Posted by psgels on 10 September 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews, Aoi Hana



At the start of this year I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of romance, but damn. 2009 has surely proved to be an excellent year for this genre. The year already started out with gems as Clannad’s After Story and Genji Monogatari, then it continued with the truly excellent Ristorante Paradiso and Cross Game, and if that wasn’t enough the Summer season only continued this trend of awesomeness with Spice and Wolf II and, of course, Aoi Hana.

At first sight, Aoi Hana may seem like your average lesbian series with lots of girls who cheesily fall in love with each other, but this series quickly proves those suspicions wrong when it subverts just about every cliché in the romance genre imaginable. FOR ONCE, romantic relationships are portrayed realistically, rather than those overly romanticized relationship you see in most average romances. For once, you see childhood friends who really behave like childhood friends, rather than the creators using the childhood friendship as a cheap plot device to get the lead couple in love with each other. For once, the two lead characters don’t end up falling in love with each other, and instead the main romance plays out between one of the lead character, and a side-character. And really: for once in a gay show we see actual straight romances. In fact, there’s only one lesbian in the entire series (Fumi, one of the lead characters). The rest is either straight or bi.

On top of that, this series is incredibly well told. there’s a huge amount of subtlety within the relationship of the most important characters in this series: the way they behave, feel and interact with each other is really done with a superb attention to detail. The series is only eleven episodes long, and yet the personality of each character can’t just be explained in one sentence. There’s absolutely nothing that’s shallow in this series.

The animation for this series also really stands out among the best in the romance genre. It’s very subtle, and portrays very accurately how all of the different characters move. But it’s especially the scenes in which people are touching each other, whether holding hands or messing with each other’s hair, in which the animation really makes those movements feel so incredibly real.

I feel hard-pressed to pick up any flaws for this series. Obviously, you don’t want to watch this series if you dislike a slow-paced series, but it really is a must-watch for any fan of the shoujo-ai genre in the way that it so realistically portrays lesbian relationships. There are a few scenes here and there that could have used a bit more build-up (like Kyouko’s fiancee, or the ending), but those moments are few and far in between. Aoi Hana really is one of my top picks of the past Summer Season.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10

20 Responses

  1. Avatar mei says:

    the OST itself is a real gem

  2. Avatar terrorist says:

    Such a great way to end this :S J.C. Staff did it again.

  3. Avatar omo says:

    I didn’t think the relationships were particularly realistic, nor are the yuri aspects at all similar to RL lesbian romances, nor was the whole childhood friend thing you said applies considering the implication it has for Fumi. Furthermore it’s typical of yuri anime to have very few characters that would be considered as full-blown lesbians. Usually just one. In all those regards I think Aoi Hana doesn’t break out anything unusual.

    All that said the way they do all the relationships in the show are very entertaining and touchingly cute, so it was consistently fun to watch. Even the strange friction between the four Sugimoto sisters…

  4. Avatar Chris K says:

    Yes, I loved watching this series but I have a problem with them cutting it off at 11 episodes.

    Because while watching Fumi and Akira renew their friendship, and watching Fumi mature was fine, the series left everything hanging.

    What I mean by this is that the Fumi confession to Akira is a red herring, it was cute and honest, but I know that Akira’s not a lesbian, and the obvious hookup is Akira/Kou and Fumi/some new girl who’s more self aware than Yasuko, plus I would have liked a little more back story on the secondary characters like Akira’s brother and Fumi’s friends.

  5. Avatar kaei says:

    Actually, I think the jury’s still out on where Kyouko falls on the Kinsey scale — there’s been no evidence to suggest that she’s sexually or romantically interested in Kou or any males at all (but there’s no evidence to say she’s not.) At this current point in the story I actually consider both Kyouko and Fumi to be “lesbian.” If only the story would just conveniently pair them together, huh.

    @omo: I don’t know if the relationships in this show were “realistic” in the sense that you can find such relationships — fiances like Kyouko and Kou, childhood friends rekindling a long-forgotten relationship, 2 younger sisters falling in love with an older sister’s boyfriend — in many places in real life (I personally don’t know anyone like that). For me, though, the show was definitely realistic in how it portrayed human interactions, realistic in the way that it was utterly believable, and utterly human, and “if I knew people like that in real life, I’d totally believe they’d act like that.” I bought everything that happened — no one did anything gratuitous or stupid to further a plot point (as it so happens in many soap operas), and so many of Fumi’s foibles — not being able to speak up, falling in love easily, depending on and needing human connection — are things I can relate with in my gut. Also I feel like the Sugimoto/Fumi courtship was pretty realistic, remembering what went on in my (all girls, Catholic) high-school, so maybe whether or not something feels realistic is whether or not you can conceive of it happening. Aoi Hana for me is entirely conceivable.

  6. Avatar kaei says:

    Actually, I think the jury’s still out on where Kyouko falls on the Kinsey scale — there’s been no evidence to suggest that she’s sexually or romantically interested in Kou or any males at all (but there’s no evidence to say she’s not.) At this current point in the story I actually consider both Kyouko and Fumi to be “lesbian.” If only the story would just conveniently pair them together, huh.

    @omo: I don’t know if the relationships in this show were “realistic” in the sense that you can find such relationships — fiances like Kyouko and Kou, childhood friends rekindling a long-forgotten relationship, 2 younger sisters falling in love with an older sister’s boyfriend — in many places in real life (I personally don’t know anyone like that). For me, though, the show was definitely realistic in how it portrayed human interactions, realistic in the way that it was utterly believable, and utterly human, and “if I knew people like that in real life, I’d totally believe they’d act like that.” I bought everything that happened — no one did anything gratuitous or stupid to further a plot point (as it so happens in many soap operas), and so many of Fumi’s foibles — not being able to speak up, falling in love easily, depending on and needing human connection — are things I can relate with in my gut. Also I feel like the Sugimoto/Fumi courtship was pretty realistic, remembering what went on in my (all girls, Catholic) high-school, so maybe whether or not something feels realistic is whether or not you can conceive of it happening. Aoi Hana for me is entirely conceivable.

  7. Avatar supertauren says:

    the only problem with this series is how every single school girl besides i guess ai were gushing over yasuko. it made it feel as if both those schools were full of lesbians which was a bit awkward. not that there’s anything wrong with lesbians, but having two schools only have lesbians is a bit much. besides that though everything else was pretty good. you’re right about how most of this series wasn’t really cliche.

    i wish they had more closure between fumi and her ex but that’s just me, it was still nicely done.

  8. Avatar specracer says:

    I most comment on the high quality of the both the character designs and the backgrounds, but more so the backgrounds. If you have read the manga then you know what I mean. In the manga the vast majority of the scenes have a completely blank backgrounds with the characters talking. When this came out I was really surprised at how amazing the background art was. The characters in the manga are almost as vague as the background sometimes making it hard to pick out different characters. But this anime had none of those problems. I completely agree with your score.

  9. Avatar windy says:

    As a yuri anime, personally, I prefer , by far,” Maria-sama ga miteru”, never could have finished ” Aoi hana”, even considering its short length, and the chrter – design, even if it sticks perfectly well to the original manga ( which I disliked), I don’t like it even one bit, and the storyline wasn’t really out of ordinary or entertaing for me, it often got on my nerves, but well, maybe I should finish it till the end.

  10. Avatar Denizen says:

    I’m glad this show was done well, it bodes well for a theoretical Hourou Musuko anime in the future, which I would love to see.

  11. Avatar Reltair says:

    Aoi Hana is an excellent series with its realistic portrayal of relationships. I still need to finish it sometime. Not feeling like watching it at the moment because yuri just simply doesn’t interest me.

  12. Avatar yurikitty says:

    As someone who hasn’t watched an anime in almost 30 years (wow, did I just feel ancient there!) and was only recently introduced to yuri, I must say that this was one of my favorite shows ever. The subtle, realistic way in which they portrayed Fumi’s development in dealing with and coming to terms with her sexuality was beautiful and as close to real life as I have ever seen — and I should know. The last 6 minutes of the series had me in tears, especially with that gorgeous background music driving the action; it brought back memories of a past love in a way I thought I would never see portrayed so well in a yuri format. After being introduced to yuri through the likes of Strawbery Panic and Steel Angel Kirumi 2 (I mean, really?), I was about ready to abandon the genre as prurient fanboy drivel. This series saved it for me. If this is the future of yuri, I am looking very forward to my renewed relationship with anime. I even found the words to both the opening and ending songs in the show and learned them by heart even though I don’t speak a word of Japanese. Does that make me otaku? ;-)

  13. Avatar windy says:

    I just watched it through to the end, and after a second thought, I rather liked it. I liked the review you made of this series psgels, that’s what made me really watch it. The realism of this series definitely stands out just as much as the music does( I think the background music and the opening are the 2 things I preferred here. And the final ep leaves a pleasant athmosphere to us. I still don’t think this is the best of its genre but it’s definitely worth watching!

  14. Avatar AlexS says:

    “I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of romance”

    I noticed that you have not yet reviewed Koi Kaze, which remains for me an all time favorite of romance anime (specially considering it’s only a dozen episodes).

  15. Avatar Perrin4869 says:

    Yes, this was a very nice anime, all the episodes were entertaining, I loved the characters, and the art, from the backgrounds all the way to the character design was really good.

    My favorite romance I think would be Hanbun no Tsuki ga Noboru Sora, though I watched it when I was 17, so I’m not sure what my opinion about it would be if I watched it now…

  16. Avatar dickens says:

    It was an okay series. I can’t say I noticed much subtlety, and personally I found the series a bit melodramatic in the typical high school romance conflict kind of way. I didn’t find the characters very compelling either. The relationships don’t feel particularly meaningful, but I’m guessing that this is just the beginning of a longer story where more developments occur. It was well animated and better than an average series, but nowhere near the level (IMO) of J.C.Staff’s best work, “Honey and Clover”.

  17. Avatar aldrich says:

    I think Aoi Hana is got to be the first to break the “built-in-story” of every yuri anime. You know what, you’re right about one thing, the story didn’t revolve around Fumi and Akira, but you were wrong about one thing. At the ending, Fumi realizes that her first love is Akira, right? If that is so, who do u think is Fumi’s next “target”? That’s right. What I’m trying to say, is that the lead characters ended up with each other… its just that the series was “cut”/”finished” in ep 11. I demand for an Aoi Hana 2! lol.

  18. Avatar yuri-boy says:

    The animation and plot is almost realistic. Thumbs up. Sweet Blue Flowers is a very interesting yuri anime for me. It made me wonder why no lesbian couple ended up together. Yasuko could have ended up with Youko, or even with Fumi, but what happened was, Yasuko moved away, Youko ends up spending Christmas eve with Kou, and Fumi, possibly falling in love with some other girl better than Yasuko. Until this idea came to me.
    WHAT IF, we thought in the first place that the plot of Aoi Hana is different from that of the other Yuri animes and… WE were wrong?
    As a yuri anime lover, I have seen patterns from all the yuri anime’s I’ve watched. And judging by the intro of the anime when I first watched it, I predicted that the two childhood friends would eventually fall in love with each other and live happily ever after just like most of us would expect… But no. Instead, the story revolved around a main character and a side-character. It was shocking actually and made me think it’s unique, yes… unique at first. Until I finished the series.
    Ever wonder why Yasuko and Fumi didn’t end up together? I think it’s because Yasuko and Fumi’s relationship is a cover… A cover for Akira and Fumi getting closer and eventually falling in love with each other. It was somehow a story that would make Fumi end up with her first love, A-chan… That Fumi’s experience and lesbian relationship with Yasuko was something that would make her REALIZE who she really loves.
    SO, basically, for me, the main characters ended up together. It’s just like all the other yuri animes and just like how it should be. It’s just that the anime had a different approach, and used a side character. It’s a different approach, but the same happy ending. Fumi-chan realizes her love for A-chan. Akira’s mind is too simple(she said it herself.) but once she matures, she would realize why she was always there for Fumi. =)
    Overall, I think the plot is great and I totally agree with your rating. AND…
    Aoi Hana have taught us something… Something that we must keep in mind.
    “Sometimes, the person you truly love… Is the person who stood by you and held your hand your whole life.”

  19. Avatar tsotha says:

    It was well animated and better than an average series, but nowhere near the level (IMO) of J.C.Staff’s best work, “Honey and Clover”.

    Am I the only one who didn’t like Honey and Clover? I couldn’t even sustain enough interest to finish it, something that’s very rare for me. Aoi Hana seemed much better.

  20. Avatar Firechick says:

    I’m glad I watched Aoi Hana. This is the very first shojo-ai/yuri (but more shojo-ai than yuri) I ever watched, and I was so surprised with how GREAT this show turned out! Definitely in my top 10 anime of 2009! I loved how subtle and beautiful this anime was! I might shamelessly recommend this to friends if I have to!

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