青い花 – Aoi Hana/Sweet Blue Flowers

80255lFumi Manjoume, an introverted, bookish teenage girl, is beginning her first year of high school at Matsuoka Girls’ High School. She enters the school year with her heart broken by a previous relationship. At about the same time, she reconnects with her best friend from ten years ago, Akira Okudaira, who is now attending Fujigatani Girls’ Academy as a first-year high school student. As they reconnect, they both deal with their own respective romantic problems, and help each other get through them.

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There are no shortage of LGBT characters in anime, however, ones that portrays mainly love stories between girls with no over-the-top dramatic or erotic scenes is pretty scarce.  If you are looking for a girl-meets-girl story, Aoi Hana is a good option.

It’s no biggie

I like how Shimura didn’t make a big deal out of a relationship between to girls. Most romance story focusing on same-sex attraction in the west would focus on the struggle of being attracted to the same sex. They would make the coming-out scene a main turning point of the story, and have the character spend most of the story trying to gain the understanding and approval from others.

Aoi Hana had none of that. The friends didn’t care, the parents didn’t care, they seemed a bit shock to begin with but there are no overly-emotional and dramatic fighting scenes or no big speeches about love is love. The characters are just normal teenagers struggling with normal teenaged problems: having crushes, not being liked back by said crushes, and being tangled in love triangles. There are also minimal labeling. Other than Sugimoto’s sister asking her if she is bisexual, which I assumed wad done to hint that she has a crush on her male teacher, there were no other labels.

While it is important to bring awareness to the struggle LGBT people face, it is also important to have representation of same-sex relationships as just normal relationships free of big debates. Aoi Hana does just that, show its audience how it doesn’t matter who your crush is, at the end of the day they are all just teenagers trying to get a grasp with this new “relationship” thing.

I am so so glad that it didn’t become girl vs boy competing for a girl story with the girl wining and the boy being a villain. Sawano knows that Kyouko has Sugimoto. Instead of getting outraged over his fiance having a crush on another girl, he is simply sad that she doesn’t share the same feeling as he does. It is important male characters are not demonised in this series just because it is a story about girls liking girls, as this often create a feeling that straight men cannot support girls falling enough with each other.

The characters

I am going to be honest here and say that I didn’t like Fumi that much. I sometimes feel like she should be a bit more proactive instead of suffering in silence the treatments she endured. While not every characters have to be “strong” characters, I do find some of her reactions unrealistic for her age. There are times in which I feel like she should be upset or angry but she just keeps her head down and suffer through it. That’s even true for very trivial problems that could have been avoided if she acted more maturely. For example, when she mistakenly joint the basketball club instead of literature club, it shouldn’t be hard to just explain that she thought Sugimoto was in literature club and apologise straight-away. At least it would be much easier to end up in a club you don’t like for the rest of your school year or having to back out after you are already in the team. Still she was too afraid to speak up, which strikes me more as a shy child then a child teenager. That said I don’t hate her, but it is frustrating to watch her struggle through something that shouldn’t be a problem in the first place.

Akira on the other hand is a very likable character. She is cheerful most of the time but won’t shy away from getting angry and upset, and she definitely won’t shy away from showing just how angry and upset she is. She was throughly supportive of Fumi on her decisions while not being overly-intrusive. Her innocence is a great contrast with all the complicated relationships and feelings happening throughout the series. Her simple and straight-forward manner to her friends problems, such as asking Sugimoto her true feelings face-to-face, shows how emotional problems can be dealt with in a honest and open way.

I have conflicting feelings about Sugimoto. To be honest, even as a straight girl, I would have fell for Sugimoto with her handsome appearance and her mature and gentleman-like attitude around girls. However, she is an example of why we shouldn’t judge people by their appearance. Although she didn’t have any intention to hurt Fumi, she was definitely using her as a replacement of her un-answered crush on her teacher Kagami. While she isn’t mean-spirited, it’s no doubt that she is quite selfish and sometimes even being unconsciously manipulative. However, she is still a teenager despite her mature appearance. These are just shortcomings she needs to overcome, she is definitely not a bad character.

Fluid and gentle animation

I love the Shimura Takako’s water-colour palate style. Unlike most animes which have mostly solid colours, Aoi Hana’s artwork gives me a storybook feeling which fits perfectly with this calm slice of life anime. While it’s not as impressive as a Shinkai Makoto movie, it is soothing, gentle, and absolutely gorgeous.

 

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