*Author’s Note: Not getting a review last month has been eating me alive for a while. I was in the middle of finals week, and then I had to move my whole life back home. This is me making it up to you readers, and for self satisfaction (more on that later).
Hello everybody, AniMo from Animated Monologues here with my first ever Double Feature review! As a way to make up for my absence last month, I’m adding a show to this review. Even though these shows have comparable elements, the point of this post is too review these shows on their individual merits.
One consistent feeling of mine as I’ve consumed media is my love for drama. It’s like normal life, except it’s spicier and (in my opinion) more interesting. Of course, not all drama is good, as I’m sure everyone will agree. Luckily for us, these two shows are made out of good drama. Aoi Hana (Sweet Blue Flowers) is a shoujo ai slice of life about two girls living their school lives after reuniting when one of them moves back in town after a long absence. Hourou Musuko (Wandering Son) is a slice of life drama about a few transgendered kids (featuring one girl wanting to become a boy, and a boy who wants to become a girl) making their way through middle school/social life. I quickly found myself enjoying both shows, with my positive feelings only escalating. This is good for me since my first, and even my latest, reviews weren’t as nice towards the shows I covered. Whether or not the rest of the shows will follow this trend is up to future me, and the shows I choose to review. But before we can speculate about that, it’s time to talk about…
Aoi Hana (Sweet Blue Flowers)
This seemed to be one of the most well-received yuri anime I researched before I started this review series. While there weren’t as many yuri elements as I expected in the show, there were more than enough slice of life drama elements to keep me happy.
Fumi Manjoume and Akira Okudaira were best friends as kids, but had to be separated when Fumi moved out of town. At the beginning of the series, Fumi moves back to town and she meets Akira (nicknames Achan) again where they start their friendship anew. They both attend different schools, but spend time together on weekends or time out of school. The show gives both characters a lot of room to perform and develop.
One yuri aspect that comes in is when Fumi gets in a relationship with another girl from her class named Yasuko. Yasuko tries to involve Fumi in drama productions put on by their (in collaboration with Achan’s) school. This is a bit of a dramatic focal point in the middle of the series, as Yasuko’s family gives her some shit for it and it makes other main character Kyouko jealous (she has a long-time crush on Yasuko).
The drama production storyline sees almost every main-ish character in the series interacting with each other to put together this production. There is a little sideplot with an elementary school production doing The Little Prince, which I will bring up later when I bring up that story again in a future post. It helps the story because we see one of the characters help out the lead performer avoid stage fright (the public performer in me loved this scene).
After the production storyline, Fumi and Yasuko have a break up, which stirs up some more drama in the whole friend group. It also causes a drift in Fumi and Yasuko’s relationship, and the tension that results from is a great showcase of the writing and development in the series. Fumi and Achan grow a lot during this because Fumi turns to her for comfort. We also watch her relationships with everyone else change as they adjust to their friends not dating anymore. Even though we learn a lot about them during this time, it’s still apparent that Fumi and Achan’s dynamic is the main and most consistent driver of the series. I couldn’t tell if the show wanted to imply any romantic tension or feelings between them. This could have been a burden on how their relationship was written, but the rest of their relationship was handled well, so it wasn’t a hinderance.
More than anything, the thing that I loved about the series was how maturely everything was handled. Too many times I’ve seen romance in anime handled between very immature characters, be it because the characters are too immature to move forward or because they just handle their relationships in an immature fashion. However, this show seemed to have no problem writing a lesbian relationship and making it feel so normal. I feel like this kind of normalcy and maturity is unnoticed and underrated in modern anime, especially ones that tackle these more progressive topics.
Speaking of which…
Hourou Musuko (Wandering Son)
When I first started this review series, this was one of the shows I knew I needed to cover. I’d never seen it before, and it fit the criteria perfectly, being the only transgender-related anime I know about (unless you count traps or genderbenders as transgender anime). I’d also heard from many people that it was a good drama series, so I was interested.
Let’s make one thing very clear, this is the best show I’ve seen since I first watched Ouran High School Host Club (over one year ago). I didn’t given a series a 10/10 score upon my first viewing during that entire time, and this show finally broke that streak. To say it lightly, I adored this show, and it was refreshing to finally view a show that made me remember why I spend so much time with anime. Now that my gushing is over, let’s get to the more analytical parts of the review.
The series took little time to set the tone of the show. We learn quickly that the show is about Nitori Shuuichi (a young boy who wants to become a girl), and Takatsuki Yoshino (a young girl who wants to become a boy). We see their middle school lives, and their interactions with their friends and classmates. Saori Chiba used to be a good friend of them, but they’ve had a bit of a disconnect due to some romantic drama they encountered before the events of the series. Chiba and Takatsuki both had feelings for Nitori at the same time, and this caused a huge fallout between them. These 3 are the central characters of the show, and their dynamic with each other is a great driver for the viewers.
Possibly the biggest benefit of the show is the serious tone that they approach and the subject and characters with. Takatsuki faces many internal dilemmas about comfortability in gender, and applies this by wearing boys clothes . Shu is portrayed as a boy who feels uncomfortable with himself because of his birth gender, and it’s easy to tell that he’s more comfortable when he’s dressed as a girl. When other people find out about this, we have to sit back and watch them take on a lot of punishment from the society around him. This is portrayed in the form of mass amounts of bullying and awful rumors that create problems in school. Situations like these are packed with emotional turmoil and tension, which are aided by how well this reflects on and develops the cast. Unfortunately there is a greater stigma surrounding feminine males, which meant that Shu got the bulk of the negative reactions from his classmates and contemporaries.
The other characters don’t face a lot of the same issues, but instead act well as friends to Takatsuki and Shu during the series. There is something about Chiba’s blunt/straightforward personality that I was extremely invested in, and she was my favorite character because of it. Chizuru probably would have been my favorite girl if she wasn’t so…unhelpful. Her heart is undoubtedly in the right place, but she’s just too nutty to truly shine (and her friend Momo was kind of wierd). Sasa was also peppy and eccentric enough for me to immediately love, but she didn’t get enough screentime to possibly mediate the many tense situations she was involved in. Shu has an older sister who disapproves of his lifestyle, but it’s clear that she loves him as a family member and friend.
The show overall wraps itself into a great package of drama and heart, and it reminded me why I love anime so much. It’s also boosted my motivation to treat this review series better!
This has been AniMo for Animated Monologues, analyzing animation in every post. Thanks for reading and have an animated day.