Let those sweet blue flowers bloom.
I re-read all of what has been published of Aoi Hana recently in an effort to help tide me over until the next chapter comes out in January, and in reading it all at once I was struck by something – the subtle way in which Takako Shimura has depicted Fumi’s character growth and maturation over the course of the manga.
This isn’t, honestly, the first time I’ve noticed how Fumi changes through the chapters, of course; Fumi’s conversation with her cousin/erstwhile fling in one of the more recent chapters impressed me with how it demonstrated Fumi’s personal growth. Of course, I was also fairly bowled over by the fact that Fumi embraces a lesbian identity in that chapter, as generally manga shy away from making commitments such as that (there’s either a If It’s You, It’s Okay type qualifier, or the matter isn’t addressed at all). Granted, in a Shimura manga, it shouldn’t’ve been altogether too shocking, but it remains rare enough that to run across it is pleasantly surprising.
However, to take in all the material at once makes one realize that Fumi changes a lot. New chapters come out once every two months, and the series has been in publication for almost exactly six years. I was a little late to the party, but I’ve been reading it myself for about four years. Its very easy to overlook things when one is absorbing the material in such a laconic fashion; one forgets how the characters were exactly when it all began. Yes, I remembered that Fumi was a bit of a crybaby, but it all becomes much more apparent when regarding all the content after going through it all in the present.
Its funny, because at the beginning I would’ve said that Akira was the lead I preferred, as Fumi came across as fairly passive. But Akira hasn’t been as dynamic as Fumi has been. Fumi’s just been more interesting to watch grow into herself, become more comfortable in her own skin and more confident in her own self. The kiss in chapter thirty-six (the most recent) was especially illuminating. The simplicity of the moment was beautiful, but what really made it beautiful was Fumi’s calm and ease with it after her initial flustered reaction to what Akira says to her as they’re walking home on their date. This is not the girl being groped on the train way back in chapter one any more. This is a young woman.
At the same time, though, Fumi isn’t a completely different character. She still gets out of sorts and worries about things – hell, she even tries to invite Kyouko to come along on her date with Akira! So her evolution comes off naturally and not as shoe-horned into the narrative; her core personality remains. She’s just become more relaxed and comfortable. She’s steadily making her way toward being an adult. It so simple, yet so wonderful, somehow.
Damn, I wish someone would hurry up and license this manga…