Admittedly, Sweet Blue Flowers (Aoi Hana) is not the sort of show I‘d normally go out of my way to see. Adapted from the even still ongoing manga by Takako Shimura, this 2009 “Girls’ Love” anime is a slice-of-life story about a group of Japanese high school girls, some of whom, including our protagonist, Fumi, happen to be lesbian. The thing that typically would have kept me away from the series is the lack of any real hook, I suppose, given that the series focuses quite simply on the girls’ relationships with one another and the boys in the peripheral cast of characters. Essentially, it’s high school drama. And frankly, I didn’t care for high school drama when I was in high school, much less now that I’m an adult.
The thing is, though, the characters and the core relationships are so realistic and well-developed even over the course of the series’ mere 11-episode run that I found myself fully absorbed in Sweet Blue Flowers’ drama. I was honestly taken aback by how much I was engrossed by Sweet Blue Flowers and the speed at which I watched the series, knocking it out over the course of two nights. The sheer naturalism of the characters and the honesty of their interactions truly makes you care, and the characters are, for the most part, so mature that you’ll often forget they’re high schoolers. What’s more, the core relationships between Fumi and her girlfriend Sugimoto as well as Fumi and her childhood friend, Akira (or Achan), are supplemented by a host of similarly complex relationships amongst the rich supporting cast. Finally, the animation is absolutely stunning, and it’s quite beautifully presented at that in the complete series DVD release of Sweet Blue from Right Stuf’s Lucky Penny Ent. The series’ truly rewards viewers who are able to multitask, taking in the stunningly-stylized background elements even as they closely follow the foreground action.
The only problem I really had with the series, however, and I honestly found it quite easy to overlook for the most part, was the thin characterization of Akira. As the series opens, Fumi and Akira reunite after many years apart. Fumi is just now coming to terms with her sexuality and she and Akira are ultimately able to reconnect over their discussions of Fumi and Sugimoto’s relationship. And even though Akira is not or has not yet realized she is gay, the series desperately wants us to root for a romantic relationship to develop between Fumi and Akira. This is made quite evident in title sequence, in fact, when the two appear together in the nude. But to me, Akira was quite obviously the most thinly developed character of the core cast, with little defining her beyond the sweet but naive character type after which she is clearly modeled. Of course, the reasons for such a characterization are obvious to anyone exploring the way in which the viewer is intended to relate to the series. After all, allowing Akira to play into this type gives her the broadest audience appeal and thereby perpetuates the desire for the two characters become romantically entangled amongst the highest number of viewers possible. It is therefore something of a necessary evil and honestly, the only (admittedly minor) blemish on this otherwise really beautiful and captivating series. For when it’s all said and done, Akira serves her part capably, which results in a very natural and satisfying conclusion (in spite of the fact that the manga has yet to reach its own).
Special features on the Lucky Penny release of Sweet Blue Flowers include a clean opening, TV spots, character art gallery, and the original U.S. trailer.