22 Dec / Sweet Blue Flowers (vol. 1) by Takako Shimura, translated and adapted by John Werry
While we groupies wait for the next volume-in-translation of Shimura Takako’s internationally-lauded and mega-awarded Wandering Son series (one of my personal favorites ever) from Fantagraphics, take a look at this endearing new (in English) series from manga powerhouse Viz Media about complex relationships between high school girls. [While Fantagraphics uses the Japanese style of family, then given name, Viz has gone with the western format of first then last; be assured, this is the same Shimura Takako of Wandering fame.]
As first-year elementary school students, Fumi always followed Akira around; sensitive Fumi often cried, resilient Akira comforted and protected. But too soon, Fumi changed schools, and the once-inseparable playmates led separate lives. Reunion happens a decade later, with both girls in different high schools but commuting on the same trains; as they re-establish their dormant connection, Akira even knows to be ready with a handkerchief, thoughtfully remembering, “… because you always cry.” Fumi’s surprised relief is immediate: “In an instant … those words bridged the ten years we’d spent apart.”
Fumi’s current tears have to do with her broken heart – her cousin has recently married, leaving Fumi inconsolable. At school, older student Yasuko, who inspires strong emotional responses from many of the girls, takes notice of Fumi, and for a while, their clumsy attempts at dating keep Fumi distracted from her loss. Akira, meanwhile, has comfortably resumed her role as Fumi’s support, as she valiantly tries to understand and encourage Fumi’s endeavors amidst dramas of her own. Fumi comes to realize the importance of Akira’s presence in her own romantic development, as well. With overlapping social circles and growing interests, Fumi and Akira have a rare second opportunity to be best friends all over again …
For impatient readers, an 11-part anime adaptation debuted in 2009. For manga purists who appreciate the gorgeous art on the page, Shimura has never disappointed. Three more volumes from Viz should be forthcoming – be sure to watch for updates here.
Readers: Young Adult
Published: 2005, 2006 (Japan), 2017 (United States)
AOI HANA © Takako Shimura
Original Japanese edition published by Ohta Publishing Co.