New Anime Season Summer 2009: Yuri Anime: Aoi Hana

July 2nd, 2009

If you are not familiar with Aoi Hana check out my review of Volume 1 of the Aoi Hana manga (or if you want the story through Volume 3, check the Aoi Hana category on the sidebar. Today we’re just going to talk anime.

Crunchyroll launched this anime with no fanfare – in fact, with barely even a blip on the radar. No press release, no time to build anticipation. But, there it was, with 6 hours to go before it launched on Japanese TV at some gawdforsaken hour, a simulcast in CR was announced to be shown one hour later. You can still catch that first episode, of course.

Rumors about this production were pretty rampant. The voice cast is newcomers to the field, maybe Ikuhara Kunihiko (of Revolutionary Girl Utena fame) might be animating the opening sequence. In fact, he did and it’s quite lovely and although they are relatively new names to the seiyuu world, the skill and professionalism of the voice actresses was top notch.

So, the clock ran down and there we were watching what was certainly the most anticipated Yuri anime of 2009 to date.

Right off the bat, the opening sequence was lovely. Spoilery, maybe, but lovely. The ending sequence uses some of the watercolor art from the manga as a background and was, in its own way, just as nice. The songs were totally suitable.

As I said, the voice cast was excellent. Some people have complained that Fumi’s voice is too high, but as usual, they are forgetting that by Japanese standards, a high-pitched girly voice is *more* attractive, not less. And despite the delusion we as fans have, there really is no sign that Japanese anime companies give a rat’s ass about what we want. Especially as it is still Japanese fans who shell out the yen for what they want, while foreign fans are much more reluctant to do so.

I found the art appealing, and felt that the tone of the manga was captured perfectly. I have no complaints about the anime itself.

There were a number of issues with the subtitles. Although I had no problems, many people have written in here and other places to note that subtitles did not always work. At least one person commented that it’s a known bug. This is unacceptable, really, for a company trying to rethink their business model and be *the* portal for anime to the western audience. In some cases, simply right-clicking and “enabling” subtitles worked to fix this. In other cases, refreshing the page did. In yet others nothing seemed to work.

On the positive side, it appears that there was no subscription embargo for the simulcast, although there were IP limitations. CR has posted a list of the countries in which the series can be legally viewed in their Aoi Hana forums – consider posting intelligently there to counter the “eww Yuri” posts. For my part, less than $7/month is less than one sandwich and chips and I think it’s a ridiculously low price to pay for legal streaming anime, subbed, that I want to see, right after it was on Japanese TV. I’m more than happy to pay the price.

My main thought about all this is that we finally have a “Yuri” anime we can show people as a stereotypical Yuri series, in the same way that Gravitation has stood as a gateway “Yaoi” anime for so many years. This story has many of the most typical Yuri tropes, but is not a parody or a melodrama. It is a good story, but undeniably about a young woman who likes women. The characters are strong, are likable and are the kind of people you’d want over for lunch.

Yesterday I was able to watch a simulcast of Aoi Hana, eat ice cream and watch fireworks. It was just about the most perfect day ever. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 9
Characters – 9
Story – 8
Yuri – 7 (Ultimately, not in episode 1, however)
Service – 1

Overall – 9

This is a great way to continue the odd-numbered year Yuri effect. We can look forward to this, then autumn will bring even more good things for us with El Cazador and Sasameikoto.

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20 Responses

  1. Winterbraid says:

    Sorry, due to licensing limitations, this is unavailable in your region.

    Yay for living in a third world country! Well, at least there are proxies… Didn’t have time to watch all of it yet, but the subs seem to be working fine for me.

  2. C. Banana says:

    I’m a little surprised the Loser Fanboy rating is only 1 considering there’s a nude shot of Fumi and Akira in the opening.

  3. @C.Banana – LFB is not a rating of nudity, it is a rating of salaciousness. Nudity is and can be beautiful. Upskirt shots are loathesome. The “L” part is because LFBs don’t, honestly, see the difference between a tasteful nude and pointing a camer up a girl’s skirt.

    @Winterbraid. So there are some areas that are embargoed.

  4. @C.Banana – LFB is not a rating of nudity, it is a rating of salaciousness. Nudity is and can be beautiful. Upskirt shots are loathesome. The “L” part is because LFBs don’t, honestly, see the difference between a tasteful nude and pointing a camer up a girl’s skirt.

    @Winterbraid. So there are some areas that are embargoed.

  5. Kimiko says:

    Is the Netherlands a third world country too? I can’t watch any CR videos either. Yay for fansubs :)

  6. Mr. Chappellefan says:

    This was a great, great, great, great, GREAT anime adaptation in my opinion. In all seriousness, I liked the mature approach they took from the manga rather than go with the perverted brother opening. But every moment they adapted, they got right. And the OP and ED were spectacular.

    Thank you for another fine review, Ms. Friedman.

  7. Kori Michele says:

    Oh oh oh I’m so excited… I love Takako Shimura’s work… though what I really want is a Hourou Musuko anime, I guess I’ll take this for now. What a pleasant adaptation, I’m so excited for more.

    The anime really maintains a gentleness… it makes me really happy.

  8. C. Banana says:

    @Erica – I personally would have given it a 2. It’s not loser-y as you said but it is something that LFBs will no doubt drool over. Of course, you’re completely free to disagree with me.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Indeed. I agree so much with what you said about this being a potential answer to the long-awaited “Yuri answer to Gravitation”. As beholden as we are to say, Utena or Simoun, they aren’t really things you can spring on the unsuspecting and expect them to get it… ^_^;;

  10. There is one scene in that OP that really touched me. When Fumi and Ah-chan are dancing and they shift temporarily to being kids–I dunno, I found something so extremely wonderful and sweet about that. Not to mention tasteful nudity is really nice.

    Overall, nice review. Except one problem. We Yuri fans now have an anime we can show people and say, “This is a great Yuri anime.” I don’t know any sane person who would say, “Gravitation is a great yaoi anime!”

    It seems to be making a small splash with non-Yuri viewers as well, who all seem to be asking the same question: “This is really nice… but are those girls lesbians…?”

    Let’s hope it builds up a bigger fanbase. God knows I’m trying to get everyone I know to watch it.

  11. @The Denominator – I’ve met a LOT of BL fans who’d disagree with your opinion about Gravitation – but I never said it was great. It was a gateway to BL/Yaoi – a series that a person who was new to BL and new to anime could sit down and watch withoutn complicated explanations or having to wade through repeted footage or a long series.

    It wasn’t hard to follow, had many of the typical conventions and tropes of BL.

    We haven’t had an anime like that for Yuri. Now we go.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I, for one, had always thought of Strawberry Panic as Gravitation’s Yuri counterpart. At least it has the “many of the typical conventions and tropes” part down much better than Aoi Hana does.

  13. @Anonymous – But as a story, it’s a joke, since it’s stealing things directly from other series. Aoi Hana is typical, but it is alos a well-crafted story with realistic, admirable characters. I’d recommend Fumi, a girl who comes to terms with the fact that she likes women, over Nagisa any day.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Gravitation didn’t need a well-crafted story or realistic, admirable characters to attain the canonical status it has, and in my opinion, Gravitation is an utter joke, too. Yes, Aoi Hana is much better than Strawberry Panic and much more recommendable as a gateway anime, but I think that just means that Yuri is better off here than BL is: there’s a default gateway anime to show people and it’s one that actually doesn’t suck.

    Eh, I guess my point is that I just like hating on Gravitation. I’d love to be able to recommend, say, Yuki from Kano Miyamoto’s Rules over Gravitation’s Shuuichi or Junjo Romantica’s Misaki, but of course the genuinely good yaoi out there never gets animated.

  15. Strawberry Panic is a fantasy. It’s taking a trip into Lesbian La-La land, where you stock up on cotton candy enough to rot your brain. In the end, you get motion sickness from all the rides.

    Aoi Hana is a nice, contemplative walk through the park on a day with good weather.

    I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to see Yuri or just as a gateway into understanding and accepting lesbianism in anime. Strawberry Panic makes me want to dip my head in shame.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Is there anyway to inform people that Yuri does not equal hentai/ecchi? Why in this day and age people still equate the two is lamentable and doesn’t do anything to promote Yuri.

    I think the anime is going to influence me to read the manga now. Hope the staff continue using the same “gentleness” in animation to create that “sensual and romantic” feeling between two girls/women in love. The opening indicated that, and I really love the last scene of that opening (the two girls in the water nude with A-chan scattering the flowers on Fumi) because it is beautiful and sensual.

    Hope to continue reading your blogs on this series as it develops. Is there an official website for AH and is there really only 11 episodes planned?

  17. @Anonymous – For the same reason the average guy sees the word “Lesbian” and imagines two totally straight girls having sex for his pleasure. Because.

    The official site for the anime is http://www.aoihana.tv and no, we are not 100% positively sure tha there are 11 episodes but, based on the running time listed for the DVDs it seems very very likely.

  18. Motormind says:

    Doesn’t anyone else think the opening sequence is the most lovely thing in anime ever? I keep swooning over Fumi and Akira’s dance. They are so cheerful, even mopey Fumi! Akira really looks so into it, swirling around like there’s no tomorrow. The moment where they turn into little kids makes my heart skip every time.

    The shot of them both naked is endearing, more than exciting, really.

    The song that’s playing is great too and fits the mood perfectly. J.C. Staff is ridiculously good at this stuff. Marvelous.

    Oh gosh… I’m turning in a fangirl mush here!

  19. @Motormind – You are not alone. Many people have commented that the OP is lovely, myself included.

  20. Jules says:

    yeah, I really like this series, and I’m not really into Yuri, althought I found “Blue Drop” to be HILL-ARIOUS.

    Aoi Hana I relate to much more on the emotional level, with its melancholy lead character and great portrayal of the anxiety and yearning of youthful homosexuality. It actually makes me a little weepy…

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