What's “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”?
Have you ever visited a library and felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of books to choose from? Picking a new anime to watch can be similarly overwhelming, which is why curation is the name of the game here on “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”. Each week we provide additional info and cultural context to help anime fans decide whether or not they'd like to check out an unknown title.
What's Sweet Blue Flowers?
Sweet Blue Flowers (known as Aoi Hana in Japan) is a 2009 TV anime with direction by Kenichi Kasai (Wolf Girl and Black Prince) and animation by J.C. Staff (Alice & Zoroku). The series is based on the manga by Takako Shimura that was serialized from 2004 – 2013 in Ohta Publishing's Manga Erotics F. Crunchyroll describes Sweet Blue Flowers as follows:
Fumi Manjoume enters Kamakura's accelerated high school - Matsuoka All-Girls High School. While waiting at the Kamakura station on the day of her entrance ceremony, she runs into an old childhood friend whom she had not seen in 10 years: Akira Okudaira. As their friendship is rekindled and they start falling back into the rhythm of friends again, it starts a delicate love story...
The wording here is important: Sweet Blue Flowers is a story of both romantic love and a story of friendship, and it explores how caring for other people can tug the heart in multiple conflicting directions simultaneously. It's a wonderfully mature and nuanced look at the difficulties posed by both potential and existing relationships.
The Colors of a Harsh and Gentle World.
One of the most noteworthy strengths of Sweet Blue Flowers is its lighting and color design. The series eschews the bright, high contrast visual aesthetics common in many anime in favor of a muted, pastel color palette that makes the backgrounds of many scenes look more like watercolor paintings. The lighting is also more subdued, and the effect of sunlight dappling through foliage is especially effective
Story, Not Spectacle.
Many mainstream stories about LGBTQ+ characters transform the lives of queer characters into a spectacle of horror, heartbreak, and tragedy, but Sweet Blue Flowers avoids this pitfall. While Fumi Manjoume is a lesbian and Yasuko Sugimoto is bisexual, Sweet Blue Flowers centers its narrative on their experiences. They are not portrayed as strange or extraordinary, but simply as young people struggling with the complex feelings and social pressures of romantic love.
Low Stakes, High Drama.
Similar to Ristorante Paradiso, Sweet Blue Flowers deals with drama and romance in a way that is so understated that it could almost qualify under the original theatrical definition of “slice of life”. The cast is full of realistically flawed characters who behave like real people who fall in and out of love, deal with feelings of envy and despair, and try their best to support their friends and family.
While Sweet Blue Flowers addresses longing and heartbreak, it does not do so in a melodramatic way. The show includes hurt feelings and broken promises, but there are no scenes of tearful betrayals in the pouring rain or suitors sprinting across platforms, chasing after the trains that carry their lovers away. Passions cool and love goes unrequited in Sweet Blue Flowers, but in a way that is very realistic, very down-to-earth, and very genuine.
Crunchyroll currently streams Sweet Blue Flowers in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the United States Minor Outlying Islands. The series is available in the original Japanese language with English subtitles.
Sweet Blue Flowers is also released on DVD in North America by Nozomi Entertainment under their Lucky Penny label, and an English language version of the original manga will be published by Viz Media. The first English language volume of the manga will be published on September 19, 2017.
Representation is important in art and pop culture, and Sweet Blue Flowers is one of the most tender and respectful stories about members of the LGBTQ+ community living and loving in modern anime. If you're in the mood for a series that traces the threads of a complicated web of relationships with delicacy and grace, please consider giving Sweet Blue Flowers a try.
Is there a series in Crunchyroll's catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to [email protected] or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”!
Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.