License request day: Aoi Hana

The impetus for a license request can be very simple, but it can also come from a variety of triggers. For instance, someone might casually mention a Japanese magazine that interests me like Ohta Shuppan’s Manga Erotics F. (Any magazine that can host both Natsume Ono’s Ristorante Paradiso and Usumaru Furuya’s Lychee Light Club is bound to catch and hold my attention.) It might also be a week when The Josei Alphabet featured a number of intriguing-sounding titles that featured romances between women. And one might add to that the happy anticipation of the first volume of Takako Shumira’s Wandering Son, to be translated by Matt Thorn, who always has interesting things to say on the subject.

So, with these guideposts, we arrive quite naturally at Takako’s Aoi Hana, a complex yuri romance which is running in Manga Erotics F and has five collected volumes at this point. It’s about the web of friendships and romance among the members of a high-school drama club. For me, commentary on the quality of yuri romance doesn’t get more reliable than that provided by Erica (Okazu) Friedman, so let’s see what she has to say about the series, which she’s read in Japanese.

She’s described the first volume as “both cute and sweet – and I liked it quite a bit. Which is pretty surprising, as it is both genuinely cute and sweet.” (Erica often likes her heroines to carry powerful automatic weapons, as do we all, and it doesn’t seem like there’s much ordinance in Aoi Hana.) The second volume leads Erica to conclude that, “when I read any book, part of what goes on in my mind is ‘Would I want to hang out with any of these people? Would I let anyone in this story come over for lunch?’ No one, not one character in Life would be allowed in my house – while just about everyone in Aoi Hana would.”

Erica finds the third volume “emotional without being histrionic.” The fourth reveals inner strengths of some of the characters. The fifth earns praise for the careful rendering of the heroine’s gradual move towards accepting her sexual orientation. Erica has also reviewed the anime, which ran on Crunchyroll, and hosted a guest review of the first volume of the French edition, Fleurs Bleues, which is being published in Kazé’s Asuka imprint. Asuka offers extensive preview pages from each of the four volumes they’ve published so far, so you can get a look at Shimura’s spare, elegant visual style.

While my initial interest in Aoi Hana sprang from a convergence of whims, further investigation has led me to conclude that it’s the kind of series I always really enjoy: a sensitive examination of adolescence featuring kids pursuing an interesting hobby. It’s also got attractive art and an intelligent look at same-sex relationships. Why hasn’t someone published this already?