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Manga Review: Butterflies, Flowers Chapters 1-10

Alternate Names: Chou yo Hana yo (Japanese name), O Butterfly O Flower
Year: 2005-2009
Author/Artist: Yuki Yoshihara
Genre: Josei, Romance, Slice of Life, Comedy

Reviewers Note: Chapters 1-10 of this manga covers the first two volumes of this series. My review also reflects the Serenus-Dreamers English fan translation version.

Butterflies, Flowers is another random romance series that I decided to start reading recently. Whilst I did read the first chapter of the series a few years ago, I never really took the time to read further. I guess I was distracted with several other series that I was reading at that time.

Years after her clan lost its real estate fortune, Chouka Kuze learns that the task master of a manager at the office that she works at is none other than Masayuki Doumoto, the older servant boy that she befriended as a child.

This is a somewhat innocent josei romance. Whilst I did enjoy it, the lack of conflict made it a little boring. The artwork was a bit dated as well, and there was a tendency for some of the characters to look fairly similar. I’d put this series as above average, but still worthy enough to continue reading because I liked most of the characters in this story.

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Manga Reread: Hapi Mari [Chapters 1-10]

Other Names: Happy Marriage?!
Year: 2009-2012 (for completed series, not just the chapters reviewed in this post)
Author/Artist: Maki Enjoji
Version: Aerandia Scans (English translation)
Genre: Josei, Romance, Comedy, Drama

I remember reading this series many years ago over at Mangafox. As one of my first introductions to josei romance manga, it led to me searching for more series in the same vein over the preceding years. Since then, I have enjoyed a host of other manga, ranging from romance to horror. Yet, this series remains a personal favorite.

Chiwa Takanashi has spent most of her life in a constant state of work. She works multiple jobs in order to cover her father’s debt. It leaves no time for a social life and she doubts that she will ever have enough time to do regular stuff like dating.
When she is fired unjustly from a night position as a hostess, she soon learns that her boss at her day job needs to marry her in order to inherit the company. He is none other than the guy that had her fired, an arrogant man with little regard for those around him. She initially refuses, but when debt collectors come to the home that she occupies with her dad, Hokuto comes to the rescue. So begins the reluctant marriage of Chiwa to Hokuto Mamiya.

To begin with, the setup is a standard cliche for romance over the past few decades. However, I love the two main characters a lot more than several other series that I’ve read in recent years because their mindsets are relatable. We also see a good supporting character in the form of Taeko.

  • Chiwa is rather tolerant but inexperienced when it comes to relationships. She makes assumptions about Hokuto which create a lot of the drama in the first ten chapters. She also desires more control over her life for various reasons. She thinks that Hokuto desires a marriage in name alone in order to secure his inheritance down the track. She also thinks that Hokuto looks down on her.
  • Hokuto is also tight-lipped because of not only his family background but also out of necessity due to work. This unwillingness to reveal certain parts of his life also means that Chiwa often resorts to asking other people about him, such as Taeko. Learning to be more open with Chiwa is a big hurdle for somebody just as independent as she is.
  • Taeko Souma is Hokuto’s childhood friend and secretary. She is also an occasional cross-dresser. She is a standout because of how she helps Chiwa and Hokuto to get to know each other. She also has a bit of playful mischief to her.

To the artwork, whilst it was similar to a lot of josei that came out around the same time, the character designs are solid. Whilst it wasn’t special, the artwork did its job well. I could easily tell characters apart, the backgrounds had sufficient detail to convey locale and mood and it didn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out. This latter point is important if you want a person to continue reading your series.
To the plot, we saw a few things happening in the first ten chapters. However, the drama wasn’t drawn out for too long. This gave the story a feeling of progression rather than stagnation. The most important factor is how these elements allowed Chiwa and Hokuto to start trusting each other. Whilst the pair still have a long way to go in the story, they are beginning to see each other as a partner to lean on.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed returning back to Hapi Mari. Whilst I am some way from finishing this reread, I can see why I took a liking to it in the first place. I really look forward to rereading the rest of the series over the coming weeks.


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TV Review: Please Love the Useless Me

Year: 2016
Episode: 10 episodes. JDrama series adapted from a Josei manga series (English sub version)
Other Names: Dame na Watashi ni Koishite Kudasai
Online: Wikipedia (Re: Manga)MyDramaListAsianWikiIMDB
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Slice of Life, Drama

Yes, I know that it has taken me close to a year to finish this series. A lot has happened over this time. I’m not saying that it was aliens… but it might have been aliens. 😉 Anyway, I watched the last two episodes this morning and felt compelled to post my thoughts on the series.

Michiko Shibata (Kyoko Fukada) is a 30-year-old unmarried virgin that is heavily in debt due to some poor choices. When her former boss Kurosawa Ayumu (Dean Fujioka), comes to the rescue with a room to stay in and a part-time job at his new restaurant, Michiko is forced to reevaluate her life. In the process, she makes a bunch of new friends, adopts a cat, and must come to terms with her feelings towards Kurosawa. Also, she has to deal with her fascination with meat.

This series is a live-action adaptation of a manga series that I read several months prior to watching the show. It can be easily described as a romantic comedy but is a lot more than that. I won’t go into such silliness as “it is a way of life” or other such nonsense, but the series leaves a lasting impression long after you’ve finished an episode or read a chapter of the manga. It is a warm and fuzzy feeling that you get when you recall a pleasant memory or spend quality time with a loved one.
The casting was excellent. Fukada and Fujioka were spot-on for the roles of Michiko and Kurosawa. They were backed up by a host of other talented actors and actresses, such as Ono Takehiko as Koida Kazuo, Suzuki Takayuki as Terui “Teruii” Manabu and Nonami Maho as Ikushima Akira. Director Hayato Kawai had a lot of talent to draw from during the filming of the series, with the cast of veterans having a fun script to work with.
To characterisation, I liked each character. Sure, each has their flaws, but these flaws also add to their charm and often contribute meaningfully to the story. It isn’t very often that I can say that. In Please Love the Useless Me, characters aren’t demonized or made to be villains just so that we would root for one of the characters. Being a “love rival” doesn’t necessarily make your competition a bad person. And sometimes a character creates their own problems by making poor choices such as not being sceptical of what another person is saying. This approach worked for me.
Whilst there were noticeable changes in the live-action version, these changes were meaningful and managed to hold true to what made the manga a compelling and entertaining read.  One character that appeared in the manga is deceased, creating some interesting opportunities for storytelling which were taken advantage of. Whilst I initially thought that this change was for the sake of brevity, it offered something meaningful to the story. Whilst some changes were actually for the sake of brevity, they still held true to the spirit of the manga, making this one of the better live-action adaptations that I’ve come across in recent years.

Whilst there is likely to be a few things that I missed out on during this review, I have to say that it is one of the best Asian drama series that I’ve seen to date. I haven’t completed Goblin yet but I am guessing that the two series will be on par as far as entertainment value is concerned. In any case, I recommend this series to anyone with a love of romantic comedy and slice of life stories.

Have recommendations for other series? Feel free to drop me a line via the contact page or by commenting. I look forward to hearing from you guys.

 


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Manga Review: Atashi wa Sore o Dekinai

Year: 2004 (4 parts, three stories total)
Author + Artist: Maki Enjouji
Version:  Viscans [English translations]
Online: MyAnimeListKissMangaMangaFox
Genre: Josei, Romance, Drama, Smut

Atashi wa Sore o Dekinai is an anthology of three Josei Romance stories. It features sex scenes and the classic “main guy is a jerk” cliche so common in both Josei and Shoujo. Whilst I do have some issues with the characterization in the three stories, the artwork is attractive and the characters are easily defined by Maki Enjouji. I wouldn’t say that it is a bad collection but I wouldn’t say that it is good either. If you are looking for an introduction to Josei Romance, there are certainly better anthologies and long-run series out there.


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TV Review: Please Love the Useless Me Episode 05

Year: 2016
Episode: Episode 5/10 of completed JDrama series adapted from a Josei manga series (English sub version)
Other Names: Dame na Watashi ni Koishite Kudasai
Online: Wikipedia (Re: Manga), MyDramaList, AsianWikiIMDB, KissAsian, DramaCool
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life, Drama

I decided to watch another episode of Dame na Watashi ni Koshite Kudasai this evening because it has been a while since I watched the show and it never ceases to bring a smile to my face whenever I watch it. We are now around the halfway point in the series and I am also somewhat curious as to how the live-action adaptation will deviate from the source material. Up until this point, the major deviation has been in the older brother of our male lead being deceased for several years which has no doubt changed the dynamic between Ayumu and his brother’s widow Haruko.

The fifth episode saw Michiko Shibata (Kyoko Fukada) share her first Valentine’s Day with her boyfriend Daichi Mogami (Shohei Muira) after getting some cooking tips from Ayumu Kurosawa (Dean Fujioka). The Valentine’s Day date scene played out wonderfully but it also foreshadowed something that will no doubt play out in future episodes. (I have my suspicions based on the manga but the live-action may deviate slightly.) We saw some adorable interactions between Shibata and Haruko leading to Shibata wanting to help Kurosawa with his romantic attachment to Haruko; as well as some wonderful moments with Akira Ikushima (Maho Nonami) as Akira continues to offer Shibata relationship advice as self-appointed “Big Sis”. However, we also see some lingering doubt on the part of Mogami over Shibata’s relationship with Kurosawa in spite of her denying anything romantic between the two.

I continue to look forward to each new episode of this series and cannot help but wonder why I haven’t simply binge-watched the entire show already. Shibata and Mogami’s relationship is very cute but is somewhat complicated by her own inexperience and subtle questions about how she feels for Kurosawa. We also see her learning a lot about the various characters, especially Kurosawa, through her meals with other people. However, we still see the appropriate amount of doubt from Mogami over her relationship with Kurosawa. Though the scenes played out slightly different from the manga, we see the spirit of the manga intact. To me, this series remains one of the better live-action adaptations of a manga that I have seen to date.

I will return with another review of the show soon.


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TV Review: Please Love the Useless Me Episode 04

Year: 2016
Episode: Episode 4/10 of completed JDrama series adapted from a Josei manga series (English sub version)
Other Names: Dame na Watashi ni Koishite Kudasai
Online: Wikipedia (Re: Manga), MyDramaList, AsianWikiIMDB, KissAsian, DramaCool
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life, Drama

I decided to get in one last show before I turn in for the evening.

In lieu of Daichi Mogami (Shohei Muira) asking if she minds dating with the view of marriage, Michiko Shibata (Kyoko Fukada) considers what it means to date given that she has limited experience in the matter. She becomes a little concerned because of Ayumu Kurosawa (Dean Fujioka) suggesting that Mogami might be a marriage swindler but her general good nature leads our female lead to cast aside most of her own self-doubt. We also learn that Haruko, the woman that Kurosawa is in love with is the widow of his older brother. After Shibata confirms to Mogami that she is willing to do the whole courtship ahead of marriage thing, he sees her eating with Kurosawa, the other employees, and two customers after hours, we see some foreshadowing of things to come.

This episode kept with the same feel as the rest of the series so far but deviated from the source material somewhat. In the manga, Kurosawa’s brother is very much alive and has been engaged to Haruko for an extended period of time. We get to learn a bit about the two brothers in the manga, including the various sacrifices that Hajime made for Ayumu in lieu of his little brother wanting nothing to do with the family business. We also get to see some closure for Ayumu when he finally confesses. The manga did a lot to tie these things together in a meaningfully way and I am beginning to wonder how the death of the older Kurosawa brother will impact the overall storyline. I suppose that I will have to continue to watch the series to find out. 😀


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TV Review: Please Love the Useless Me Episode 03

Year: 2016
Episode: Episode 3/10 of completed JDrama series adapted from a Josei manga series (English sub version)
Other Names: Dame na Watashi ni Koishite Kudasai
Online: Wikipedia (Re: Manga), MyDramaList, AsianWikiIMDB, KissAsian, DramaCool
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life, Drama

We are now up to the third episode of the rather adorable Please Love the Useless Me. I know that it has been a few weeks since I watched the second episode but I figured that it was time to get stuck into the show again. Yes, I will attempt to watch some more Asian drama series in upcoming weeks. This will likely cut into time that I would have spent watching anime. However, I think that it will be worth the effort, especially given that anime and live-action tend to make use of different storytelling techniques. Yes, this will likely include both Love O2O and Goblin.

In the third episode, Michiko Shibata (Kyoko Fukada) goes out on a date with Daichi Mogami (Shohei Muira). She also purchases her first bit of lingerie at a shop where Kurosawa’s ex Akira Ikushima (Maho Nonami) is manager after Ayumu Kurosawa (Dean Fujioka) comments on the granny panties that he saw hanging up to dry in her room. Michiko’s coworker Yuki Kadoma (Hinako Sano) gets stuck into her about not chastising Misaki Nakajima (Risa Naito) for slacking off and shifting her work onto other people. Michiko finally puts her foot down after a pep-talk from Kurosawa the night before. During their second date, Mogami asks Shibata to go out with him from now on with the intent to marry.

This series continues to hit all of the right notes for me and I have to admit that I like it a lot more than Something About One Percent. We see the odd friendship between Ikushima and Shibata, with Akira willingly taking on the role of “big sis”. I really like the rapport between these two characters as I did in the manga, along with how the live-action adaptation continues to deal with some of the other relationships from the manga.

There is not much to add beyond what I have said already. Seriously, if you are looking to watch a cute comedic drama then you really should consider giving this series a watch. It is freaking adorable. While you are at it, feel free to check out the manga.