With a million manga out there focused on high school girls, it takes a lot to stand out from the rest. Enter Sweet Blue Flowers, one of the only manga I’ve ever read that felt grounded in reality.
Sweet Blue Flowers follows Akira Okudaira, a first year high school student at the prestigious Fujigaya Women’s Academy. On her first day of school, she bumps into her childhood friend Fumi Manjome on the train. Fumi is attending the nearby Matsuoka Girls’ High School, and the two girls immediately begin catching up. They fall back into the rhythm of friendship they had when they were younger, helping each other cope with high school troubles. From clubs, to relationships, Akira and Fumi try to help each other navigate through the woes of adolescence.
Sweet Blue Flowers has an authenticity that I didn’t expect to see in a manga. The way Fumi, Akira, and their friends handle drama and tough decisions is incredibly realistic. It has the right amount of melodrama, and avoids being overbearing or deprecating. This is especially true with the amount of unrequited love in the manga. When Fumi realizes she has a crush on upperclassmen Yasuko Sugimoto, she isn’t sure how to process it. She warily goes with it and ends up dating Yasuko. Unbeknownst to her, Yasuko is only dating Fumi as a rebound, having been rejected by her own unrequited love. Yasuko was in love with her drama teacher, who ends up engaged and marrying her sister.
Yasuko, realizing Fumi is only a rebound relationship, breaks up with her. Fumi ends up confused, but not heartbroken. She has admitted to herself that she isn’t over her first love: Akira. Meanwhile, Akira is trying to help Fumi feel better, and also help her friend Kyoko come to terms with her feelings. Kyoko or “Kyo” is in a relationship, but has a crush on Yasuko, who keeps rebuking her feelings. The depth and complexity to each of these characters is a refreshing change of pace.
Sweet Blue Flowers is also the latest yuri out on the market, and it handles the subject matter well. The fact that our main characters like girls isn’t something fetishized like it may have been in the past. Akira and Fumi question what it means to like a woman the same way other girls question liking a boy. Their curiosity and naivety is authentic for their age. While I understand same sex relationships aren’t as supported in real life as they are in fiction, I hope publications like this will change that mindset. Everyone deserves to be supported and in love.
For a manga with such authentically real characters, it makes sense that the art isn’t super stylized. The characters all look very ordinary and proportionate. I was a delightfully surprised that there wasn’t anything shojo about their design. Still, I wish there was something visually striking about the characters or background illustrations. The cover and character pages have a wonderful watercolor quality to them, which is something I wish was seen in the manga itself.
At the end of the day, I really enjoy Sweet Blue Flowers. The characters feel real and have a depth and complexity to their lives. While the visuals could be a little more striking, it fits the down to earth tone of the manga. I am looking forward to the reading part two, which will be out on December 19th!
Sweet Blue Flowers Part One is currently available in stores and here on the Viz website.
Note: VIZ Media provided us with a digital copy of this manga in exchange for our honest review.