|Overall||Art||Animation||Character Design||Music||Series Story||Episode Story||Reviewer|
|Buy 4||9||8||9||8||8||7||Devil Doll||[series:2131#752]|
[Score: 83% = minimum "Buy-"; other recommended silent romantic dramas: Asatte no Houkou, Aishiteru Ze Baby, Piano, Koi Kaze; for a very similar story see Sasameki Koto]|
The Art is beautiful, pastel but not as much as Hachimitsu to Kuroba; the setting in two different girls-only schools has some nice scenery (gardens, the inside of a chapel). Nothing noteworthy about the Music except for the OP song being sung with a resonant deep female voice emphasizing how much this is not a kids story; both songs are mellow and as such suitable for the series' content. This series tells its Story with a minimum of distraction; Koi Kaze comes to mind (for the visualization as well as the mood and the dealing with taboo relations, being love amongst girls and teacher/pupil relations here), and this would be an exceptionally high comparison but both stories indeed play in the same league.
So far we get a number of romantic relations amongst high-school girls (it takes 8 episodes before a girl turns out to be interested in a boyfriend), with the few boys being almost irrelevant and serving only as obstacles. This is part of the Girls Love scenario and you have to accept it; actually most of the relations don't go beyond the level of "senpai fawning" not completely unknown in girls-only schools (even more so as Sugimoto is tall, strong and has short hair, thus being a "prince" figure for her underclassmen) thus I removed the "Yuri" category (nothing happens beyond one simple kiss which isn't even on-screen until the replay of the scene in the next episode). I can see how this might still put off some part of the audience but then they just aren't the target group of this show.
Given this premise, the story is absolutely serious, which means no comedy, no fan-service, no action and nothing supernatural. So in this Story "nothing really happens"... except for the character relations developing and influencing each other. Pure silent Shoujo Ai character drama. And secretly dating the school idol isn't that easy for a girl who (rightfully) considers herself a crybaby (remember how she struggled with choosing a club at school!)... so it's not too difficult to sense trouble ahead.
As for the main Characters, there are actually three - Fumi and Akira plus Sugimoto-senpai acting as the catalyst of the story. And despite the little A-chan acts so bratty at times and looks so different from the "refined prince" Sugimoto, they're quite similar in a way - they're both obstinate and unaware of what they actually want. But Fumi, the crybaby, is the star of this show, dealing calmly with her awareness of her sexual orientation, seriously attempting a relationship with an older girl, enduring the hardships of dating someone so popular, and finally dealing much more mature with the outcome than her partner. Fumi alone made this series an experience for me by allowing me to observe her maturing.
I am not that happy with the ending though, mostly because I don't know what Akira thinks of the situation now (knowing so much about what has happened before); I consider the final twist a bit forced, and A-chan remains underused, almost losing her second place in the importance ranking to Sugimoto-senpai. What's more, that OP image of both lead girls in the nude is so completely misleading for this show that I deducted another point from "Episode Story", still resulting in a minimum "Buy-" score in the end.
Side note: It took me quite a while to understand the crucial scene in episode 6 (where Heathcliff curses Cathy on her deathbed) as both fansubs I watched missed the point compared to Emily Bronté's novel.
Last updated Thursday, February 24 2011. Created Tuesday, February 08 2011.
A slow tale about girl love and adolescence, it somehow still was slightly enjoyable to watch.|
Art, Animation & Character Designs
Artwork and animation were darn good. The artwork was almost a "minimalistic" style, with not much detail, however, it was also illustrated with "accented" strokes or "not so perfect" illustration lines. What I mean by this is, it was more artistic in style... which actually was good and lent well to the mood of this series as a whole. Character designs were also minimalistic in detail but were drawn well. One thing that really caught my attention was the use of lighting. There are some scenes where the lighting effect was exceptionally well done and gave a sense of depth and realism. Good stuff.
The OP was a nice and enjoyable lullaby with female vocals. It worked exceptionally well with the OP animation sequence. I was pretty impressed. The soundtrack overall were quiet pieces with pianos and similar. The mood portrayed is that of serenity, placidness and peace. Some of the piano pieces were just breathtaking.... coupled with some of the artistic scenes and scenarios. Wow!
Series and Episode Story
This series is slow. It starts off slow, it goes through the episodes slow and it ends slow. But with that said, there was still something heartwarming here. Ok, yes, there's a tale of lesbian love, but if you really watch the episodes and through to the end, you might pick up on something else altogether rather than a simple yuri story. Adolescence is a tough time.... especially dealing with "love". Near the end of the series, you may realize that it really wasn't about girl on girl love, but rather, "infatuation" or similar. What this series is really about is a close friendship between childhood friends and the love that keeps them together.
There really wasn't a plot but rather an episode-to-episode story telling that is more about pointless dialogue and adolescent friendships.
Overall, it barely holds your interest but somehow makes you smile a warm smile by the end of the last episode.
Last updated Sunday, March 07 2010. Created Sunday, March 07 2010.
(All episodes watched):|
I guess this is what you'd call a Girl's Love (GL) show. I watched several episodes without being able to identify anything particularly good or bad about this show. I would have thought that something significant would have happened pretty quickly to give a strong hint where the plot was going, but not so. The students at this all-girl's school just seem to be falling head over heels for each other, as if either none of them had ever met a boy or this was an academy for lesbians. The problem is that there doesn't seem to be much explanation of why certain characters find themselves attracted to each other--they just do, and why they pair off as they do is anybody's guess. There doesn't seem to be much development of their romances either, which leaves me uninterested. I don't understand why they get together in the first place, then they break up without explaining that very well either. Nothing really flagrantly stupid has been done here, it's just that not much of a story is being told. I found myself having a hard time remembering what had already happened, because it seemed pretty nonsensical and unremarkable. It was pretty obvious right from the start that Fumi and Aa-chan would eventually realise that they are best suited for each other, anyhow (why else would they be together, nude, in the OP sequence?), so all the other attempts at romance are certain to fail. I was tempted to drop this one, but since it's only 11 episodes long I decided to finish it off. One positive thing which catches my eye is the nicely integrated watercolor backgrounds and CG imagery. I did feel a modest but distinct sense of pleasure at the way the final episode wrapped up; sort of a "life goes on" attitude. Perhaps I'd been expecting dramatic and clearly explained behavior all along, while the show had in fact been taking a laid-back approach. The fact that the show never got particularly suggestive leaves me with a feel that this really was about heartfelt friendship for the most part, and helps explain a sort of charm I sensed at the end about the series and its characters.
Last updated Wednesday, October 21 2009. Created Monday, August 03 2009.
(After two episodes a year and a half ago)|
Aoi Hana is another title featuring tightly close-knit friendships between high school girls much like I've seen with Utena and Maria-sama ga Miteru. While I am a fan of such titles due to such titles being rich with character development, Aoi Hana doesn't have such qualities like the two former titles. While having a natural down-to-earth feel, the series didn't give me any interest over the characters since it felt too obvious that they had cardboard cutout personalities with Akira being the energetic tomboy and Fumi the tall, yet timid and emotional, girl. There's not much in the way of depth for Akira based off the first two episodes I've seen and Fumi's character is already being strongly implied to be the lesbian of the two friends from what I seen of the latest episode. The animation has a soft, pastel feel to it which has me imagining Honey and Clover. Still, I think I can effectively drop this series without any regrets since the series isn't meeting up to my expectations from what I first heard of it.
Final review as of now
I have to wonder why I was so jaded to have dropped this over a year ago. Seeing as I have been getting enough enjoyment out of Hourou Musuko, I decided to resume watch of Aoi Hana since Wandering Son was made by the same manga-ka. After completing the series in a rare rewatch, I have to admit that while not perfect, Aoi Hana does do well with exploring the everyday lives of Fumi and Akira. What I had interpreted as "cardboard cutout personalities" with the characters over a year ago are actually down-to-earth and believable personalities you could expect of a high school girl like Akira's energetic, yet slightly naive personality and Fumi's reserved and emotionally fragile character. While the series does explore their everyday interactions with one another, their classmates and friends, the series also tackles the complex character romances that go on, in particular Fumi's lesbian relationship with an upperclassman, unrequited love and mentions of student-teacher relationships. The show tackles these subjects in a serious and believable manner meaning nothing over-the-top or perverted occurs. You get to look inside the heads of the major characters to see how they react to the actions of others around them, peek into their pasts and witness the desires they have for their friends or potential love interest. Only have a couple minor issues to nitpick about: the actions of Akira's brother were a bit on the creepy side at points as he tries "protecting" her and there isn't really a proper resolution to the series as Aoi Hana concludes just as Fumi comes to a realization over who she loves.
The show always carries a calm and serene mood throughout its run, which is shown quite clearly with the show's visual and aural presentation. It has a pastel-like visual style similar to Honey and Clover with beautiful looking scenery and character designs that sport a decent amount of detail. Animation is the weakest of the visual details thanks to some glaring use of CG animation for vehicles that stands out from the pastel-like visuals in a bad way. Mellow and calm musical tracks do well at complementing the down-to-earth feel that Aoi Hana gives off.
Much as I like to avoid wanting to resume a dropped title, I have to admit I deeply regretted dropping Aoi Hana. Though a shoujo-ai title, the series retains a down-to-earth feel as it explores the complicated lives faced by characters like Fumi and Sugimoto who deal with unrequited love and their sexual orientations.
Last updated Tuesday, February 08 2011. Created Monday, July 13 2009.
A tale of forbidden relationships and undying bonds of friendship...|
I labeled this title a "filler" series right from the start so I wouldn't have anything to worry about if things went south for whatever reasons. I began watching with a fairly positive impression, but to my dismay, I finished with a disgruntled opinion overall. Several things hit my radar as I noticed a plethora of 'bad moves' that were put into play when this title was produced. Unfortunately, they are all story related which is the worst possible scenario. It turned out to be a wasted opportunity for a good series in the long run.
The story direction is where things all went to shambles. Though the premise is wide open, the path that was decided upon left much to be desired. Two childhood friends who grew up together finally find each other again and slowly begin to open up to one another after a ten year separation. The two leads are Fumi, who cries for every little thing (annoying me to no end), and Akira, who is the more assertive lead (that saved this title from absolute failure). Here is one of the problems I had with this series: Yasuko (better known as Sugimoto) and Kyoko. Two more main characters (?) that did nothing except force the series to move forward and I use the word force quite literally. Whether it be taking air time away from the real main leads or just causing empty drama to develop, those two were the subject of my hatred the entire way through. Another thing that made no sense was the fact that nearly every female in the school was a lesbian. There is nothing that triggers it. You are just forced to accept that everyone is searching for love with the same sex and it happens to be all females. Speaking of lesbians, it says a lot about a yuri title when one of the biggest shockers is when a family finds out that their little girl is a lesbian. It's pathetic and mundane issues like this that pepper the series and you could say I sneezed out most of my enjoyment. After the very misleading episode four which was great, I hoped for the story to continue along those lines, but it just veered off to another easily avoidable path. It's as if those in charge didn't even try to hold the viewer's attention.
There are some good points in the madness though. The 'Heathcliff' play in episode six is worth mentioning since they used some fairly advanced techniques in terms of story telling and narration. It took the entire series for Yasuko to finally accept who she is, but she was able to begin redeeming herself in episode ten. The final episode provided a fair amount of closure for the characters. They all prepare to better their lives in some way, but the final scene with Fumi and Akira was heart warming and gave me what I was waiting for the entire eleven episodes. Better late than never I suppose.
That brings me to this title's specs - art/animation/design/music. The art is fair and fitting for a series of this nature. The animation is a rank higher, so it actually brought the overall picture to a respectable level. The character design is also fair and ran parallel to the quality of the art style. The music is where things begin to transcend the quality of this series. All the situational music is there, but the real prize is in the opening/ending/OST! I was completely enthralled in the music for this title. From the stunning ending theme - "Centifolia" to the song with enough power to move mountains - "Little Garden", I was hit one after another with songs that I could easily say deserves to be on every anime/music lovers' MP3 player (since they’re already on mine). The clap-inspiring opening theme - "Aoi Hana" was enough to seal the deal for me. I still find myself maxing out the volume on my sound systems and blasting my house and car with these songs. This high-level of music may as well have been reserved for a title of matching quality. I guess the best way to describe it all is to say that the music is some really sweet stuff.
In summation, as good as the production value is for this title, it's the story that trumps all and that is where this series suffered mostly, bringing it down to the average level. It's unfortunate as the premise opened many different doors in terms of story direction. The potential was high, but they couldn't capitalize on what was important for me – the relationship between the two main leads. I can still see several different story directions they could have used, but they just focused on several none-important issues. Any series where support characters get more air time then main characters, is just asking for negative feedback and that is what this title will get. Watch this series if you want and toss it when your done. The main reason I can't say avoid it is because of the music. I think the best part of listening to music is having something to attach it to emotionally. Having that emotional attachment is very important when I hear a song of any kind and those that can relate to what I'm saying will quickly understand what I mean.
There are numerous titles that I suggest you go with that get the 'one-up' on this one. Instead of suggesting a title of comparable quality (which wouldn't do you any good in the long run), I'll just offer some titles that deserve to be seen. If you don’t mind giving up the yuri element, try True Tears or Myself; Yourself. Hopefully, you can walk away after finishing those titles with more that can be said for this series.
I hope I never have to see the likes of Fumi ever again!
Check out my award list to see some of the best anime titles in the world!
Never forget Xenosaga.
Last updated Saturday, September 11 2010. Created Sunday, July 05 2009.
CrunchyRoll, in an attempt to get on the popular subtitled anime bandwagon, has been able to get a license to release this series on their site (here is their link) and their efforts show exactly why unauthorized and underground fansub groups are so well respected. Crunchy's translations and subtitled release really S**KS BIGTIME. They are too lazy to even bother to subtitle the OP & ED songs.
Fansub groups do more than just translate what is said into English - they try to convey some cultural nuances and flavor of the original series. For me to listen what is said and then read Cruchy's cheesy translation is almost funny. My impression is that they are just slamming this out to be able to 'brag' that they are part of the new trend anime crowd. Sorry to ding their efforts, but its really lame and doesn't work.
Otherwise, this series is going to have problems. The Japanese word ↗Yuri can mean anything from a deep but platonic friendship between girls to lesbian love. And this series is about a deep emotional connection between two girls....
Hummm.... So just how is this going to sell to the western anime fans? Twill be interesting see....
(FYI - the last big YURI title that proved popular was the 1997 Revolutionary Girl Utena series, which coincidentally was also animated by JC Staff.)
Last updated Monday, July 06 2009. Created Thursday, July 02 2009.
|Official Japanese Series Web Site||http://www.aoihana.tv/|