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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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Anime Review: 3D Konojo Real Girl Season 1

Year: 2018
Episodes: 12 (English-subbed version)
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, School Life, Slice of Life, Drama

In stake contrast to the Isekai and ecchi series I have recently reviewed, I decided to give an unfamiliar series a watch. A quick series showed up a few shows with the romance listing that wasn’t another rom-com. In this case, I went for the first season of 3D Konojo: Real Girl. It turned out to be freaking adorable and appealed to some of my own nerdy interests. Be aware of several spoilers below.

When socially-isolated anime and game nerd Hikari Tsutsui defends the attractive but blunt Iroha Igarashi from a pushy ex-boyfriend, he gains her full attention. Their relationship will affect the lives of not two but eight people.

Based on internet chatter about this series, the franchise seems to elicit strong emotions on either side of the spectrum. Simply put, people either love it or hate it. In my case, I loved it. It is a coming-of-age school romance with a ticking clock. It was one of those series that also manages to place importance on individuality rather than collectivism.
I found the characters to be sufficiently complex. They are flawed but deep down none of the six teenagers that are the main focus of this series feel out of the scope of what is possible. Teenagers are brash, weird, and often don’t think of the consequences of their actions. They are also capable of kindness even if their ability to convey how they feel is sometimes a mess.
In the case of Tsutsui, he is in completely unknown waters and it is easy to feel for him when his girlfriend isn’t open with him. It also goes to the idea that Igarashi is somewhat clueless about relationships herself. Whilst their relationship is the central focus of the series, we also three two (legitimate) love triangles (Ayado to Hikari and Yuuto to Ayado) and the relationship of Tsutsui’s younger brother and the younger sister of Mitsuya Takanashi. I won’t even count Mitsuya’s crush on Iroha as a love triangle as this is more of a way for him to meet the rather troublesome Arisa Ishino.
Arisa’s own love life is a complete mess. Her friendship with Hikari and Iroha helps her gain a bit more perspective of what a more-functional relationship should look like. (Notice that I didn’t say that HikIro’s relationship was perfect because they are still figuring things out.) Then she starts harassing Mitsuya to date her. This results in some amusing dialogue between Arisa and Mitsuya. It worked really well overall.
Over time, we see growing friendships for the various cast members, as well as several love triangles. This plays out tastefully, with the case of Mitsuya Takanashi being especially interesting. Whilst he initially comes off as a bit of a douche, we also see pride being a big obstacle for him becoming friends with Tsutsui.
Of all of the characters, my personal favourite is Hikari’s best friend Yuuto Itou. Yuuto is a sensitive young man that shares Hikari’s love of games and anime. His trademark Neko beany reflects his child-like naivety. He is such a treasure and cute as a button. YuuAya FTW!!!
The art design wasn’t anything out of the ordinary but it was easy to discern each character, with appropriate backgrounds. The use of color and visual effect was done well, helping evoke certain emotions.

In conclusion, the first season of this series was a pure joy to watch. It was freaking adorable. However, it did draw things out a bit too much at times. It wasn’t to Dragonball Z levels, mind you, but it was still noticeable. This seemed to lessen my enjoyability of the series itself. That being said, I still enjoyed this series a lot and look forward to binge-watching the second season when it is complete.


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Manga Review: Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun Chapters 1-5

Year: 2011 (ongoing) [English translation]
Author/Artist: Izumi Tsubaki
Genre: Shounen, Comedy, Romance, School Life, Slice of Life

When Chiyo Sakura screws up whilst trying to confess to Nozaki, she learns that he is a famous shoujo manga artist. Enlisted to help out with the beta elements of his ongoing stories, Chiyo gets to learn more about Nozaki and the two introduce each other to a host of weirdos and idiots. With all of these distractions, will Chiyo finally muster up the nerve to confess? Nope. It is the first five chapters after all. 😀

In lieu of rewatching the anime adaptation of this series, I decided to give the manga a run. The first five chapters of the manga cover the first two and a half episodes. These chapters also include scenes and characters absent in the anime, whilst the anime fills in some gaps in the manga itself. It is somewhat curious but it does show the benefit of consuming both the manga and the anime of a series. Whilst I admit a certain level of bias going into reading this series, I have to say that it even surpassed my high expectations.
The artwork was pretty close to the anime version as well, avoiding a frequent annoyance with manga and anime adaptations being different from each other in style and vibe. This is certainly not always a bad thing, hence I enjoyed the One Punch Man anime adaptation. However, when it is as atrocious as the depiction of the Dark Young at the end of Overlord season 3, then it is a slap in the face to fans of a franchise.
Back to the subject of the characters, whilst I didn’t get to see much of the extended cast members, those short sequences contributed meaningfully to the story. This is an aspect that drew me to reading the manga in the first place. I was aware from a bit of online research that there was a large cast and was really curious. We get a glimpse of the world outside of the characters that were restricted to the anime.

In conclusion, I really like the manga version of Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun and can easily see myself reading more of it in the not-so-distant future. Umetarou Nozaki is “best boy”. That is all! 😀


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Manga Review: 18 Diary

Year: 2003
Author + Artist: Akira Shouko
Online: MAL, Kissmanga, Mangafox (MF version is incomplete)
Genre: Shojo, Slice of Life, Romance

18 Diary consists of three one-shots, each focusing on a separate couple. The stories are cute and surprisingly varied, showing the complexities of school and family life from the perspectives of young men and women in different situations. The time constraints still mean that some ideas aren’t explored but I don’t have an issue with that because it was easy to root for the success of these three couples. There are no issues with consent like a lot of modern shojo series, with the characters having agency in their own decisions.

  • Story 1: A young woman is in love with a long-time friend who has had a long-time crush on a childhood friend. When his crush starts dating a college guy, he decides that he wants to do something to impress her. He enlists that aid of his long-time friend to teach him how to swim, leading to him realising that his affections should have been directed elsewhere.
  • Story 2: An angsty girl hooks up with a guy from school at a party. In lieu of leaving her parents stolen divorce papers for some bizarre reason at the hotel where they bumped uglies, the angsty girl and her beau enact a plan that is soon rendered pointless but manages to help them strengthening their growing affections for each other.
  • Story 3: A young woman that looks after her little brother makes the acquaintance of a son of the manager of her school. In spite of her long-term jealousy of this perceived black sheep of his family, she discovers a rather complex young man that wants to become a professional dancer. The two quickly become friends and then smooch buddies.

The characters are allowed to succeed and fail, but some readers will prefer a bit more conflict. The couplings also made sense, each character complementing the other. I suppose that it wouldn’t necessarily be a romance if the couplings weren’t complementary.
The artwork is pretty standard in style for the time that it was written. Whilst certainly not exceptional, it does what it needs to convey the situation and emotions of the character. It may not be as pretty as some of the new manga series, but I still find myself enjoying it a lot more than some of the newer stuff.

All in all, this was a really enjoyable anthology of shojo romance. The pacing for each story was good, it was easy to care about each character and the artwork was good enough to convey the story. I recommend it to long-time fans of the genre. However, it might spoil newcomers to the genre as it is in my personal opinion of higher quality than a lot of manga in this genre.


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Manga Review: Before Daylight Love

Year: 2010
Author + Artist: Mitori Fujii
Version: Dangerous Pleasure Scanlation Group
After Morning Love Online: MyAnimeListMangaFoxKissManga
Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Slice of Life, Romance

Back in June, I reviewed a short-run series called After Morning Love. Before Daylight Love is a follow-on story to the series, focusing on the characters of Tatsumi (Yakusa guy) and Daiki, the guy that is Rin’s boss at the bar. While we did get to see a bit of Daiki in the first series, it barely touched on Tatsumi’s situation.

After years of providing a safe haven for Tatsumi at his bar, Daiki is injured by thugs looking to kill Tatsumi. It leads to the realization that Tatsumi sees him as much more than a protector.

Whilst this series is cute, it wasn’t anywhere near as enjoyable as the first series. I would have preferred getting to know the two characters rather than be dropped into the middle of the situation. I like that sort of progression and it was done right in After Morning Love. I suspect that this choice was probably due to the chapter limitation. It also makes the assumption that we know a bit about the characters already. This is not a good idea if you hope to draw in new readers.
I like the characters overall, just as I did in the original series. Whilst Daiki is outgoing, Tatsumi is understandably reserved due to the need for secrecy in his criminal organisation. Their relationship feels right as well, with the two complementing each other well. Yes, there are some naughty bits, more than the previous series. Nothing explicit, mind you, and it certainly doesn’t fall into porn levels seen in some other Yaoi series. It focuses more on storytelling and character development.
Unfortunately, this story suffers from a bit of “telling, not showing”. This made it difficult for me to genuinely feel tied to their plight. It seemed like the characters were constantly trying to convince the reader that the situation was life-threatening rather than giving us a glimpse of the carnage going on when Tatsumi was out and about doing his thing. Much in all as this isn’t an action series, more violence would have shown the genuine threat that Tatsumi was facing.
Before Daylight Love also includes a continuation of the Animal Ears bonus story seen towards the end of the previous series. I would rate it as a “meh”. It was fluff then and this new instalment feels flat as well. For me, the bonus story would have been better omitted from both series altogether.

In conclusion, as much as I like this story, it wasn’t as good as its predecessor. I felt removed from Daiki and Tatsumi. It was a bit of a let-down for a series that had so much promise.


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Manga Review: 16 Life

Year: 2009 – 2010 (12-parts)
Author + Artist: Saki Aikawa
Version:  Chibi Manga [English translations]
Online: MyAnimeListKissMangaMangaFox
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Slice of Life

16 Life is a short run, full arc series about Saya Kajiura, a 16-year-old student that is discovered by young music producer Yazuki Takase while singing at a Karaoke restaurant. This chance meeting will have a lasting effect on their life and happiness.

The story is short but manages to pack a lot of story into those twelve instalments. I don’t come across short-run series and it was a real joy to come across one that manages to tie everything together as meaningfully as 16 Life does. Each scene also allowed us to learn something about each character as well. Saki Aikawa cut down on scenes that offered little or nothing of value to the story, allowing readers a story rather than pointless filler.
It is so easy to like the characters as well, even if you feel compelled to slap or scream at their visage. There were a few annoying moments but we often see Naoto Hiiragi helping push the story forward with his regular poking of Saya and Takase as well as pointing out when they do something idiotic or contrary to logic. Simply put, this awesome supporting character is the glue that holds the story together.
The relationship between Saya and Yazuki plays out in a logical yet understandably chaotic fashion. It doesn’t drag on with silly drama either, allowing it to resolve in a satisfying fashion. It was easy to root for them because we understood where each was coming from. We also see that putting away of secrets necessary for the pair to move on as a couple. Add to this the lack of reliance upon sex scenes in order to develop their relationship and I consider it a winner.
The artwork of this manga did a good job of conveying the story. The linework was crisp, with backgrounds depicting a living, breathing world. Saki Aikawa decided to give figures without dialogue a face as well. Whilst this is done well in 16 Life, the same cannot be said for other stories where that focus on art often takes away from good storytelling.

In conclusion, I really liked this series. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a short-run Shoujo to get stuck into. It is also a good introduction to the genre and is suitable for anyone that is looking for story over sex scenes.


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Manga Review: 1/3 Romantica

Year: 2008
Author + Artist: Yuka Shibano
Version:  Tenchi-Tachi [English translations]
1/3 Romantica Online: MyAnimeListKissMangaMangaFox
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Slice of Life

1/3 Romantica is a five-part slice of life romance anthology consisting of three stories. Each story is distinct, with the first being told in a longer arc of three parts. Given that it is a tough act to follow, the second story feels flat comparatively. However, the third picks up with a coming-of-age tale about a teenager finding her place in the world.
Though not as entertaining as some anthologies, 1/3 Romantica still manages to be an enjoying read. It also avoided a focus on physical intimacy without demonising sex. This worked for me as I find that writers and artists often use sex scenes to avoid fixing problems such as plot holes.
The artwork is attractive even if the style is dated. The settings and characters complement the stories giving the reader a sense of a living, breathing world. It also had the feel of the artist using just the right amount of linework to convey the story.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this manga to folks with an appreciation for “clean” shoujo romance. So, if you are looking for some raunchy sex scenes then steer clear of this title. I’d also recommend this title to anyone new to the genre because of the focus on storyline and character development.