Manga Review: Aoi Hana
Aoi Hana is a slice-of-life manga about girl-girl puppy love romances blossoming at an all-girls school. Akira, or "Ah-chan" wants to be with this older girl who is a childhood crush and friend named Fumi. The problem is Fumi has a girlfriend. The love triangle is resolved when Fumi's girlfriend breaks up with her. Then the manga shifts around, focusing on many different characters related to the two, either by family or friendships or by going to the same school. There's no big villain and the world isn't at stake, it's just normal things happening to very bland, mostly very privileged, people. It kind of has this "90's teen girl TV show" vibe, because nothing bad happens and no one has any real problems, but the characters are just cute and... that's it.
Anime (11 episodes)
I didn't like this manga, in fact, it was a chore to get through. I had already not liked the anime when I tried to watch that because it was too boring, so someone recommended that I read the manga. I did. It sucks too. Like yeah, the manga version of a story is usually better, but no adaptation method's superior qualities can save a story like this.
It's bland and boring. I've enjoyed other "cute girls doing cute things" and other romance manga, but this fell very flat for me. I kept forgetting the main characters' names, I couldn't bring myself to really care or be interested in any of the characters, I just wasn't entertained by them.
I don't think it's just that I have trouble with this idealized yuri romance genre either. I've liked other romances, other yuris, and other slices of life. I would say a good example of this is K-On! because the main characters in that show are at least interesting. I would say that I don't especially get the appeal of the "slice of life" genre in general, for me and other fans, anime is escapism, so I prefer things that are actually a bit unrealistic.
But I don't think Aoi Hana even depicts "reality", warts and all, that's the problem. It depicts a sunny, light-hearted reality that's cloyingly saccharine. These people are not from our reality, they're from a fluffy shopping mall version of reality where it's all horseback riding and ice cream. That's ok if you're like, super depressed and just need a pick-me-up, but if that's the case I'd recommend other things because these characters are just plain uninteresting and this story has nothing that makes it stick out enough to be saleable or memorable in the slightest. It's just a flurry of polite greetings, some privileged kid activities, and some emotional dialog, which is often not impactful because the characters seem totally bored with their own lives. The characters are drawn with such blank expressions when they talk that they don't even look interested in conversations that are supposedly weighty emotionally for them.
When I reviewed another yuri romance manga, Ame-iro Kouchakan Kandan, I compared that manga to a teeter-totter that doesn't go up or down. This is like, forget the teeter-totter, the kid is at home asleep and not even going to the park! I've probably never read a manga nor seen an anime this dull, unsurprising, and uneventful. Ever.