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Superb Slice-of-Life Anime in SWEET BLUE FLOWERS - - DVD Review

I love a show about girls who love girls (who in turn love other girls, and -- OK, fine -- occasionally a man).

Shows like SWEET BLUE FLOWERS aren’t typically in my anime-viewing wheelhouse, and I’m starting to feel worse off for it. Call it teen romance, call it lesbian love drama, call it slice-of-life; these are not the descriptors normally associated with the series on my shelf. Which is sad, really, because I found SWEET BLUE FLOWERS to be a delightful show, with exemplary plotting, lovely art and some of the most adult perspective I’ve encountered via animation in a long time.

The premise is simple enough...

Akira and Fumi are long-lost friends who knew each other as young girls and meet again on the eve of their first day of highschool. Though they don’t attend the same schools, they’re neighbors with close family ties and they immediately fall into their old routine of closeness and confidence. The complication comes when Fumi begins to face up to her thus-far suppressed same-sex romantic interests, feelings that are only compounded by the fact that she goes to an all-girls school and is herself quite tall and beautiful, attracting the interest of her school’s most eligible bachelorette, Sugimoto.

What’s strikingly wonderful about SWEET BLUE FLOWERS is, ironically, the maturity with which it addresses the concept of immature love. As is so often the case in all-girls or all-boys settings, the fine line between admiration and adoration quickly disappears and emotions become confused, with no regard for sexual orientation. As the girls struggle to find their identities and their place within the hierarchies of their schools, they naturally slide into positions of dominance or deference.

Fumi is young, quiet, and introspective, while Sugimoto is an outgoing and charismatic upperclassman. No stranger to being loved, Sugimoto senses Fumi’s affection, responds to it, and leads her, quite gingerly, into her first adult(ish) relationship. This show, for once, is devoid of fan-service or over-sexed imagery, representing the romance between the two as mostly limited to walks home from school, late night phone conversations, and awkward glances through otherwise unsuspecting crowds.

It’s refreshing to see Fumi confide in her friend Akira that she senses Sugimoto is holding onto feelings for some past love of hers, and that makes Fumi jealous, though she knows the feeling is unearned. No sword-swinging fight scenes or slapstick pratfalls follow, just a thoughtful conversation that ends with two friends supporting each other. It’s all so damned sweet and earnest that you could get a cavity, and yet it works; small scenes like this are a testament to the show’s consistency of tone and message in a medium where prudence is so rare.

There’s more to be said of SWEET BLUE FLOWERS’ merits than just noting its keen portrayal of teenage love. The series also has excellent pacing and plot structuring. The consistency of the story and the feeling of completion that SWEET BLUE FLOWERS’ story arcs gave me was a welcome break from the schizophrenic divergences that I’ve noticed to be commonplace in other shows (perhaps as those programs pivot to keep fans’ attention in a competitive market). There’s no filler to be found, and each scene serves a purpose that will be fulfilled within an episode or two. The show’s creator and staff prove that they know when to withhold the conclusion of a conversation and call it back at a moment that is more powerful, a technique that can be beyond frustrating (and obnoxiously manipulative) in less skilled hands.

Watching the characters interact, coming together to explore the way they make each other feel before eventually moving apart, I never felt the creepy hand of exploitation reaching into frame, something I’m still struggling to believe.

If romance and slice-of-life are your genres of choice, I hope you’ve already sought out SWEET BLUE FLOWERS and can recommend me similar shows of this quality and maturity. (Hit the comments, stat!) But if you thought you were only into occult thrillers, science-fiction, or feudal blood-sports, I suggest you reconsider.

SWEET BLUE FLOWERS had just the right mix of intelligence, heart, and craft to make a believer out of me, and that’s not easy. Light and fun without being silly or inconsequential, it’s a great look at the oftentimes touchy subject of teen sexuality and a window into contemporary Japan that I’m grateful to have been able to peek through for a few hours.

Alexei Bochenek is a lifelong tech nerd and film buff based in Los Angeles. He writes for various online publications and edits the Los Angeles events website LALookout.com. Follow his Twitter: @alexeigb.

EganTheVile1on March 22, 2013 at 5:37 p.m.

Not my usual thing but I might check this out, great review

Donwunon March 22, 2013 at 6:32 p.m.

Hey man if the characters are written well and the execution is good i'll definitely check it out.

This sounds like more of a Josei than Shoujo title from your description and i'm a fan of Josei titles so i'd say you've convinced me to at least check it out. Good write up

BE PPROUD! It takes a real manly man to admit he likes this sort of thing - with the risk of being heckled by a swarm of shounen fanboys haha

metalsnakezeroon March 22, 2013 at 11:42 p.m.

It nice to watch something that takes lesbian love a little serious.

sickVisionz moderator on March 23, 2013 at 12:57 a.m.

Glad you liked this. A long long time I ago I used to write an article about shows that were streaming online and I wanted to do this one, but Crunchyroll removed it a week or two before I was going to write about it. Great series. If you're looking for a follow-up, Wandering Son might as well as be the sequel to this is a lot of way (LGBT series, similar art style, similar tone, etc). Chihayafuru doesn't have any of the same themes, but it's a really well done slice-of-life/drama as well.

Killer_of_trollson March 23, 2013 at 4:45 a.m.

"Sweet" and "Blue" in a title usually mean an NTR :b

Dream moderator on March 23, 2013 at 7:08 a.m.

To be honest, this is one of my favorite yuri titles. The believable developments of character relationships and handling the teen lesbian relationships in a tasteful, mature way make it a worthwhile watch. From what I've read of later manga developments....

.It looks like the series goes on to explore an awkward lesbian relationship between Fumi and Akira, the latter being inexperienced with a same-sex relationship.

Elfenlied1012on March 23, 2013 at 6:21 p.m.

I've always found really serious and "realistic" LGBT stories and characters fascinating. I suppose it comes from being a world I've always observed with an outsiders view and could see the real social pressure and drama that is mostly removed from contemporary sources. It manages to have a certain level of difficulty emotionally and within society that otherwise seems forced or hooky. Maybe that's a symptom of the times, but either way its a good way to make a multifaceted romance while keeping it completely within our suspension of disbelief in a way a modern romeo and Juliet could never.

sadly so most good yuri that has a sense of character is in manga form, the genre is all but dead in anime.

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