And finally I come to the part where I hated this serie... every character is a selfish ... and I don't know if I can say the other word here... starts with W... let to your imaginations. The only character I give a point is for A-chan's sweet behaviour and maybe Sugimoto's sisters...

The others minds are trapped inside their own selfish needs and confused by their emotions. Every character, cuz I'm not stoping in love but I could include brother complex or maybe... just maybe this is too japanese for me. Its true its another culture and I can't understand their emotions but... still I hate selfish characters...I hate heroes that want to makes us believe they are in love or in pain but actually, they were the ones which produced that pain to others or are fooling their own hearts. So I just recomend this serie if you REALLY are ok with this way of seeing things.

4/10 story
6/10 animation
8/10 sound
1/10 characters
4.5/10 overall
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n00bl3t's avatar
Nov 19, 2009

Story:

It would have been fun to jump on the bandwagon and slap true shoujo-ai fans with a trout at what has been toted as the greatest failure since humans were created, but no. A proper review needed to be written to not just go with the crowd choice award.

The story has the usual setting; a school, with the main characters being schoolgirls. Pretty obvious stuff, but it needed going over. The anime centers around the life of a first year highschool girl, Fumi Manjōme and her relationship with a popular senior, Yasuko Sugimoto. Of course, there had to be a jealous fan who is also out to snare the popular senior, namely Kyōko Ikumi, as well as Akira Okudaira, a friend to support Fumi.

Their complex interactions in this twisted love quadliteral make up the bulk of the story.

Most of the major drama is skimmed over lightly and it is quite obvious that it is done purposefully, whether it works or not is up to you. It worked fine for me, since I knew this was not meant to be an epic story about saving the world but rather a small slice of life detailing a Class S relationship.

Animation:

A visual treat. Bright, watercoloured frames with delicious backgrounds and smoothly detailed characters. (Supposedly there is CGI in there, but I could not spot it, I blame my age.)

The shadows are reasonably dynamic and the different times of day are displayed flawlessly with the lighting.

The only thing that stopped me from giving this section full marks was that some scenes were overly bright and hurt my eyes. (Again, must be my age.)

Sound:

Not much to say here. The OP sounds nice and works perfectly for the animation it was designed for, but after you stop watching the anime it leaves your head. The same goes for the quiet piano instrumentals that echo through the anime at various times.

The voice cast was well chosen. Yasuko's firm unemotional tone, and Fumi's soft, shy voice, which has some sweetness in it is conveyed extremely well. However, Akira takes the cake. The emotion just bubbles out of her voice.

Characters:

Will be filled in fully later. In short, Akira was undoubtedly one of the most entertaining characters to have on screen. Fumi was one of the most annoying, because of how much she cries, but that added to the anime. Yasuko was too cool and mysterious, and more was needed on her past for us to appreciate her. Kyōko was almost a complete flop, added in to bring an extra dimension to the story but the anime could have done without her. She needed to have her motivation for liking Yasuko explained.

Overall:

The anime does what it is supposed to.

Detailed visuals with a solid soundtrack and voice cast chosen almost perfectly for the anime make it use up time and provide light entertainment just as it was meant to.

(In closing, this anime got rough treatment from the majority of reviewers, which it did not deserve.)

7/10 story
9/10 animation
8/10 sound
7/10 characters
8/10 overall
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Doommuks's avatar
Nov 17, 2009

Wery first of all..... i watched it like one or two episodes per day so i realy enjoyed it... i know in that week i managed to piss everybody off saying that this was an exelent anime ^^ Gomen.....
Anyway... the main point why i enjoyed Aoi hana was becouse it was the long wanted Romance anime without any ecchi or comedy or stuff like that..... The week that i watched it was wery stresfull for me a lot of studies (friging two schools) and i even had work (HUNTING) so this anime relieved the whole stress of my back whitch makes it the perfect for the ppl that have wery little time and a lot on nerves.

8/10 and dont even try to say anything about my bad english

8/10 story
9/10 animation
8/10 sound
8/10 characters
8/10 overall
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chii's avatar
Oct 19, 2009

This show was so boring... I mean i knew what i was getting into with it as it's a Shoujo-ai anime at an all girls school. So i was expecting Maria sama with different characters. I can't believe this show actually made Maria sama look good... Yes while both had whiny, bitchy characters. Aoi Hana turned up the drama and waterworks past the dial limit. It was very annoying to watch a girl crying every episode about whatever crisis was occuring at that very moment. It was very easy not to pay attention for 10 mins and still figure out what was going on.. even if nothing really happened for the majority of the time. for an anime so short it seemed like each episode was over an hour long. wishing for the anime to end while you are on ep 2 is never a good sign. At least the animation was pretty...

2/10 story
8/10 animation
5/10 sound
2/10 characters
1/10 overall
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sothis's avatar
Oct 2, 2009

There's no mistaking that Aoi Hana is exceptionally drop dead gorgeous. With watercolored backgrounds that appear to have been taken straight out of Iblard Jikan and a flawless mix of CG and regular animation, Aoi Hana would seem to be a must-see.

Except that it's so, so incredibly boring that I almost cried alongside the characters in Aoi Hana, who also incessantly cry.

To be clear, I like slow anime; Kino no Tabi, Haibane Renmei and Piano are three slice of life titles that I love to death. But Aoi Hana is easily in my top 5 (or maybe even 3) most boring titles of all time. It's soul crushingly slow and uninteresting to the point that I had to watch the last episode in pieces to remain coherent.

Preliminary reviews of Aoi Hana seem polarized - at least on the surface - between those who are avid readers/watchers of shoujo-ai, and those who aren't. Those who are have heralded Aoi Hana to be rich in character development, especially compared to other titles in the genre. I fully admit that it could be I'm not a conniseur of shoujo-ai; I don't mind it, as I watch romance/drama anime for the romance/drama, and not the sex of the couples. Regardless, I have no desire to compare Aoi Hana to other shoujo-ai titles - compared to other titles period, it's flat out uninteresting and slow to a fault.

Character-wise, it's difficult for me to understand the argument that Aoi Hana is filled with fantastic beings. From the get-go I was put off by Fumi's obnoxious, inappropriate crying, and the rest of the characters don't have nearly the amount of depth I'd expect from such a well-lauded show.

Romance-wise, by the end of episode three at least one relationship has begun to flourish - but frankly I didn't care at all. There's nothing three dimensional or deep here - same-sex aside, I found much more value and impact from a series like Paradise Kiss.

Maybe I'm just missing something, but I could barely get through three episodes of Aoi Hana, and I definitely won't be watching the rest. It's beautiful, but ultimately was a huge waste of my time.

3/10 story
8/10 animation
7/10 sound
2/10 characters
4/10 overall
ThePatches's avatar
Sep 16, 2009

Story

I want to preface this review with the simple statement: I love J.C. Staff. Toradora! and Nodame Cantabile occupy spots on my "Top 5"; I've been able to recite Lina Inverse's Dragon Slave chant (Slayers) for almost a decade; and I laugh heartily every week at the antics of Hayate and the gang (Hayate no Gotoku!!). Combined with my growing appreciation for shoujo-ai anime, I figured I would find their 2009 anime, Aoi Hana, enchanting. Wrong. Instead of adding another sterling title to one of my preferred genres, my favorite studio coughed up a pretty picture-book about a pair of girls' schools, and then marred it with a halfhearted story of heartbreak and friendship.

Over its too-short eleven episodes, Aoi Hana details the life of a high school freshman, Fumi, and her relationship with a senior at her new high school. To spice things up, the series throw the lead's childhood friend and a classmate who harbors a deep, unrequited love for the princely upperclassman into the mix, creating an odd love-polygon. Closely monitored, the interactions between these girls could have made for compelling drama, but the show's obsession with its own beautiful scenery and failure to flesh out its its main characters torpedoed the effort. Scenes of school and town life dominate each episode, forcing the story to the sidelines and causing the narrative to skip jarringly around without much context or reflection. Interesting bits of history do spin off the central characters, but the series refuses to chase their consequences, leaving any potentially rewarding plot threads hanging in the warm summer breeze.

The lax focus even sucks vitality from what little plot does mange to play out. When major dramatic moments arrive, the series seems to lack the guts to really drive them home and the show quickly cuts from any confrontational events to pan over more scenery. The fleeting and deft approach to these major interpersonal interactions does not generate the aura of maturity and realism that the series likely intends. Robbed of sufficient buildup and receiving only the faintest attention from the narrative, almost all the story's twists and turns arrive with a sigh instead of a bang.


Animation

On a positive note, it appears that J.C. Staff placed the fantastic art team of Nodame Cantabile at the reins. Whereas its predecessor uses the climatic concerts as excuses to flex its visual muscles in lock-step with its plot, Aoi Hana milks its relaxed narrative to trot out the sumptuous backgrounds and understated animation during every break in the action. The watercolor scenery here rivals any I've seen in the genre, and the series so flawlessly integrates its limited CGI into the frame that only under careful scrutiny can the viewer differentiate between computer models and hand drawings. Each shot's lighting is also superb. From the change in light quality when episodes transition between day, afternoon, and night to the tiny sparkles on falling tears, this series creates a sense of reality and place that contributes to the ambiance. However, the focus on the setting and heavy use of montage that flows from it causes some episodes to play out more like a series of paintings than an animated TV show. No matter how pretty, still shots of the school buildings and town get old after a time and their pervasive presence drains valuable screen time from the cast interaction.


Sound

Aoi Hana sounds pleasant enough. The OP swells beautifully from silence into an enchanting little melody, but the series once again chooses staid over melodramatic and the performance doesn't capitalize on the song's potential. Following the tone set by the OP, the rest of the gentle soundtrack, comprised mostly of classical piano pieces, perfectly compliments the series' laid-back visuals, but quickly fades from memory.

On the whole, the voice cast's approach to the script follows the musical components' level of uninspired competence. Chiemi Ishimatsu delivers Sugimoto in a listless monotone that perfectly matches her character's expression. In this case, Ishimatsu-san does the audience a disservice by failing to provide any nuance that would have given greater insight into the character. Additionally, the normally electric Yui Horie vanishes into Kyoko, which particularly disappoints given the actress steals nearly every scene when she appears in Kanamemo and Bakemonogatari (both airing in the same season). In contrast, Akira's seiyuu, Gibu Yuko deserves special mention for bringing her vivacious charge to life. Much of Akira's personality comes through perfectly in Gibu-san's interpretation, and her effervescence brings a smile to my face every time the she opens her mouth.


Characters

Akira's forthright nature, cavalier attitude, and friendly demeanor make her the only bright point in an otherwise completely lackluster main cast. While we're given a cute trio of girls and a pair of amusing boys to round out the auxiliaries, Weepy (Fumi), Beanpole (Sugimoto), and Fangirl (Kyoko) consume most of the screen time. The principal lead drifts through the series, substituting tears for positive action and allowing and her sempai's whims to run roughshod over her feelings. Mild mannered to a fault, the tearful girl abides and trusts when she should resist and question. Under normal circumstances, this young lady's thrashing and inner dialog would illuminate her decisions and consume the anime's quiet moments, but not so here. Instead, the anime locks Fumi's inner conflict behind inscrutable facial expressions aggravated by the series' understated artwork. Her mood appears to shift between listless melancholy and vague discomfort, neither of which betray any depth of feeling or aching love for Sugimoto. When the protagonist finally starts to change in the second half of the season, her pivotal moments arise out of nowhere and ring hollow as a consequence of this largely hidden emotional evolution.

Neither of the other two girls in the love triangle prove any more interesting. The writers had probably intended Sugimoto's stoicism and willfulness to come across as coy and capricious, but her stony-faced expressions, even-tempered voice, and extremely late-coming background portray her as merely mysterious throughout most of the series. Confused, heartless, and impossible to read, she doesn't even divulge enough of herself to either inspire hatred on the part of the audience or justify her admirers' affections. Kyoko similarly shows nothing to the audience save for her slavish love and devotion to her sempai. The few moments she shares with other cast members paint her as a typical high school girl and don't explain what makes her tick. Towards the show's end, she receives a small bit of back-story, but it only provides her the thinnest of motivations, generating an "I guess..." from the viewer instead of an "Ah-ha!". Given that the three main actors in this drama are ciphers, it's hard to empathize with anyone. Even the more interesting side characters like Sugimoto's sisters and the sponsor of the Fujigaya Academy's drama club can only bring so much to the story when the leads give the plot so little to work with.


Overall

Aoi Hana's setup could have delivered a deep and engaging love story, but its inability to stay focused on its narrative spoils the effort. No matter how lush the visuals, drama sinks or floats on its ability to elicit empathy from its audience. In choosing to showcase the scenery around town at every opportunity, the show robs the viewers of the time necessary to understand its main characters, blunting the effect of what could have been powerful emotional moments in these girls' lives. Unfortunately, what attention the anime does pay to its central plot cripples it as a slice-of-life venture, and in the end it drops both balls. Aoi Hana takes itself on a jaunt around a beautiful town during which the series gets lost, arrives at nowhere, and tries to claim it as a destination.

2/10 story
8/10 animation
6/10 sound
2/10 characters
4.5/10 overall