Posted 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
Posted on with categories: Aoi Hana

Ah, this really was a cute ending for such a consistently excellent series. While not the best single episode of the series, it provided closure in a “life goes on”-kind of ending. The series feels complete, even though the manga goes on after this point.

As for my big fear for the ending: thankfully the creators didn’t end up making Fumi and Akira a couple, although this episode did play around with the romantic feelings between them. I began to fear a bit when Fumi saw Akira hanging out with Kou together and got jealous, but in the end the creators had a very nice explanation for that: Fumi had forgotten that her first crush was the one she had on Akira, when they were little. It’s this realization that made for the charming ending, and yet at the same time you could see that Fumi and Akira weren’t cheesily falling in love once they realized this. They could become a couple in the future, they could not. Who knows? Thankfully it feels much more natural than just about every other childhood crush out there.

Overall, I’m really glad that I managed to stick with this series. It definitely stands among my Top 3 of the series that premiered at the Summer Season, along with Tokyo Magnitude and GA. At the beginning of the season, I claimed that this could be one of the best summer seasons ever. That unfortunately didn’t hold up, since a number of series did end up a bit disappointing after their initial episodes (most notably, Canaan, Bakemonogatari and Sora no Manimani), but I do have to agree that there are surprisingly few series that are below average. And Aoi Hana really ignored everything and just went on to deliver one consistently solid episode after the other.

At this point, it seems pretty likely that I’m going to be forced to blog Kimi ni Todoke next season. I have no idea what it’s going to be about, other than that it’s also going to be a shoujo romance, but I do have to say that it’s going to have to try really hard to be able to beat this series.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 3 September 2009 with categories: Aoi Hana

Oh, what a powerful episode this was. It was entirely quiet: no overblown or forced drama, nor an overemphasis on angst whatsoever. I believe that this episode was the most subtle of the entire series, and with Aoi Hana, that has to say something.

The first half showed the wedding between Yasuko’s sister and teacher: this sealed the deal, and her teacher has now officially become impossible to reach. It really was a time in which Yasuko was finally able to close off a big part of her teenaged life. After that, we see her telling a bit about how she originally came to love her teacher. We also see how she cut her long hair short, as a means of symbolism. At the same time we see her befriend Kyouko, who also cut her hair short in response. With this, I’m beginning to see the relationship between Yasuko and Kyouko: Yasuko really does like Kyouko as a friend, but has gotten annoyed with Kyouko’s obsession over her.

But the really good part of this episode happened in the second half, in which Fumi (who was absent at the wedding) invites Akira over, and Akira’s brother and Yasuko end up tagging along. What follows is a very awkward scene, in which Fumi tries to distance herself as far away from Yasuko as possible by using Akira, and Akira’s brother keeping Yasuko a bit busy by telling her about how Akira used to be in the past. I especially loved the last part in which Yasuko tries to apologize to Fumi, and then getting rejected. You can see that she really broke up with Fumi in a tantrum. She ruined things between the two of them herself, because she should have known that Fumi is a really emotional person who takes what people say to her very seriously, especially since she was heart-broken once before.

In a way, Fumi has grown out of this as a stronger person, but at the same time it’s also sad to see that she’s completely shielding herself away right now, afraid to be hurt for a third time.

So, with one episode left, I really wonder how the creators are planning to end this series. I really hope for a “life goes on”-ending: an ending that’s just going to show a final part of the characters, and what’s going to happen to them after that is just going to be left to the viewer’s imagination. Especially since it’s very unlikely to see a second season of this, it would be the perfect ending for such a small little series.

Just one thing: PLEASE don’t end the series with Fumi and Akira falling in love with each other. This series has done SO WELL in avoiding just about every romance cliché in the book, it would be such an incredible shame to ruin it at the last possible minute!
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 27 August 2009 with categories: Aoi Hana

A peculiar episode for this series, especially with only two episodes left after this. You’d think that this close to the end, the creators would pump up the drama, but instead we get what is likely the quietest episode of this series yet. There was a lot of simple slice of life.

So in this episode, Kyouko basically takes Akira, Fumi and some of her classmates to a holiday house owned by her fiance. A lot of the episode was just focused to the bunch of them having fun. There was a bit of drama, but this was much lighter than previous in this series. Basically, Kyouko’s fiance turns out to really like Kyouko, even when he knows that she has a crush on a girl. Yet again a subversion of the “childhood friends becoming lovers”-trope. This also is an important episode for Akira at the end, where she finally seems to realize that she’s the only one of her friends who still hasn’t fallen in love.

With two episodes left, I’m very curious to see how the creators are planning to end this series. Of course, I’d be happy with a second season, but there are other shows that are currently airing that deserve a sequel much more than this series. With the Noise time-slot apparently having bombed, I don’t think that the producers are very keen on keeping this series going, and I’m really not bothered if that turns out to be the case: we’ve got ourselves a nice, short and consistently excellent romance here that was really good while it lasted.

I personally hope that the creators are going for a Hitohira end here: don’t try to save the biggest climax for last, and instead try to wrap up the plot nicely, and let life just go on afterwards. That’s going to be perfect for this series, instead of inserting some shallow conclusion in which Akira suddenly comes to realize that she’s in love with Fumi. That’s going to be rather lame.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 20 August 2009 with categories: Aoi Hana

This entry starts with a spoiler so you may want to look away if you’re skimming through this paragraph. Holy crap, they actually broke up, and this doesn’t look like they’re going to get back together at this rate. It’s a bit of a shame though. It’s a bit predictable that Fumi is going to end up with Akira after all, since I really liked how originally this series didn’t seem to go down the clichéd road of childhood friends becoming lovers. Nevertheless, this was yet another truly excellent episode for Aoi Hana.

Anyway, I have no idea what’s going to happen with this series. Everyone says that this series is only going to last for 11 episodes, but I really doubt this. The reason why Michiko e Hatchin and Ristorante Paradiso had so few episodes was because they had a really strange broadcasting policy: Ristopara had a bunch of hiatuses in the beginning, while Michiko e Hatchin had one of the weirdest broadcasting policies I’ve ever run into when it kept getting to hiatuses one week and air double episodes the next. With Aoi Hana however, every episode aired like it was supposed to, and I find it really hard to believe that it’s already going to be over in three weeks. Speaking of which, is it already known which series is going to be the next one to fill in the Noise time-slot, or is that even unknown? Because in the case of the latter, we might have ourselves a 26-episode series here….

Anyway, what struck me the most in this episode was the incredibly cold way in which Yasuko talked to Kyouko, who found out that Fumi was dumped through Akira. That was absolutely nothing like what I expected from her. She must have been really upset with her sister marrying the teacher that she was in love with, and so she vented all of her frustrations on Fumi and Kyouko. In that way, she’s even worse than Fumi in her sulking about her past crush. And it took me a while to realize how similar the two of them are. It’s really a huge shame that they broke up, but unfortunately it really seems that Fumi has lost her feelings for Yasuko.

Also, the drawings and animation in this series are incredibly good when two people are touching each other in some way, whether messing with each other’s hair, hugging, or just holding each other’s hands. Those are the scenes that you can almost feel coming to life.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 13 August 2009 with categories: Aoi Hana

It’s episodes like this one that really make it unfair to wait for an entire week to see what happens next. Such a powerful episode even though it was nothing like your average dramatic anime episode. Aoi Hana really feels like one of the most realistic romances I’ve seen in a long time and it works incredibly well so far.

In this episode you could really see the distance between Fumi and Yasuko. It all starts with Fumi seeking refuge at Akira because of what happened in the previous episode, which is when she realized that Yasuko is still hung up over her past crush. In the meantime Akira finds out through Kyouko (who obviously has been researching on Yasuko) that Yasuko has four sisters, one of which previously taught at their high school.

The main meat of tihs episode however was about Yasuko, finally deciding to show Fumi her family and vice versa, and at that point we get to see a totally different version of Yasuko. At home, she’s really known as the spoiled princess. As the youngest, she often gets looked down upon by her sisters. You’d think that that would make her stronger, but because she’s seen as a role model outside of her family, she instead chooses to withdraw whenever her sisters or mother start to annoy her.

On top of that, Fumi makes a huge mistake of mentioning to her sisters how one of them taught at their high school, without ever mentioning that she had that knowledge to Yasuko herself. Fumi makes even more stupid moves, by actually taking the side of her family, rather than of Yasuko, and also mentioning how she previously was in love but got dumped.

That all leads to the end of this episode, in which Yasuko proposes to break up. That’s one very nasty cliff-hanger there. If the two of them manage to stay together like this and grow to accept their differences, they’ll probably get a lot closer to each other, however the chance of the two of them really breaking up is really big, and I’d really hate to see that happen. It’s exactly because the two of them are so different that they form a very nice couple.

I also wonder. Kyouko obviously got her crush on Yasuko because of her popular image, but I wonder whether she’d be still as enthusiastic about her when she learned that she also had a vulnerable side. In that way you can really see that Yasuko cares about Fumi: I don’t think that she’s ever willingly shown her weak side to anyone else, but Fumi at the same time is just so dense that it’s going to take a lot of effort for the two of them to fully trust each other.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 6 August 2009 with categories: Aoi Hana

There’s always this… something about plays that are performed in anime. I’m not sure what it is, but they always tend to bring out something fresh out of the characters. Aoi Hana as usual does this very subtly and full of emotions. In this episode, we see the play Wuthering Heights being performed by Yasuko and the others. I really have been watching too many cheesy soap operas lately, because this episode really surprised me at how well everything went, and yet there were so many emotions at the end.

Basically, nearly everything in the play goes smoothly, aside from a few pieces of clothing and books that aren’t at the place they should be, and when everything is over the teacher that Yasuko had her crush on congratulates her, which makes show a rather embarrassing side of her, which is something that Fumi happens to oversee. In your average anime, you’d usually expect Fumi to run away and refuse to talk to anyone, but interestingly enough the two of them were able to talk just fine after that: Fumi is clearly hurt when she found out that Yasuko still has feelings on her past crush, but both of them understand that it’s just something from the past.

There’s also this scene in which Yasuko claims that she dislikes the character of Catherine in Wuthering Heights. Well, I don’t know the full details of the Wuthering Heights novel, but Catherine seemed to be a passionate, wild and mischievous girl, who lead both her and Heathcliff to their doom. It’s interesting how in the same way, Kyouko actually looks up to her due to her strong will. They both have totally different ways in which they relate to her character, and it also signified the distance between the two of them, since Kyouko doesn’t know what happened in Yasuko’s past with her teacher.

And on a side-note, this series has something with hair. In every episode, you can see someone playing around with someone else’s hair. I like this though: it shows that hair is more than just brightly coloured stuff on top of people’s heads that waves elegantly in the wind to give off the air of good animation. I especially liked the animation of Catherine as she played the part. It’s much better to have a bit of a messy animation and movement, rather than clean art and a bunch of still frames.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 30 July 2009 with categories: Aoi Hana

Oh, I so love how this series managed to bring its characters to life. The non-verbal communication between the characters says much more than what the dialogue can even hope for and the creators manage to do this with a lot of subtlety. It really gives all of the characters complex stories, rather than “A is in love with B but B is in love with C so A hates C”, or the like. There definitely is a love triangle going on here, but these five episodes have added a lot of detail to them to make them far away from your average love triangle out there.

In this episode, Kyouko finds out why she was rejected by Yasuko, and how Yasuko is in love with Fumi. I didn’t see any hate for Fumi at her, but just about every other negative emotion was present on her. Because of this, Fumi stops accompanying Yasuko to her rehearsals because she fears having to deal with Kyouko’s sad face again. Throughout, Akira keeps acting as the straight man in this romance: she isn’t loved or in love with anyone, but instead provides support for both Fumi and Kyouko in this case.

And I have to say that Yasuko has a very interesting way to show her affections. While Fumi act like a shy puppy around her, Yasuko instead shows her feelings very subtly: she mostly puts on a straight face in order to be the strong shoulder for Fumi to lean on, but there are a few times here and there in which you can see that she really likes to be with Fumi.

Kenichi Kasai isn’t the most consistent director I’ve seen. What I saw of Major (the first season) shows that he’s terrible at shounen series, and Kimikiss, while it did have genuine characters, did drag on for way too long, but his best works really are something else. Nodame Cantabile was awesome, and Aoi Hana also looks to be standing out in its own way with its attention to detail. And yes, some day I’m going to watch Honey and Clover. ;)
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 23 July 2009 with categories: Aoi Hana

I love the subtitle of the Noise timeslot: “War Cry of Animation Monster. GAOOOOO!!” Let alone the awesome roar, it’s ironic how despite such an aggressive motto, the past two series of the timeslot have been very charming and very quiet slice of life series. At the moment, I’m not going to call Noitamina or Noise the better time slot, because Noise has only started. However, after the fourth season of Noise’s lifetime, its repertoire only consists out of truly excellent and well-thought out series, so it really got off to an amazing start. But then again, this was the same thing with Noitamina (I would have rated Paradise Kiss much higher if I had watched it today): its first screw-up came with its fifth season and Jyu Oh Sei. Let’s now see whether or not Noise can beat that.

Anyway, about this episode: it yet again was excellent and continues to subtly flesh out and develop the different characters, mostly Fumi and Yasuko. Fumi shows herself to be really uncertain about her relationship, and in her mind she sees herself in the middle of a love triangle: while she’s in love with Yasuko, she doesn’t want to lose Akira at the same time, and yet staying with Akira makes her believe that she’s betraying Yasuko.

Yasuko in the meantime thankfully made sure that this series avoids the biggest pitfall that shounen ai and yuri shows can have: the “everyone is gay”-syndrome. As it turns out, Yasuko used to be in love with one of her teachers, but got rejected. And now suddenly, she is in a relationship where she has to be the strong one, taking care of the ever-gloomy Fumi. I guess that she uses that to make her forget about the relationship with her teacher, but at the same time the way she rejected Kyouko two episodes ago suggests that she isn’t that desperate, and didn’t just start dating Fumi for the heck of it, and instead has real feelings for her.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 16 July 2009 with categories: Aoi Hana

At the moment, there is no doubt for me that Aoi Hana is the best series to debut this summer season, and this episode only reinforced this. From the very beginning, it’s been a consistently excellent yuri series with believable and charming characters. I’m also really glad to see that the great animation wasn’t just something of the first two episodes: this episode yet again looked great, with detailed animated shots and some great artwork, despite the down to earth character-designs.

This episode also surprised me with how the two lead characters didn’t become a couple. Instead, Fumi started dating the captain of the basketball club, while Akira had simply been going out with her friends and is still looking. But then again, this is anime. Has there ever been a romance story in which two childhood friends did not fall in love with each other at some point?

I’m curious as to how many episodes there are going to be. Unfortunately, the episode page of ANN is completely messed up in this case, so there is no way of telling whether there are actually going to be 11 episodes, or whether there are going to be more. Interestingly, the manga this is based on only has two volumes. That’s pretty short for a manga, and yet it feels perfect for a short story like this one.
Rating: ** (Excellent)
Very nice romantic developments, especially for Fumi.


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  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, Nov 29. 2015 04:24 PM)
    @Bam, Nope. Never seen Xavier.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Nov 29. 2015 03:25 AM)
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 10:22 PM)
    @Aidan: it does seem like you’ve actually seen Xavier, in which case I’m impressed. Didn’t think you had it in you.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 09:35 PM)
    Speaking of errors, can anybody else open Evil Genius Scanlations page? I keep getting a gateway error. I know there should be a new Berserk on there but some force is keeping it from me. This is messed up.
  • AidanAK47
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 05:38 PM)
    @Bam, Easy. 404 not found
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 05:45 AM)
    It takes a true magnificence to propose such a grand question as: What dot life?!
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 05:42 AM)
    @Kaiser: the show does vary in quality, but for the first season they generally crank up the insanity with every episode until a very remarkable season finale where Xavier faces his worst enemy.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 05:40 AM)
    @Bam: Oh in symphogears case, I certainly laughed but I wasn’t supposed to.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 05:39 AM)
    @Bam: While it didn’t always work, that first episode of renegade angel was amusing, I particularly liked the part where he went on about Aids being invented.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 05:22 AM)
    and don’t be fooled by the simple graphics, the crudeness is completely intentional.

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