Let me start by saying this was my first completed shoujo-ai. I say completed because I, once upon a time, tried watching Kannazuki no Miko, but found myself frustrated with the characters. I actually didn’t have as many qualms about the girl on girl aspect as I thought I was going to, but got bored after about two episodes and put it on-hold, where it still sits. Ever since then, I’ve put my shoujo-ai career on-hold (while I worked on my yaoi one lol) because I didn’t really know about any other really famous shoujo-ai’s that I could watch…and I was probably obsessing over some other anime. Anyways, I think I was randomly scrolling through my plan to watch list when I clicked on itdecided to give it a shot. Now, I decided to try this series for several reasons. First and foremost, I read a really great review by one of my favorite reviewers on MAL that painted a picture of a really sincere cast of characters and an overall, for lack of a better word, beautiful story. Also, I found out that the manga this show is based on was done by the same mangaka who brought me Hourou Musuko a few seasons ago, and I really, really loved that show because I thought it presented some really delicate issues realistically and with a great deal of beauty and truthfulness. Last, but not least, I went through and glanced at Fumi’s and Akira’s character bio’s and thought they sounded really intriguing. Well, after that first episode, I was sold on this series. It had the same familiar realistic atmosphere and issues that I was used to from Hourou Musukou, but had a cast of characters that I found utterly enjoyable and realistic, and a story that pulled at my heartstrings.
When I think about Aoi Hana, several words come to mind, among them being beautiful, touching, realistic, and atmospheric. I think the words atmospheric and beautiful, in particular, are words that really fit this series. Although Aoi Hana was a show that had its fair amount of drama, none of it ever felt overly dramatic or forced or silly, and I think a lot of the credit for that can go to the music and characters. A lot of the background music in Aoi Hana, or at least the music I noticed, was composed of delicate instrumental pieces that had a quiet, almost calming, if somewhat upbeat at times, tone to them. I think the nature of these pieces added to the overall calm and natural atmosphere in this show because they really acted as background music. They weren’t trying to get your blood pumping or have tears streaming down your face, they were pieces that blended into the background and added to the atmosphere of the moment, keeping it from seeming too dramatic/emotional. As for the OP and ED, I think they fit the show perfectly. They were both pieces that I believe expressed a lot of the important themes in the series such as the security of friendship and the beauty of love.
I also think that a lot of credit for the natural atmosphere that the show had can be attributed to the characters themselves. There was no screaming or overly dramatic moments with the characters standing desolate and alone in a rainstorm, tears streaming down their faces. These girls were mature and even when they did have their moments of sadness, maintained a realness about them that made you empathize with them. Let me take a moment to explain what I mean by saying they’re realistic. When I say the characters are realistic, I mean that they are relatable. These girls aren’t magical or uber talented, sure they aren’t exactly representatives of the female population, but that’s just it. They’re regular girls who are making their way through life and experiencing a lot of the same emotions that I sure many of us fondly remember in our youth. You know what I’m talking about; those crushing moments when you found out you had absolutely no chance with the person you like or when you feel betrayed by someone who you loved, not to mention the times you secretly confided in your friend about your crush and the happy times you had laughing with a group of friends over something in the past. Sure some of the situations may be a bit over dramatized and the characters may have unrealistic aspects to them, but come on, it’s an anime, and that is only to be expected. What I find so admirable about this series is how the characters react to situations in a way that you can look at and think to yourself, Man, I can understand what that must feel like.
Since I’ve gushed so much about the characters as a group, I suppose I should talk about them individually so as to explain what about them is so great. I’ll start with Fumi. Fumi is the character we see the most of in the series and experience the most from. She is a tall, shy girl who is a bit of crybaby. In fact, most her flashbacks as a child show her crying and usually being comforted by Akira. This aspect of her adds a vulnerability to her that you wouldn’t expect from someone with such mature and refined looks. However, throughout the series we are often exposed to Fumi’s vulnerability as a person and her innocence, you could say. However, that’s not to say she is only a wimpy crybaby. No, Fumi is just a person feeling her way through life and I think that, in retrospect, she does handle a lot of difficult situations with a maturity that I know I probably wouldn’t be able to have. In addition to Fumi, we also have her equally lovable friend Akira, or Aa-chan. Aa-chan is the seeming complete opposite of Fumi with her outgoing personality and big sister attitude. She is the best friend we all want. She will sit there and listen to you, let you cry on her shoulder, and try to protect you, emotionally, as much as possible. That’s what I always liked about her; the fact that she was such a loyal and caring friend. In addition to Fumi and Aa-chan we also had Kyouko and Yasuko. Kyouko is a friend of Aa-chan’s (and I think a tentative one of Fumi’s) who is infatuated with Yasuko, who doesn’t really care. I thought Kyouko was admirable, at least, because she never gave up on loving Yasuko despite all the tears and sadness, I’m sure, Yasuko has caused her. Yasuko was a really interesting character. She is a girl who goes to the same school as Fumi and is uber popular among the girls because of her looks and skill in acting and basketball. She ends up being in a relationship with Fumi and abruptly breaks it off when she realizes it was only an escape for her. Now, I’ll be honest and say I was pissed at Yasuko for breaking Fumi’s heart like that, but in the end, I have to say that I felt bad for her. She fell in love with her sister’s boyfriend and was outright rejected by him. She had to watch the person she was still in love with marry her sister, and she genuinely felt bad about what she did to Fumi. Yasuko was another character who appeared unfazable on the outside, but turned out to be really very sensitive despite her looks.
The side characters where nice too and I liked them quite a bit. In particular, I grew quite attached to Kyouko’s fiance, Kou, and Aa-chan’s brother, Shinobu. I liked Kou because I felt bad for him. The poor guy is in love with Kyouko while she is in love with someone else, and he knows it. Close to the end of the series, he sadly expresses his wish to be the one that Kyouko was in love with, and my heart went out to him. As for Shinobu, I liked him because he was funny. He added a lot of comedy to the show with his overprotective nature concerning his little sister which I thought was cute. The other side characters were sweet and I liked them too, I just thought the guys were most interesting.
Going back to the two words that I think really exemplify the show, specifically beautiful, I’d like to talk the animation style of Aoi Hana. Let me say, that I love this animation style with it’s simple designs combined with pastel-like style. The animation style added a sweetness and calm nature of the show. I loved the pastel-like style of the show because I think that’s its absolutely gorgeous and I just love seeing it. As for the simplicity of the character designs and backgrounds, I think it fit the atmosphere of the show perfectly. It wasn’t over-exaggerated or flashy, but it was really nice in its own right.
Aoi Hana is a show that shines through its characters. Yeah, it may have really beautiful animation and music, but at the end of the day, what do you remember? The characters. The characters in Aoi Hana are interesting and realistic in the sense that they aren’t perfect and go though a lot of the same situation and emotions I’m sure a lot of us have felt at some point: the heart break of unrequited love, the confusion of trying to figure yourself out and who you are, and the happiness that comes with knowing that you have friends to lean on during your hard times. They show us that the road called life has its fill of bumps and roadblocks, but that it is possible to traverse this difficult road with the experience and a few good friends. I would definitely recommend this show to you if you like slow-paced shows that have some drama in them with a cast of characters that are realistic and mature. I don’t think that you have to be a fan of shoujo-ai to like this show because, take it from me, I am not a complete fan of the genre, yet I found myself loving this anime because of the amazing characters and beautiful music and animation.
Overall Score: 9/10