Sweet Blue Flowers, Vol. 1

By Takako Shimura. Released in Japan as “Aoi Hana” by Ohta Shuppan, serialized in the magazine Manga Erotics F. Released in North America digitally by Digital Manga Publishing.

DMP’s digital only line of books has been cruising along for some time, with a broad selection of BL, hentai, and obscure shoujo titles to choose from. Lately they’ve pulled a couple of fan favorites out of their hat, as they announced Kimagure Orange Road, the old-school 80s romantic comedy that was a huge influence on North American fandom (in both good ways and bad), and Aoi Hana, released here as Sweet Blue Flowers, which is a yuri manga by the creator of Wandering Son, Takako Shimura. It ran in the oddball magazine Manga Erotics F, and to a certain degree feels similar to Wandering Son – we’re introduced to a cast of schoolgirls, two of whom are clearly the leads, and discover their psyches, problems, and crushes.

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Our two leads are Akira, who is bubbly, straightforward, and easy to get along with, and Fumi, who is tall, cries a lot, and starts off the volume devastated to find that her cousin, who had been sleeping with her, is getting married to a guy and hadn’t told Fumi as she’d have taken it badly. Which she does. Fumi tends to be an emotional wreck for most of this volume, but to be fair she’s going through many things that would leave a delicate persona an emotional wreck – besides her cousin, there’s the reappearance of childhood friend Akira in her life, and recalling just how much Akira meant to her as a child (I suspect these two are the ‘end couple’, but who knows?), and her tentative relationship with cool beauty Yasuko, who seems to be hiding a secret relationship from her past.

The fourth member of our ensemble is Kyoko, who has a fiance already picked out for her (male), but clearly has a giant crush on Yasuko. She’s also there so that Akira can bounce ideas off of, as Akira and Fumi are at two different schools, though the two schools quickly end up working together on a stage play. If Fumi is emotional leaning towards tears, Kyoko is emotional leading towards anger, and I do wonder if we’ll see her blow up at some point in the future. As for Akira, she’s not sure what to think, especially when Fumi comes out to her, but resolves to be supportive like a good friend. There’s no indication that Akira has any romantic feelings towards Fumi as of yet – she seems more the level headed older sister type, though a bit flakey to truly fit that role – but we’re only at Volume 1 of 8.

As with Wandering Son, Shimura’s manga is matter of fact about both its school life and its relationships. I’m not sure how much of this is meant to be the akogare ‘it’s just a phase’ type of teen girl relationship seen in many Japanese manga – certainly the three ‘Greek chorus’ girls we see with our heroes fall into that pattern – but Fumi’s past and present relationships are treated with seriousness and a depth of sadness – it’s really clear that Yasuko is not the true love she was looking for either. It’s easy to see why this series is beloved, and I look forward to seeing Fumi’s growth in future volumes.

License Request Day – More Bestsellers in Japan

Last time I did this, back in July, I lucked out – 20 of the 32 bestsellers were already licensed, so I didn’t have as much to talk about. No such luck here, as only 8 of the Top 30 I looked at this week are licensed in North America in some way, shape or form. Plus it’s the week where all the shoujo came out and hit the charts. Needless to say, there are a LOT of potential Shojo Beat series here. Shall we take a look?

Firt, let’s set aside what’s licensed. Kimi ni Todoke, One Piece, Fairy Tail, Skip Beat!, Watamote, and Haganai all come out here physically. Space Brothers is up on Crunchyroll’s site, and Kadokawa’s new Comic Walker is putting out Kagerou Days, so I am counting those as licensed, if only digitally.

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JoJo Lion (Shueisha, Ultra Jump) is the latest in the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure epic tale, and its popularity has been resurgent lately, what with the new anime. That said, JoJo’s manga did not sell well here, and this is technically Vol. 110 if you think of it as one big series. It’s possible Viz might take a flyer on this, but I’d be surprised.

Yokai Watch is a franchise based off of a 3DS game that seems to be a cross between Natsume’s Book of Friends, Doraemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh. This particular volume is the shonen manga version from Corocoro, there’s also a shoujo manga that just started in Ciao. Oh, and there’s an anime as well. If Viz does license this, it might be via Perfect Square.

Kobayashi ga Kawai Sugite Tsurai!! is a shoujo manga running in ShoComi, which just got an OVA series. It is not based on a light novel, despite the title translating as Kobayashi Has It Tough Being So Cute!!. It features a twin brother and sister who go to single-sex schools. One day, they decide to dress as each other and switch. The plot spins out from there. Sounds a bit odd for a Shojo Beat title, but you never know.

Moyashimon has just wrapped up in Japan, and Volume 13 is the final one. It was once licensed by Del Rey, but never got past Vol. 2. You could try asking Kodansha for a license rescue, but make sure you’re surrounded by witnesses so you don’t get demoned away.

ReRe Hello, a Betsuma manga from Shueisha, has what sounds like a very cliched premise. Hardworking earnest girl who’s lost her family, aloof boy who falls for her, etc. That said, it’s not like titles are licensed for originality here anyways. This has gotten some very positive buzz, and it’s only about 3 volumes to date, so it’s definitely a possibility.

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Hachimitsu no Hatsukoi translates as ‘First Love is Like Honey’, basically. It’s a childhood friend romance, and another ShoComi title. The artist used to be Tanemura’s assistant. This has gotten to Vol. 7, so it’s doing pretty well in Japan.

Hirunaka no Ryuusei is a Margaret title that is a teacher/student romance, so moving on.

Neko to Watashi no Kinyoubi has a very good chance of being licensed, mostly as it’s a title by Arina Tanemura, running in Margaret. Its male lead is quite young, and it also has a cousin romance, which would normally I suspect prevent it from coming out over here, but given its creator and her huge popularity I expect we’ll see it before long. Girl has a crush on guy but is too shy to say anything, her young cousin loves her. More on Tanemura later this post.

Ace of Diamond is a baseball manga that is now at 40 volumes, so moving on.

Ayakashi Hisen is another ChoComi title, this one with a touch of the supernatural to it, something Shojo Beat always likes. The premise seems quite similar to Kamisama Kiss and Demon Love Spell, so I would not be too surprised to see it, even though at 12+ volumes to date it’s hitting the top end for shoujo manga length.

I’m skipping the Kagerou Days anthology, which will only get licensed if the Kagerou Days manga is a big success here. Which means it would have to get into print somehow, I suspect.

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31 Ai Dream is another title that would have no chance to come out over here except it’s by Arina Tanemura, who is doing multiple series in Japan at the moment. It runs in Melody, home to Gatcha Gacha and Ooku, so you know it’s going to be odd. The premise is dark: a former class president and idol of the school never confessed to her love. Now, at a reunion where she’s 31 years old, she sees he’s with another girl and decides to kill herself. Instead, she gets a medicine that sends her back to when she was 15. Readers of fanfics will recognize this premise as a standard ‘Peggy Sue’, but I’d be very interested to see where Tanemura goes with it. Want to see Shojo Beat get this, even if it’s an odd fit there.

Kaze Hikaru is actually licensed by Viz, something I keep forgetting. This is Vol. 35, which should see release here in 2027. But it is still coming out, I note, and I’m sure if more folks bought it it would come out more often.

Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou just had an anime start, so there’s potential there. The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior is a seinen ‘apartment life’ manga from Young King Ours, and I’m honestly unsure which company it would fit best with. Shonen Gahosha does business with everyone, so…

Clover Trefle is the sequel to a very popular josei manga called Clover (no, not that one) (no, not that one either), which is 24 volumes and would need Viz to put those out first before its sequel comes out.

Sora no Otoshimono is relatively popular, and has an anime, but it’s 20 volumes, so I’d have to assume if it was going to be licensed it would be. It’d be the perfect Tokyopop title were they still around.

17-sai, Kiss to Dilemma is classic ShoComi smut. It has a lot of creeptasticness to it, apparently, so I’d suspect Shojo Beat would look at other titles first, as the smut they’re doing now is more of a josei bent than high schooler smut.

Shinrei Tantei Yakumo. See my entry for Sora no Otoshimono, then cut and paste it here, only ’11 volumes’.

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Silver Spoon is an incredibly heartwarming, funny and awesome manga that sadly continues to be about farming. Still, I am hoping Viz’s defenses are weakening against this series.

Mujaki no Rakuen is a Young Animal title, and I think far too lolita complex/pedophilic overtones for the North American market. It’s also a Peggy Sue, like 31 Ai Dream. A loser NEET is mocked at a reunion by his female classmates. Then he goes back in time to where they were all 5th graders, but with his adult memories/experiences. A lot of naked 5th grade girl art follows. Of all the titles I discuss here, this is the one I expect is least likely. And thank God for that.

Angel Heart’s ’2nd Season’ is up to Vol. 8, but the 33 volumes of its first season were never licensed, and anyway, why would you license something with a dead Kaori? Finish the series with living Kaoris, City Hunter!

Lastly, Kuroko’s Basketball has all the drawbacks of sports manga in North America. That said, now that Slam Dunk is finished, it’s possible. It certainly has a large female fanbase over here.

And there you have it. Of all these titles, which do you want to see the most? Which do you think is the most likely to be announced? Which makes you weep bitter tears you’ll never see it?

Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 11

By Kiiro Yumi, based on the novel by Hiro Arikawa. Released in Japan as “Toshokan Sensou: Love & War” by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine LaLa. Released in North America by Viz.

While there are an unlimited amount of things that you can do when you write a shoujo manga, it has to be said that when a typical reader thinks of one, they tend to think of a basic ‘type’. Kids in high school, girl likes guy, guy eventually likes girl, will they get together, etc. Violence, if any, tends to be emotional brutality or done for comedic purposes. (I recall I Hate You More Than Anyone having to include a ‘note: genuine shoujo manga’ remark after one of its typical over the top gags.) Library Wars runs in LaLa, a magazine which has a large number of these sorts of shoujo manga. So it’s startling to see a full-scale military assault, with blood, casualties and a shaking up of our main cast, with a couple of people seemingly written out of the series.

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This is not to say that the series subtitled Love & War is entirely devoid of love this time around. It’s just driven or inspired by the aftermath of the Ibaraki Art Exhibit. Things start off bad with one of the library team’s men getting his arm sniped so he can’t shoot, and get worse when a desperate frontal assault by the enemy means that Iku is forced to shoot them. No one is killed in that particular attack, but it still leaves her a complete wreck – and she’s not the only one, as Dojo points out. The battles we’ve seen before were not like this. It doesn’t even end there, as once everything settles down, a lone man coming in to destroy the exhibit finds himself stopped by Genda… who he them shoots multiple times through the chest.

Amongst this, we have the love. Iku has finally realized her feelings for Dojo are love, much to the satisfaction of Shibazaki, who has known this for ages. Shibazaki and Tezuka get into a brief fight over what his brother was planning, and how much she knew about it (it also has an excellent point about when to reveal info that could potentially devastate the troops – the answer is not before a major battle). Even Genda and his estranged lover have a sort of reconciliation at his hospital bed. There are warm fuzzies here to be found if you so desire.

But mostly what I take away from this volume is what it means to be a soldier, and how trying to defend your beliefs can lead to the use of force. The opinions given here are biased towards the library soldiers, of course – they’re our heroes. The ‘nonviolence’ protestors are papers tigers for the most part, serving mostly to get Iku really, really angry. As we reach the end of this volume (which finishes adapting the 3rd novel), you sense there’s a major shakeup in the works. Commander Inamine is forced to resign, and I get the feeling that the implication of Genda’s 2-rank promotion is that he won’t be back either. I’m not sure where this battle-filled shoujo manga is going, but this was one of its most gripping volumes. Readers who thought it started slow may want to give this a try.