Young love, school plays, and plenty of angst can be found in Sweet Blue Flowers, vols. 1-3, by Takako Shimura. The cover artwork is exquisite with its pastel colors, giving it a touch of whimsy and a youthful spirit. The story starts off with Fumi and Akira meeting up in an all-girls high school after a decade. They were childhood friends who lost touch over the years. The girls’ first few days at school are about finding a club to join. They have drama, literature, and library club. Akira signs up for drama club, while Fumi, the quieter of the two, joins the library club. Fumi ends up in her first high school relationship with a fellow student named Yasuko. Yasuko is bewitching and alluring to other students at the school. Yasuko has snagged the leading role of Heathcliff in the school production of Wuthering Heights. Fumi is drawn to Yasuko’s confidence and sees somebody that she would like to be. Yasuko confesses that Fumi is her first love. This leave Fumi a bit shaken, because her heart belongs to someone else. The character of Yasuko gets short shrift after the first volume. She is a senior, so she graduates and goes off to college in London.
I was a bit put off in the beginning with the emphasis on the girls’ breasts, as I thought the manga was veering into a juvenile humor route. Luckily, it was only a small section of the story. Another moment that made me uncomfortable was the girls’ fears about being groped by older men on the train. I’ve read manga or watched anime that emphasized the same type of scenario. This gave it a dark tone instead of the light, romantic one I was expecting.
I thoroughly enjoyed volume 1 and was excited to pick up the next volume. I found volume 2 to really drag at several points. The first volume was all about hidden crushes, putting on the school play, and whether Fumi would finally reveal her true feelings to Akira. I found that the relationship between the two girls stagnated. The only thing of any consequence is a classmate who is engaged to marry a young man, even though she has strong feelings for another girl. Fumi spends the entire volume trying to come to grips with her feelings about Akira. Another thing that made this volume less enjoyable was that the author would alternate between using first and last names. This made it confusing to keep track of the characters.
Volume 3 is when the manga starts getting back on track. I feared that Akira’s true feelings about Fumi might drag on for a few more volumes. This didn’t happen. By the end of the volume, you get a good sense of where they are headed. What I have always appreciated about love stories in manga is how the authors take time to really develop the relationships. We see Akira and Fumi trying to navigate what would it mean to go from friends to romantic partners, yearning to hold hands with someone you really like and how it feels when it happens for the first time.
Sweet Blue Flowers is the perfect addition to any library’s teen manga collection, particularly if you are looking for one with LGTBQ-friendly themes. Be advised that some of the female students are shown in the nude, mostly their breasts. One character does talk about her first sexual experience with another girl. Included also is a side story about a teacher who falls in love with a student.
Sweet Blue Flowers, vols. 1-3
by Takako Shimura
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781421592985
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781421592992
Vol. 3 ISBN: 9781421593005
Viz Media, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: OT (16+)