All the other shows can get screwed.
Originally I was going to do a summer preview… but then I realized that I don’t feel like making that effort, and that I’m not really looking forward to much beside Aoi Hana. There’s stuff I’ll be watching, but nothing really is looking to light my world on fire… I was already disappointed that Weiß Schwartz is not some new Weiß Kreuz sequel crawling from the murkier parts of the anime business but instead is simply a crappy card game-based show. So I’ll probably be just checking out the crying sea kittens thing, the baseball in the 1920’s one, the astronomy club show (I’m actually a bit of an astronomy nerd), and that Umi Monogatari one, although the last one only because I’m disgustingly shallow (yeah, the blonde) (actually, though, in my defense, Junichi Sato is a bit of a shoujo god, and he is helming this) (but haven’t I gotten in trouble before for being reeled into shoujo efforts with cute girls and the ocean before?). Edit: Oh, and I remembered Kuruneko… which is about a cat lady who is devoted to her cats… and sake. I don’t know what could possibly make it more epic-sounding.
Ahem, anyway, Aoi Hana.
For whatever reason, it seems a lot of folks in the aniblogosphere are seriously hating on this thing already. I suppose crap like Strawberry Panic is pretty much responsible for this. So I’m setting out to set the record straight (poor word choice?), since I absolutely LOVE the Aoi Hana manga.
Aoi Hana is basically about a bunch of girls who go to two different girls’ schools, Fujigaya and Matsuoka. Akira (the shorter girl in the above picture) and Fumi (the taller one) are old friends who lost touch for a while before Fumi moved back into the area, and the two run into each other on the train, as Akira rescues Fumiko from a pervert. They don’t remember each other, though, until their mothers reunite them, and the two renew their friendship. Akira goes to Fujigaya, while Fumi goes to Matsuoka.
Basically, things proceed as one would expect a slice-of-life series to proceed. We meet classmates of the two, and watch Fumi develop a crush on and then a relationship with her senpai, Fujimoto, the tall, boyish quasi-idol of her school. And while there is a lot of female-female attraction swirling around, we also get some heterosexual attraction and relationships in the mix, thus neatly avoiding something which tends to plague yuri series, a.k.a. all-homo syndrome. There’s a fair bit of bisexuality going on, which I was frankly fairly surprised by. However, four volumes into the manga, we’ve had a wedding, one heterosexual couple formation, and a third one waiting in the wings, so there’s something for everyone.
If I had to describe Aoi Hana succinctly, I’d say it’s like Maria-sama ga Miteru, but with less melodrama and more yuri. The majority of these girls come from normal circumstances, unlike all the oujo-samas populating MariMite, and they tend to act more normally. There are no onee-sama-imouto relationships here to speak of, which may be a drag for some, but I find it to be nice – I love MariMite, but I wasn’t looking for a MariMite clone when I picked this up.
I’ve said this before, but I’ll mention it again – my only real leeriness going in to the anime adaptation is the artwork – Takako Shimura’s art doesn’t look like its going to translate over very well. The artwork has a very soft look; I’d describe it as pleasant if asked to. Colored pictures in the manga look like they were done in water color, which includes the covers of the collected volumes. And, well, the anime promo art that I’ve seen so far looks like it doesn’t retain that at all, although I will grant that I’m not sure if it would’ve been possible to do so. But I am annoyed about the school uniform color changes – Akira’s should have pink predominating, and Fumi’s should be a dark blue (and I’m not even going to get into how misleading it is to depict Akira and Fumi as holding hands). Here’s the cover of the first collected volume of the manga, on which the above picture is based:
See what I mean?
But, hey, back to shilling for this.
I really do encourage people to check this out. The manga is a solid yuri effort, nothing like the dreck I tend to expect from the yuri sector whenever someone starts shrieking about a new series. It also benefits from portraying relationships between girls which aren’t nearly as unrealistic as is usual from such works; this is how people actually act in these situations, with only a little bit of idealization going on (Strawberry Panic, Candy Boy, OtoBoku, et al. can all kiss my white Irish ass) (yes, I know OtoBoku isn’t really yuri, but all the girls in it think the lead is a girl, so it can definitely be classed in this category). I love it when my yuri girls are actually acting like lesbians and bisexuals, and not like male wish-fulfillment devices; I suppose this also extends to the fact that the girls look their ages instead of like the moe’d-out loli dolls populating many of these shows.
Anyway, if you’re not convinced, at least give it the benefit of the doubt and check out the first volume over at Lililicious (they have the first three volumes and most of the fourth). Reading a single volume of manga doesn’t take long, so you really have no excuse for trashing this in a pre-emptive maneuver. I really can’t encourage you enough to give it a try.