It is my very great pleasure to introduce our newest Okazu Guest Reviewer, Marc. Marc emailed to say that he had just gotten a copy of the French language edition of Aoi Hana, sensibly titled Fleurs Bleues. Of course I was thrilled to have both a new guest reviewer and a look at a French-language Yuri title. So, please welcome Marc and enjoy his review!
The first thing I thought when I picked up my copy of Fleurs Bleues was, “Man, it’s tiny!”, but more on that later.
Editions Asuka has put out the first volume of Aoi Hana (Sweet Blue Flowers) in French as Fleurs Bleues. It compromises the first seven chapters of the story and the author’s comments.
For those of you who aren’t aware of this manga (where have you been?), it’s the story of Fumi Manjome who returns to her hometown after ten years away. Fumi was a bit of a crybaby in her youth and still hasn’t really grown out of it. Due to the kind of coincidences that seem to happen a lot in manga, she meets up with her childhood friend Akira Okudaira, who also hasn’t changed much over the ten years. She’s still as feisty as ever, and is entering high school at the prestigious all-girl Lycée Fujigaya. Fumi is attending the less prestigious all-girl Lycée Matsuoka. In their respective schools the girls each make friends and involve themselves in school activities. Akira becomes fast friends with Kyoko Ikumi, and they join the drama club. Fumi has just ended a relationship with her female cousin, and being in a somewhat vulnerable state, meets and forms a relationship with upperclassman Yasuko Sugimoto. The manga deals with the ups and downs of these relationships as well as with Fumi coming out to Akira.
I love these types of manga. No big explosions, no giant robots or girls, or giant robot girls (if you’re into that sort of thing). This is a story about relationships and their development. Fumi’s insecurities, Akira’s wanting to protect and support her friend despite not having seen her in ten years, Kyoko’s unrequited love, and Yasuko’s teasing make them feel real.
The art is simple but beautifully drawn, which is exactly what you need when you want to focus on the story. The characters are engaging and not too stereotypical for this type of manga. (Though I must say, Akira’s brother’s sister complex creeps me out.)
The translation is well done. It is in very proper French, which lends itself well to the characters and story. It gives it a sort of poetic feel, which I feel enhances the drama. Like Erica, one of my pet peeves is when sound effects or background dialogue is not translated. Thankfully, Asuka did translate all these little bits.
But that isn’t to say there aren’t any problems.
When it comes to the suffixes (-san, -chan, -kun), my philosophy is either don’t use them at all, or use them all the time. For reasons I can’t explain, the translators removed all the suffixes except for two. Yasuko is still called Sugimoto-sempai, and Akira’s original Japanese nickname of Ah-chan was changed to Aki-chan. Go figure. I think I’d have preferred if they’d dropped them all. (Not that I’m suggesting you shouldn’t buy the book because of that. How big a Fanboy do you think I am?)
Then there’s the size. As I said at the beginning, it’s smaller than the manga I tend to see published in book form. At 6.5 x 4.5 inches, it is much smaller than the average 7.5 x 5 inch English ones. It literally is a pocket book (it fit in my jeans pocket just fine). It is considerably smaller than the Japanese version (8 x 6 inches), and it sort of reminded me of a Harlequin romance paperback. I don’t think that was unintentional. However, the small size was a little off-putting for me but didn’t impact my reading enjoyment.
The Japanese cover was lovingly recreated in beautiful pastels and the left to right reading was kept in place. The reproduction of the content was crisp and clear, and the font choice made reading (even for a bifocal-wearing old man like me) easy. Nothing mimeographed here.
Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Yuri – 9
Service – 1 (mostly the creepy brother)
Overall – 9
Reproduction – 9
All in all, this is a great read for yuri fans. I found myself smiling a lot while reading it. If you can read French I suggest you pick this up for your collection. I can’t wait for the next one.
Thank you so much Marc for a terrific look at another edition of this fabulous manga. I hope one day to be able to include an English-language review on the list. And please take note European Yuri fans – if you have an edition of any Yuri series in a language other than English or Japanese, please do email me – we’d love to have a review!