I love slice-of-life series because it takes me into a leisurely pace without much heavy or sad emotions to worry about. Aoi Hana is one example of an anime that just walks you softly into a realistic world where love, while complicated at times, is just that… love. I would want to pace this review similarly slow as well, because this may be the first time I have actually dealt with girls love (yuri) as a topic. I am on the opposite sex of course, and so our tendencies to like yuri things may be a bit sexual by nature. Fortunately… and a bit unfortunately, this anime isn’t anything like that at all. It is a female-oriented show designed for a unique female-oriented feeling, and therefore I need quite a bit of my shoujo-loving power for this one. Well okay, the anime may not be that deep to warrant any discussion about yuri actually, but I hope I can convey my interest in this series as lightly as possible.
We start with our two lead characters Akira Okudaira and Fumi Manjoume. They were close childhood friends until they were separated away for almost half their current lives. Now they are in high school, and they were reunited celebrating their coming of ages. Akira is the typical bright and lively girl who speaks her mind and looks out for her best friend. Fumi is the tall-but-crybaby girl who has a distinct history of having a romantic relationship with a woman, specifically her cousin. With the setting of two exclusive all-girl high schools, Fumi and Akira experience and ponder over having having romantic feelings toward another female.
This was one anime though where I didn’t feel that the two main characters totally owned the series to themselves in terms of story. In fact, I see them as the bystanders because the bulk of the plot actually was given to two other characters. First is Yasuko Sugimoto, a popular senior in Fumi’s high school. She stands as the popular prince-like character of this series, and Fumi’s current love interest. The second one is Kyoko Ikumi, a classmate of Akira. She stands as the losing side of the affair, being in love with Yasuko but was rejected. These two actually drove more of the story than the main characters themselves. They have pretty established histories as we see many of their past events. Throughout the series, I felt like Akira and Fumi were just being swept in whatever wave Yasuko and Kyoko may wade through. Yasuko with her confusing feelings in past and present, and Kyoko with her tunnel-vision desire for her prince.
As these characters cross paths, many soft tears were shed. A girl’s feeling is pretty delicate after all. Fumi especially, she cries over many things that didn’t go well for her. Akira stands as her sort-of knight in shining armor, trying to set things straight all the time because she understands and wants to protect Fumi and her lovelife. It is quite a treat that Fumi and Akira themselves aren’t the actual romantic pair in the anime, and that Akira specifically is a very fresh viewpoint of how a heterosexual girl views a homosexual relationship. I really loved her persistence in this piece, and even if she is the most lacking character in the story department (no romantic pair for her, not even a guy) she makes up for her absolute drive of trying to make everyone show their true selves. Because of her outspokenness, all parties involved were able to open up and understand each other. There seem to be few misunderstanding-type events in Aoi Hana, which I think is a underlying cliche for shoujo pieces. Sometimes when you need to make a quick plot, arrange a misunderstanding. Through Akira, the anime really moves at a natural pace without any plot breaks and pauses like that. If any did occur, I think it would have solved itself quietly without me noticing.
Whoa, sorry I dug in quite deep in that one. In any case, Aoi Hana continues the almost legendary romantic greatness trend that I experienced with various J.C. Staff produced anime like Kimikiss and Hatsukoi Limited. This anime made me notice the director Kenichi Kasai, and proved to me that he is a must-follow with power pieces like Honey and Clover and Nodame Cantabile to his name. I discovered he also did Kimikiss as well, which explained the shoujo feel of that show. As usual, J.C. Staff are really the team to beat when it comes to love and romance adaptations. I really love their style. The animation is very good, and is a welcome change from the manga whose art style I sadly didn’t like much. The music is as leisurely as the anime’s pace, and really gets the atmosphere of the scenes right. The OP/ED didn’t stand out to me though.
Aoi Hana is something familiar yet special. We all know the slice-of-life, we love the yuri, and we have wonderful characters to like. All of this comes in a package that is well produced and masterfully paced. I may be male and most of those things shouldn’t apply to me at all, but I know a good experience in entertainment when I see one. Aoi Hana is a very enlightening piece, and as a highly recommended watch, it’ll be all over before you know it.