Sweet Blue Flowers
Her father’s job transfer brings Fumi Manjome back to the town where she grew up, and she soon reconnects with Akira Okudaira, a childhood friend. But Fumi soon finds a romantic interest in Yasuko Sugimoto, a popular, athletic girl at her all-girls’ school.
After I’d seen this series and ruminated about it a while, I looked at Bradley’s review. And I quite agree with him on many things about this series, especially that it features well-delineated characters. So why did I rate it one star lower than Bradley? This may take a while, so bear with me:
Some years ago I was reading a story where a character maintained that “In every couple, one person is more in love than the other one.” This may not necessarily be true of every couple, and the “in love” part seemed rather vague, but I reformulated this to a statement that I think is a bit more precise and accurate: “With many couples, one person is more dependent on the relationship than the other.”
This principle seems to apply to this series. Fumi is very dependent on relationships with other females. Very, very dependent. When we first see her in the series, she’s in a passive-aggressive snit because her cousin Chizu is going to “betray” her by getting married. I very much got the impression that whatever was going on (or not) between her and her cousin, Fumi was DEFINITELY the one more dependent on the relationship.
Fumi shows classic symptoms of low self-esteem: she can’t feel good about herself unless someone loves her. Left without the anchor of her crush on her cousin, she doesn’t put up much of a struggle against seduction by Yasuko. However, another aspect of this kind of low self-esteem is that once the sufferer is loved by another, it becomes a very possessive kind of love; the other party must give 100%, no rivals booked. Since Yasuko IS a very popular girl, Fumi can’t always have 100% of her, and so we see a lot of scenes of Fumi in her room, curled up on her bed in a fetal position, despondent because of the attention Yasuko gets from her classmates. Much of this series is told from Fumi’s perspective, and I DO like her (HONESTLY!), but she does have some issues. (Though she does show some spine later, which I was grateful to see.)
Fumi’s friend Akira, who we will henceforth refer to as Achan because she’s almost always called that in the series, is a bit different. Her major character traits quickly become familiar- she’s easily frightened, and quarrels a lot with her overprotective older brother. (Big brother seems mainly in the show to be a sounding board for other characters to explain their motivations.) Achan was Fumi’s protector when they were little, and she quickly and quite naturally falls back into that role when they are reunited (even though Fumi now physically towers over her.) In addition, she’s Fumi’s best friend and confidant. BUT…
Here’s my problem, and PLEASE STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW HOW THE STORY GOES, though I hope it’s not really too much of a spoiler to say that the deck will somehow be cleared of Yasuko (check Bradley’s review), and that therefore Fumi and Achan will be together in SOME capacity; we’d pretty much expect that to happen. My problem was I never really got the feeling that Achan’s feelings toward her relationship with Fumi were…well, of the same kind as Fumi’s feelings toward relationships with girls. We are shown that Achan hasn’t had much experience with romantic relationships at all, and hadn’t really thought about one with a girl, though she’s not necessarily averse to one. I couldn’t help feeling that they would inevitably expect very different things from each other- Achan coming at this from the “best friend” orientation, while Fumi maybe seeing Achan as yet another “rebound” romantic relationship- and I wanted to see how they worked through these differences (or for that matter if they even did.) Who wants to just see the opening act of a potential romance without the developments that follow- especially if the romance, if it develops at all, will inevitably involve some interesting complications and adjustments? The series is a bit short- only 11 episodes- and I think another episode or two of followup would have brought me around to giving it 5 stars as well.
Still, there’s plenty of wonderful stuff here. The characters are all vivid, though not always pleasant (and SPEAKING of the Sugimoto Sisters, I noted that Shinako Sugimoto was voiced by Mamiko Noto, and she’s so good at delivering icy sarcasm that I wish she took more roles like this rather than the “sweet” types of characters she usually plays.) The closing song, “Centifolia”, is beautifully simple, and simply beautiful. The three “sidekicks” were a delight, especially in the camping-trip sequence, and I also liked the ambivalent Kyoko.
As I understand it, “yuri” is just a phase for some young Japanese women, and they often do end up in heterosexual relationships. We actually have TWO ambivalent young women here, but that WOULD be a spoiler! — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Best watched by emotionally mature folks who have been through their share of heartbreak.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, Japanese with English subs only
Review Status: Full (11/11)
Sweet Blue Flowers © 2009 JC Staff
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