Yuri Anime Review: Aoi Hana

aoi hana yuri anime

Lena has previously reviewed the manga, so this is a stand-alone review of the anime.

After a 10-year hiatus, Fumi Manjoume and family have relocated back to their old hometown. Among the things that Fumi is returning to is the friendship she shared as a child with her best friend, Akira. When Fumi moved away, she and Akira promised to stay in contact with each other. That was a promise that wasn’t kept. A decade later, their parents, who were also old friends, reconnected and Fumi and Akira were reunited. Although they attend different schools, they regularly meet up at the train station in the morning, before going their separate ways. Fumi is involved in a relationship of sorts with her cousin, who unbeknownst to Fumi, is married. After her cousin moves, Fumi is left heartbroken and perhaps even a little jaded. As the new school year starts, Fumi and Akira will make new friends, meet new people, and perhaps the flame of love will ignite yet again. Throughout all of this, the one constant will be the unconditional friendship and support shared between Fumi and Akira.

Aoi Hana is primarily character driven, and the narrative isn’t all that complex. After Fumi’s return, the story mostly deals with Fumi and Achan adjusting to the complexities of high school life and all that comes with it. The premise may be predictable, but the engaging characters help to mask it’s shortcomings quite well.

Love hurts. Fumi is someone who unfortunately knows a little bit about that. Love plays a central role in the story and is responsible for the growth and development of those who it entangles. The plot moves along at a leisurely pace, taking it’s time to flesh out the trials and tribulations that the characters encounter along their journeys of self-discovery. Not all of the characters evolve markedly over the course of the series, but most at least learn a little bit about themselves along the way.

The intimate, personal stories of the different characters add enough depth to the narrative to make up for the familiarity involved with telling a simple and straightforward story.

aoi hana anime characters
Fumi, Yasuko, Kyouko, and A-chan.

Fumi was always quick to cry, even dating back to her days in elementary school, and that’s something that hasn’t changed one bit. It doesn’t take all that much to make Fumi turn on the waterworks and shed some tears. Her emotional fragility contrasts with her statuesque appearance and helps make her someone you’re emotionally invested in and someone you want to see persevere. I would give you a hug, Fumi, but I don’t want you to start crying (and I’m afraid A-chan will hurt me), so I’ll abstain.

Akira, or A-chan as she is affectionately known, is the more outgoing and outspoken of the two, while Fumi is more reserved and quiet. At one point, Fumi even lacked the courage to speak out while being molested on the train, but thankfully A-chan would come to her rescue and take matters into her own hands. In some ways, A-chan is like the glue that helps hold Fumi together through some trying times. Later in the series, Fumi shows some character growth and becomes a bit more assertive, which is a very welcome change compared to her earlier milquetoast attitude. All in all, Fumi and A-chan go together like chocolate and hazelnuts. They help bring out the best in one another and provide a stable surface for the other to lean on.

There are other characters that play important roles in the story, like Yasuko, the star basketball player and apple of many a girl’s eye. One of those girls is Kyouko, who follows Yasuko around like a lost puppy looking for a home. Even though Kyouko is engaged to someone else (albeit in name only), Yasuko is the one she truly desires. I didn’t care all that much about Kyouko. Compared to Fumi, her relationship woes seem more superficial and pale in comparison. Even though I was apathetic about Kyouko, it was decidedly easier to feel something for Yasuko. For me, those feelings aren’t positive, but at least they’re something more than indifference. While hardly original, the cast of characters are engaging and become the backbone of Aoi Hana.

It’s unlikely that studios were fighting over the right to produce a humble little anime with heavy yuri themes like Aoi Hana, so I’ll cut J.C.Staff some slack for the limited animation budget that they must’ve had to work with. At times, the rough sketch-like background art adds a unique artistic flair that’s aesthetically pleasing, while at other times, it looks cheap and quickly made. The character designs are solid, and in stark contrast to the backgrounds, consistently show a moderate amount of detail. Those who would be watching this series in the first place probably aren’t watching for the visuals, yet the background art can be a point of contention that might diminish the enthusiasm of some people.

The audio, on the other hand, is of a more consistent quality. The OP “Aoi Hana” is lovely, delivering a warm and comforting sound, while the ED “Sentiforia” might just give you diabetes, given how saccharine sweet it is. The casting choices are also spot-on, even though I occasionally picture Agiri from Kill Me Baby when Fumi speaks, but since they share the same voice actress (and a similar, breathy tone), it’s only natural.

The essence of Aoi Hana is the relationships between the various characters, and first and foremost is that of Fumi and A-chan. There isn’t much implication that there is anything more than a strong friendship between them, but Fumi’s realization at the end of the series makes you think there could (and should) be more, at some point. After Fumi’s short-lived relationship with her cousin, she serendipitously crosses paths with Yasuko, who was fresh off rejecting Kyouko, and Yasuko’s also busy crushing on her sister’s fiancé. And Kyouko’s engaged as well (kinda), so there’s a lot of yuri romance going on here. And Yasuko has yet to come out to her family, so she picks the best possible time to inform them… when Fumi visits. Oh, the drama!

All this talk of coupling, and A-chan has barely been mentioned. That’s because A-chan is the lone integral character who’s loveless. Her insistence that’s she not ready for that sort of thing is reasonable, and she’s likely lived vicariously through Fumi as well, so she should knows what that entails. With yuri that’s presented in a very practical and realistic manner that many can relate to, Aoi Hana‘s portrayal of young love definitely deserves some kudos.

It isn’t anything that hasn’t been done before, but Aoi Hana delivers a realistic glimpse into the sometimes tumultuous time known as adolescence, complete with the familiar situations that you and I have probably experienced at one point or another. The modest goal of telling a personal story was accomplished and results in a rewarding and worthwhile experience.

Year: 2009 — Length: 11 Episodes — Genre: Drama, Romance, School Life, Yuri

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19 thoughts on “Yuri Anime Review: Aoi Hana

  1. Eh, while I agree mostly. Would have given everything higher. LOL Nolstagia, Aoi Hana was my first Yuri in general, and is undoubtedly a classic.

    One of the best parts about the show, and in the manga, is how grounded the whole thing is. It's the anti-thesis of Strawberry Panic. Most characters are not lesbians, the ones who are painfully lonely. Akira isn't a romantic lead at first, being Fumei foudation and moral supporter, being simply a very close friend.Very rare for a Yuri. It also has, almost impossibly, ZERO fan service. Which is a feat unto itself,

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  2. I'm the stingy reviewer on here. 😀

    Strawberry Panic was mine. AH definitely seemed to be aimed at a more mature audience, which is refreshing. It's almost josei, and I'm sure people appreciate that kind of stuff too (even if the DVD sales don't exactly corroborate that).

    Had I known watercolors were also used by adult artists, I never would've slacked off in elementary school. I missed my chance to be the next big thing in the art world. 😦

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  3. Up until I actually watched them, I always confused the two (mostly because both feature tall, dark-haired, megane-wearing girls as the lead).

    AH is definitely more serious and introspective, however. There really isn't that much comedy at all compared to Sasameki Koto. The focus is almost exclusively on the various relationships, so it's slower-paced and more deliberate than SK.

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  4. The only reason it didn't get a second season *Wipes tears* But that would have destroyed the perfect ending. My favorite part in the series.

    Dont get me wrong, I adore SP. I love it for a laugh, and the really good drama it brings.

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  5. I liked how things ended too. For a series that's grounded in reality to suddenly have the clichéd ending of the two characters ending up together would've been kinda lame, especially if it was sudden and not something that organically happened over the course of a long period of time.

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  6. I lost it when Centifolia started to play in the background, and the “You were my first love A-chan” and the final moment with them walking into the snow, holding hands, and the flashback of the same thing when they were younger.

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  7. As you know from my horrible quiz results, I don't remember much of the anime.
    But there is one thing that I will never forget, Fumi and A-chan's relationship totally dissappointed me, in both the anime and the manga.
    I demand a second season!

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  8. How nice of me to not even mention the 47% you scored on the quiz (although I did leave a message when the quiz taker passed, mentioning that they did better than you). 😛

    You just have unrealistic expectations, L. The two girls don't always end up together. There's nothing wrong with that. Who knows, maybe they'll find someone else and be happier. That'd be a nice happy ending, wouldn't it? 😉

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  9. Completely disagree.

    I think Lena was expecting LOL, “Everyone is a lesbian!!! Yuri HOWEEE” Fumi and Akira's relationship was sweet and beautiful, they don't have to be a couple (which happens in the manga) to have a very close relationship. It handles everything one hundred percent realistic, with no forced lesbism (LULZ). Fumi coming out, breaking down and begging Akira not to hate her. Fumi akwardly messing around her room when she has her first date with Yuko. Fumi becoming straight out hateful, cold, amd franly, in an utterly badass way, Yuko to cut her shit out and for her to accept she hurt her, made a mistake, and will have to live that way. The attention to detail, and realism is staggering.

    When someone confesses to a best friend, things wont just be like “I LOVE YOU, lets make out” like every other manga/anime. Sasaekmi Koto has an excellent example, when the blonde girl confesses to her BF at her previous school,in where the friend refuses her advances, calls her disgusting. (In which triggers her slamming her arm on the wall to the point where it breaks, and her screaming and weeping in anguish) Furthermore, she's bullies, harassed, and made fun of because of her sexuality to the point she forces to move schools

    In comparison, Sakura Trick, for example, and other Yuri is the opposite. (Which I adore as well). None of that stuff is remotely the way it works. Making out for twenty seconds would be considered odd, coming out takes HUGE amounts of courage and isn't as simply as other Yuri's seem to potray it.

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  10. She's just a hopeless romantic who loves love. Give her a break, man. 😛

    I liked how things ended in the anime, but I don't see anything wrong with wanting to see two people who've been friends for a long time realize their feelings for one another and move things in a more serious direction. Friendship can be an amazing building block for long-lasting success, when it comes to romance. Besides, with Fumi getting her heart broken over and over, she deserves somebody like A-chan, who's always been there for her and is accepting of her.

    Idealistic scenarios are just more entertaining than realistic ones. I can't speak for anyone else, but I know that I don't watch anime to observe realistic human interaction. I want to be entertained, and watching a relationship flourish—or crash and burn—would be more entertaining than having something I'm anticipating never come to fruition.

    Long story short, I'm okay with wanting to see more. 😀

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  11. I mean come on Lena. Your seriously saying the utterly gorgeous water colors mixed with soft, yet striking art is the same as Jins utterly atrocious (I love the author and the actual stories but the art is pretty terrible) style?!

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  12. Anime was good, manga was good until it got past the material covered in the anime. I watched this one soon after Sasameki Koto and yes, the two are very similar, but I preferred the latter (the manga, at least). Truthfully, I wasn't really happy with any of the pairings in the anime or manga, especially not Fumi and Akira, but I liked Aoi Hana's serious and realistic side, which isn't seen very often in yuri. It wasn't catered towards men looking for meaningless girl-on-girl action like so much of the genre these days.

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  13. Just from the anime, they seem destined to forever be best friends, so maybe it's for the best that nothing romantic happened between them.

    Even though the show wasn't all that popular, it was great to see things portrayed in a more serious manner. Not everything has to be oversexualized to be enjoyable.

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