Manga Review: Aoi Hana


Author: Takako Shimura
Year: 2004 – 2013
Length: 8 volumes
Genre: Romance, Drama, Slice of Life, School Life, Yuri
Plot: 7/10
In short you could say Aoi Hana is the story of the reunion of two childhood friends, Fumi and Akira and how the two of them manage to go through all the problems high school girls encounter during their school life; Having one-sided feelings, getting together with someone, breaking up, and since this is a yuri we’ll also witness how Fumi manages to come out to her friends. 
I almost make it sound as if this manga is only focusing on Fumi and Akira, which it is not. Despite the struggles our two main characters have to go through, there is a lot more going on in their circle of friends, especially when it comes to having one-sided feelings for someone.
I would even say, the two main themes in this manga are on the one hand, how some characters handle their sexuality and how their friends and family react to that and on the other hand how some characters handle their one-sided feelings. I think aside from Fumi and Akira, the characters that intrigued me the most are definitely Yasuko and Kyouko, who both struggled so much in order to be with the person they love, yet they had to realize that their love alone woulnd’t be enough to make miracles happen. However it’s partly because of the fact that those two characters really interested me, that the ending of Aoi Hana disappointed me so much, but more about that later.

From the very beginning, I’ve been having an on-off relationship with this manga. When I first started reading this some years ago, I got really into the story, but there weren’t that many chapters out at that time, so I stopped reading and forgot about it for quite a long while. I picked it up again, but I had almost forgotten what happened in the last few chapters, so I had to go through them again. I think I went through this kind of process numerous times until I finally read the last chapter and it’s always the same:
When I finally start reading Aoi Hana again after a longer period of waiting for new chapters to come out, rereading the last few chapters bores me even though I barely remember their content. It’s not like Aoi Hana was that exciting to begin with, it’s a realistic slice of life that’s just showing the more of less ordinary life of some high school girls, but at times, it just gets boring, at least in my opinion.
Characters: 8/10
I don’t want to go into detail with each and every important character since this would probably take forever and would most likely not be that interesting to most of you, so let me focus on the two main characters and just give you this picture:

click to enlarge

Fumi Manjoume:  Even though many years had already passed, when Fumi finally returns to the town she grew up in, she hasn’t really changed much except the fact that she’s grown into a rather tall girl. She’s still very shy and even now a crybaby.
In the beginning she hasn’t really been my favorite character because she really trends to act a little strange I would say, but out of all the characters in Aoi Hana, Fumi is definitely the one who “grew” the most. And even though she’s still pretty quick to cry, she developed into a character that I highly enjoyed reading about.
Akira Okudaira:
Akira or Ah-chan has always been something like a body guard for Fumi, who kept her out of danger and rescued her whenever she was in trouble. And even now, she is still Fumi’s closest friend and always gives her advice when her friend needs it, even when it comes to situations that she herself hasn’t even experienced yet.
Throughout the story more and more characters are introduced, some with just minor importance and some that really contribute to the story, who had their own problems to deal with and who kept surprising me again and again like Kyouko for example. But we also had some characters that I just couldn’t get used to and that I still can only barely remember at all, like Haruka. Still, to be honest, even though there were so many different important characters, the only ones that I really cared for throughout the whole manga were Fumi and Akira. And it’s not just because they’re the main characters, it’s more like other characters bored me at times and I even caught myself skipping  some pages just because I didn’t find some characters’ struggles very interesting, at least compared to Fumi and Akira’s story. In fact, every time I reread the story I didn’t even bother reading much about any other characters than the two protagonists.
Yuri: 8/10
There is so much going on in this aspect; There’s a grown up yuri couple, again a lot of one-sided feelings and crushes going on, numerous students of an all-girls school going nuts over a more masculine looking girl and of course Fumi and Akira’s slowly developing relationship as the main story line.
So yeah, I think that’s pretty much yuri action going on there, but keep in mind that this is mostly portrayed very innocently even though Fumi would surely like to take things to the next level with Akira. Still nothing really happens and I was kind of disappointed. It’s not like I was waiting for some smutty sex to happen in this one, but Fumi surely tried to make her move on Akira and I would have liked to see them taking that step together or at least something that suggests us to believe that they did it, but that’s just my opinion.
 

click to enlarge

Art: 6/10 

About the ending: (Don’t read this, if you haven’t finished Aoi Hana yet)
I remember when I first read this manga, I was totally drawn in by it and couldn’t get enough of it. But now, after reading the last few chapters, it just didn’t feel the same way and I was particularly disappointed by the last chapter. All the way the story focused on Fumi and Akira and their relationship has always been the most important theme. And even though it was almost clear from the beginning that those two would most likely end up together, especially how their final “reunion” went by was just…. I would say rushed and unspectacular. I just didn’t go like “OH MY GOD YES!! THEY FINALLY GOT TOGETHER!”, like I would have loved it to be, it rather just happened and that’s it. So one could say, the way things ended is more realistic than an overly romantic and cheesy get together but for a manga that’s been going on for years, this ending is just not satisfying in the least. I mean are they really together now? And what happened to all the other characters? 
So yeah, this really didn’t feel like the proper end to a story like this, so I’m hoping to at least find an extra chapter or something like that soon.
Oh and as a side note, I already assumed that Kyouko and her fiancé Kou would eventually get married, even though she wasn’t and probably still is not in love with him. And to be honest, I thought this marriage was kind of weird to begin with, Kou loves Kyouko, but the latter surely still has a thing for Yasuko or at least that’s how it seemed every time the two of them met again. So a marriage like this is just… well weird (and to be honest the yuri fan in me rather wants to see Kyouko and Yasuko together even though I already knew that this was highly unlikely to happen).

Total Enjoyment: 7/10
If I had to describe this manga with one word, it would be “realistic”. There’s no unnecessary drama, love doesn’t make miracles happen like in many other manga and the characters mostly act like normal people and not like… well manga characters. In general it all feels like this could actually happen in real life and that’s kind of rare in manga and anime. So maybe the ending of Aoi Hana wasn’t all that bad because it just remained being realistic, so we didn’t get something like a “grand finale” but rather an unspectacular and realistic one. 
So as mentioned above, this manga both amazed and bored me at times, but I still enjoyed it even though I really did skip some parts.
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33 thoughts on “Manga Review: Aoi Hana

  1. If I had to describe the manga in one word, it would be “unfocused.” Shimura didn't know what she wanted to write. It started out well but then she suddenly started to focus more on the side characters for plot threads that never payed off or even concluded.

    Keep in mind that she did this during the most crucial times in the main romance, in a bimonthly series with very short chapters. A lot of the readers fled when she left them hanging for literally half a year without any progress in the main pairing's story line. And this was followed up by Akira's whole is-this-love-or-not spiel, which was dragged out even more.

    Oh and as if that wasn't enough things stacked against a satisfying ending, Akira gets rendered completely unlikeable with “Welp, dunno if I really love you, so I'll look around a bit and keep you as Plan B. Oh, you can date too of course but since I'm not really breaking up you'll have enough hope left, so you probably wont. See ya!” Because that's a character you want to see an happy end for after a lazy timeskip and an even lazier jealousy plot device.

    By the way, I really despise the word “realistic” when it comes to describing romance, because there is no such thing as a realistic romance. And using that word in such frequency instead of meaningful adjectives to describe such a story usually means “well, it's shit and every character is stupid or a jerk, but that's life I guess, so… meaningful I guess?”

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  2. Hm now that you mention it, maybe another word would be more fitting here, but I still think realistic is pretty accurate as well.

    You said that you despise this description because there is no such thing as a realistic romance, but I don't really understand what you mean it seems.

    When I say it's realistic, then I certainly don't use this adjective to tell you that the story and the characters are both shitty.
    It's kind of hard to put it into words, but I would say that even though a romance can happen in countless different ways, the way most manga and anime portray romance is often just unrealistic.
    So maybe another word to describe realistic in this case would be “plain”. I already said it in my review, but love usually doesn't make miracles happen, it mostly doesn't happen in a very spectacular way and even when love happens, it doesn't necessarily mean that everything will work out for the couple.
    Their romance was awkward, plain and things certainly didn't work out as they wanted them to, so maybe I used the word realistic because this romance is so much different from what I usually find in manga.
    And what I usually find there is just romances that I can't see happening like this in real life.

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  3. I despise that description because it's usually used as an inherently meaningless criticism towards a certain type of story the reader doesn't like. And it comes off as pretentious.

    Here is the thing: I deal with couples and their problems professionally and I've met A LOT over the course of my career. I've had people live happily ever after with their first love. I've seen loving relationships crumble because of stupid, insignificant stuff and completely poisonous ones persevere. I've seen people in love with their abusive partners or cheating on their perfect ones. Couples that got together through “fate and miracles” or because they made out drunk at a party. Heart-rending romance and mundane dating. People being happily married, grandparents even, until they notice they've never been really in love with their spouse. Star-crossed relationships, incestuous ones even. And I'm not opening the LGBT can here or I'll write an entire essay.

    Nothing I mentioned is some once-in-a-lifetime thing either, on the contrary. My point is; unless it involves vampires or aliens or something like that, there is little in the romance novels and manga I've read I'd call unrealistic.

    If you say the romance in Aoi Hana isn't idealized and is fairly downplayed, I'd agree. But that doesn't make the heart-throbbing fairy tales any less realistic. Or Aoi Hana a better story than those for that matter.

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  4. Ah, this one. I could go on and on about this one but i think i've complained too much in twitter. I just can say… this one made me feel so many things, although “excitement” wasn't one of them.
    I was so fired up with the NSFW chapter and then Akira, well… begun her struggle. It was a comprehensible struggle, however it made me hate her so much because the yuri fangirl in me thought the manga was going to finish with the fucking 'het' tag or something…
    The last chapter didn't give me anything i would remember and say “that was great!” but at least it didn't end in a bad way (i guess).
    In the begin i didn't like Yasuko, at the end i couldn't care less about her. Kyouko… well, i kinda see that one coming. Oh! I don't even recall the names of the side characters (it's a shame but i don't mind).
    And i went hating and loving Akira through the whole story. In the end i didn't hate her anymore but somehow… i feel so empty.
    All i really can say about this manga is that I know someday i will reread all of it.

    I also know that's not gonna be soon.

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  5. Maybe we will get an extra chapter or something like this, even though I can't see how that will really make things better with an ending like this.
    This manga has been great in the beginning but gradually got worse and the ending totally ruined it for me, still I just can't leave out the fact that I was in love with Aoi Hana when I first read it.
    And when it comes to Akira, I'm definitely feeling with you. I don't think she ever had bad intentions or anything, but as soon as her “inner struggle” begun I was really annoyed with her and even though she finally realized her feelings for Fumi, the way she did and especially the way she then told her are just not satisfying and I simply didn't like it.

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  6. Since you have to deal with relationship problems a lot, I can definitely see why you would despite this description so much.
    And what you say is true, if people, are picky with the words I use, then “not idolized” or “downplayed” are better words to use than realistic.
    But in this case I think we just have different meanings for this word. I already explained what I wanted to express with it and maybe I just couldn't think of a better word when I was writing my review, but I still think it's right to use in this context as well.

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  7. This series will always hold a special place in my heart. I'll always remember that year or so that had Aoi Hana, Octave, Sasameki Koto, and Girl Friends all being released at the same time. So much good Yuri.

    Aoi Hana, to me, was the cream of the crop. It had it's problems. One of which I believe is that it reads better as a whole than in the serialized chapter-by-chapter.

    I feel a little more sympathy towards Akira. She was young and with little experience in love. I never got the sense she was trying to hurt Fumi. I understand why a lot of people became hurt with this series. No one wants to see their favorite couple crash. It just so happens that this time it happened for very in-character reasons and as a natural evolution of the character.

    One of these days I'll need to go through this entire series again in one go to see how it carries up. Right now, it still stands as one of my favorite manga I've read.

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  8. I also believe that Akira never tried to hurt Fumi, I think she was just a little overwhelmed with everything that was going on and probably didn't know what's really the right thing to do in a situation like this.
    Still it annoyed me, because I really just wanted to finally see them together, well as mutual lovers I mean.

    Since you loved this manga, let me ask you one thing, how did you like the ending?

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  9. The last chapter just felt so rushed. It just doesn't blend in with the previous chapters. I felt like there was so much more to do and show between point A (where chapter 51 left off) and Point B (the last chapter).

    It's especially strange considering that she ended Hourou Musuko in the same month in a similar rushed, abrupt manner. She had built both series upon these vast array of characters who were always evolving and growing to the ever changing environment that is growing up. Both ended with plenty of growth still left in the characters.

    It's especially strange in Aoi Hana's case where we get a strange time skip. It only further highlights the fact that Fumi was on this path that we'll never see her go through.

    I also believe it's important to remember that while we are talking about the ending, we are still talking about one chapter in a series with over 50 chapters. The majority of the series is spectacular in my eyes. You cannot believe how hyped I got for every one of the dramatic play chapters.

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  10. It's true, talking about the ending shouldn't only be about the last chapter, but in my eyes the last few chapters all together weren't that great.
    For me it was like this:

    -beginning of the story: absolutely great

    -Middle-part: It slowly got less interesting (maybe part of the reason for that is the fact that waiting for new chapters took so long and you only got bits of the story one at a time)

    -The last few chapters: Didn't like them. I had some hopes for the very last chapter, but this was probably the worst of them all.

    And that time skip was really strange too, but I don't know the author well, maybe she had her own issues to end this story so abruptly. I mean you said she did a similar thing with another one of her manga too…

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  11. I tried a similar experiment with Octave after it had ended. I remember when it was coming to a close that I was beginning to grow tired of the series with the strange twists and turns that seemed to have no connection. I took some time off the series in order to cool my head. When I returned to it several months later and reread the series in one sitting, I was surprised how much better the series read, in particular the later chapters.

    Another experiment I'm attempting is going through as individual volumes. I'm going to attempt to go through Sasameki Koto volume by volume in order to see how that series holds up.

    I may come back to you in a few months and sing a different tune, haha.

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  12. Haha I'll be waiting for you then 😉

    If I'm really into a story, I usually wait for some more chapters to come out until I continue reading it.
    Especially when the chapters are very short, it's quite hard to get into the story again, that's maybe why you grew tired of it.

    I think I'll try the same thing with Octave very soon, well maybe not reading it in in one go, but just rereading it as a whole.
    Maybe this will really change something.

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  13. This manga had a promising start. But as the chapters went on (especially the middle part), many times I was skipping through the panels when reading this manga. Well, not really skipping, but I am not staying as long on each page as I would have if I am really into the story and characters.

    There were times when I don't know what's actually happening because the story is here and there, so I suppose I would have to agree with Anonymous's comment above in saying that Aoi Hana is “unfocused”. It strayed off the main storyline a quite a lot that sometimes I forget where Fumi and Akira's status actually left off. I got excited when the manga finally had yuri scenes between the two leads, but lo and behold these are all short-lived!

    I was expecting the manga to end a little better than it did, with Akira realizing her feelings in a not-so-rushed way. I'm sure it would have made a difference if we got to see how Akira examined her feelings for Fumi during the times that they weren't together.

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  14. I think that time skip was part of the reason why Aoi Hana ended so unsatisfying. There was so much more that could have happened, so much more I wanted to see.

    I wanted to read more about Fumi and Akira's feelings and just how Akira really came to her final decision, but unfortunately part of that process happened off-screen, which is a pity.
    So yeah, it felt really rushed and it was just so plain…

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  15. Yes maybe I just don't like the fact that we didn't really see how Akira dealt with her feelings for Fumi. A little longing from her would have made a nice and convincing ending!

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  16. Hey there,
    Aoi Hana is not my first yuri manga I've read but I find it's very interesting from the begining to the end.
    I love the art, it has no mistake, it was smooth and beautiful. The story was logical (not like some common shoujo mangas, i mean not very 'fuwa fuwa' x)) ), slow, as it has to be, the personality of each every character was 'unique', the atmosphere was calm and sometimes cute …and so on…there're alot of things I love about this manga.

    'Realistic' is a correct word for this manga, It's not easy for a straight one to fell for a gay one in real life, dont you think so? A-chan was confused and didnt want to hurt her childhood friends. Also the manga told the stories bout some others side character (I love how the manga did it), beside the love there's something more, among two people there's people around them, also in love and living, all of them connected. This makes the story realistic but also quite long and confusing to the reader. I understand that many people dont really get the point of the manga.
    But still, in my opinion, this is a very very good manga.

    Ah, by the way, our 2 main characters Fumi chan and A-chan did have sex, I think it's in chapter 42 or 47 or something I'm not sure, but they did. That scene is kinda cute.
    About the end, as a big fan I would say it's no rush, it is just…calm and cute. Very adult, i think.

    In the end, Thanks alot for your review, I'm glad that there's people who enjoy this manga like I am (and even write a Review bout it XD yay).
    *p/s: my english is not quite good so sorry if i'm cofusing you*

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  17. Your English wasn't confusing at all, so thanks for leaving your own short review 😉

    Just like I said in my review, realistic is really a good word to describe it, especially the ending.
    It didn't end like I thought it would though, but that's probably not all that bad.
    Also I didn't know Fumi and Akira really had sex, but I might have just forgotten about it.
    It's been a while since I started reading Aoi Hana and I have to admit, I only skipped through it and simply re-read the most important parts before writing this review hehe

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  18. this is my first yuri manga, so I dont have too much experience in the subject. but I fell in love with it so quickly that the end felt so disappointing for me, Im still kinda sad it ended like that :S
    now im looking foward to read more yuri manga, despites the aoi hana's sour end, I loved it so much that I need more of this xD.
    I hope you understand this, Im not english native speaking 😛

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  19. You're English is good, don't worry 😉

    I think most people are disappointed with the way it all ended, and the fact that it had a really nice start makes things even worse…

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  20. yeah, I got cought by the story very fast, when they finaly get together its so beautiful and romantic, and then they broke my heart! and I was expecting a very romantic and cute ending for their story. such a let down :S
    but I must go on xD
    I'm really enjoying your blog, keep it up!

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  21. Well the anime was self contained. It was simpler and different then the manga. Instead of then becoming a couple in the end like every other cliched romance anime, they remained friends, but the love they shared was greater then any of those after mentioned couples even if there not dating. That being said,it was ambigous if they can become one in the future (which happens in the manga) it always got me when Fumi realised who her first real love was. And Akira gently took her and walked into the snow together (with the ending theme playing in the background) and the short flashback of akira and fumi holding hands as children disappearing in a storm of flowers petals.

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  22. Hm, I might not agree with the fact that their love was that great.
    Fumi's love was, but in Akari's case.. ah well, haven't watched the anime in a while, but even in the manga, I was always questioning Akari's feelings.

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  23. Lol did we read/watch the same thing? Her response to Fumi being molested was to stomp on the person's foot stong enough to break it!!! She was always comforting her when she cried, being extremely supportive when she came out of the closet,defending her from Sugimoto, Akira was always trying to protect her 24 7 .she's the model best friend.

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  24. Exactly, she is a great best friend, but that's it for the most part.
    I could not really sense the love, at least on Akira's part.
    She was a great friend, but that's the problem I had with it.

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  25. Lol, once again, did we read the same thing?

    Her motivation was perfeclty explained (LOL, you mentioed you skipped some parts) She didn't want to hurt Fumi, so she agreed to date her. There was that really akward scene were Fumi asked, and she allowed, to suck her breasts. (In which she confessed to herself that was the reason.) And Akira was terrified that going out with Fumi would ruin there relationship (Which is her motivation for breaking up with her). It's only at the end of the manga, Akira realizes her platonic love has blossomed into romantic love.

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  26. Yup, everything you say is correct, but that doesn't falsify what I said.
    What I'm saying is, I don't see the love.
    Akari keeps hesitating, she does not know whether it's really that kind of love or just love between friends that she is feeling for Fumi.
    It is true that she might have realized it at the end of the manga, but everything that comes before that is not what I call being romantically interested in someone.
    I think you're only talking about love between friends, while I'm talking about being in love.

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  27. Your review is pretty on-point. I don't know how I muscled through. Maybe it's because I was a young, thirsty yuri enthusiast at the time. I'll never know.

    I don't how other countries do this, but in English literature, we call characters like Fumi, who changed (for better or for worse) throughout the story, as dynamic characters, and characters that didn't change much if at all, arguably Akira, static characters. I hope this terminology may help you in future reviews. 🙂

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  28. Thanks 🙂

    I've heard of these character types, and this would have probably been the perfect review to use them.
    Though, I think I'm not pro enough to use words like these in my amateur reviews 😛

    Really though, thanks for the suggestion, I'll keep it in mind~

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  29. Hi

    Once I read Aoi Hana after the anime aired, but drop it after a while. I can’t remember if I ever finish the anime either. It aired in the same year Sasameki Koto iirc. Same situation with Sasameki Koto, I read the Manga a few chapter and stop but did finish the anime version.

    Recently I picked up SK again out of curiosity and I need to find something yuri to read. Surprisingly I found SK Manga wayyyyy better than the anime version. Although it follows the Manga almost 90% faithfully, the Manga version actually a lot longer and cover the all 3 years of their high school timeline plus heaps of kick ass back story which actually strengthen the overall development of the characters and help package the story better.

    To sum it up, SK is a well planned and we’ll written story accompanied by beautiful art that matures as the story grows. Somewhat childish in nature but overall, SK lighthearted presentation became it’s strength as the story progress.

    This encourage me to pick up Aoi Hana again. But after being enchanted by SK, AH now really falls short. I mean really really really, short.

    Although rivals SK in art department, the whole series are painful for me to finish. It started very nice and promising but after a while I notice a dreary consistent feeling. It’s dead boring. It’s hard enough that you need to keep the story progress in check, you’re bagged to the brim by all sorts of jumbled up side characters and sub plot that had very little impact on the main story. It’s tiring to keep track of WHO’S WHO, WHEN and WHERE all the time… The lack of distinct character design doesn’t help either. All these distraction does heavy toll on the enjoyment department. AH is hell to keep on reading. The story as a whole not to mention the abrupt ending are hard to swallow.

    SK and AH shared 3 year high school timeline story but the similarities ends there. The two manga share nothing at all. Even the yuri theme isn’t in the same ballpark it’s not even a fair compare. But somehow SK is better yuri albeit lacks serious yuri traits that AH tried to convey.

    Some mentioned that AH is very realistic. You could value AH as very realistic, yes. Perhaps as realistic as real life itself. But that’s why people enjoy art and literature, because most of the time our precious little life is REAL but also in the same time, quite BORING actually. ( Hell I wouldn’t be reading yuri manga if I’m having a blast traveling in India for instance)

    SK is a very well pitched manga it’s almost predictable and far fetched. Plagued with wealth of underdeveloped side character, but they never gets in the way. Somehow it rewards the patience of its reader with satisfy panache.

    AH however plays the mature facade and goes with the flow. in the end it lost focus and left the stage (and reader) dry…

    The last sentence sums up my thought on AH and I imagine many others would agree too.

    Just my 2 cent.

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    • Hi there,

      the one thing I feel like both anime were missing, was simply the chance to develop into something more….

      One season, that’s not enough for manga of that size. That goes for both, but especially for Sasameki Koto. I feel like a second season would have made things way better.

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