For this month, the LGBTQ Manga Book Club will spend some time with a late September release, Sweet Blue Flowers by Takako Shimura. Published by VIZ, it’s now available in paperback or digital format, as of September 19th. It’s an omnibus, like My Brother’s Husband, combining the first and second volumes of the Japanese edition. The story follows Fumi and Akira, both childhood friends who lost contact after one of them moved away. Ten years later, they reunite as they enter high school. They attend different schools but their friendship reignites as they both navigate the new changes in their lives and grow up. Warning: this volume contains incestuous child abuse and sexual harassment of teenagers.
Takako Shimura was born in 1973 in Kanagawa, Japan. She debuted with the manga Boku wa Onna no Ko, a speculative short story in which everyone on earth changes biological sex overnight, at 20 years old. In the West, Shimura is known for her LGBTQ-themed works Sweet Blue Flowers and Wandering Son, but she has a variety of other manga not available in English.
Sweet Blue Flowers, titled Aoi Hana in Japanese, stemmed from Shimura’s desire to create a manga about girls. It was serialized in the manga magazine Manga Erotics F from 2004 to 2013 and collected into eight volumes. Despite its name, not all manga in the magazine were erotic in nature, such as SBF. It was also home to Ristorante Paradiso by Ono Natsume and A Girl on the Shore by Inio Asano. In 2009, SBF was adapted into an eleven episode anime directed by Ken’ichi Kasai from J.C.Staff. It is available in English on DVD from RightStuf and streaming on Crunchyroll. Note that the manga storyline was not complete at the time the anime was produced, and therefore has a different ending.
In 2012, it was licensed to be digitally published in English by the now-defunct JManga. The JManga version of the first volume is still available for purchase through Digital Manga Publishing. Now VIZ Media is releasing two-in-one omnibus editions, translated by John Werry.
- Takako Shimura’s website
- Takako Shimura on Twitter
- Takako Shimura on Tumblr
- John Werry’s website
- John Werry on Twitter
- Yuri Manga: Aoi Hana, Sweet Blue Flowers Volume 1 (青い花) – Okazu
- Yuri Manga: Aoi Hana, Volume 2 – Okazu
- Shimura Takako’s Landmark LGBT Manga Series To End
- The Evolution of “Recognition/Assertion of a Lesbian Identity” vs “Akogare” in Manga
- More essays on yuri
- What are your overall thoughts on the book? How did reading it make you feel? What chapter or moment stood out to you?
- What do you think of Shimura’s artwork?
- Shimura’s aim to focus on girls includes the two main characters of SBF: Fumi Manjome and Akira Okudaira. Can you relate to them? How do they compare (in personality, experiences, etc.) to each other? How does their history as childhood friends affect their present?
- SBF features not one but two all-girls schools, a staple of yuri-themed manga as influenced by class S literature. How do gender roles and relationships play out between students, or with students and non-students of the schools, including romantic feelings between girls and romantic feelings between boys and girls?
- Akira becomes Fumi’s confidant regarding her dating Sugimoto, her abusive relationship with Chizu, and her sexuality. How does Akira react and how does it inform their own relationship?
- When Sugimoto introduces Fumi to her family, the words “lesbian” and “bisexual” are brought up. What role does Sugimoto’s family play in her life, and how does this incident impact her dynamic with Fumi? What does the use of these terms contribute to the yuri genre?
- This volume contains references to literature, most prominently Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Shimura also alludes to Tomiko Yamakawa when Fumi investigates “the library maiden,” an omake borrows the title of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and the manga takes place in the city home to the Kamakura Museum of Literature and Nobuko Yoshiya Memorial Museum. What do these add to the story?
- The second omnibus of SBF will be released in December of 2017. If releases keep up that pace, all will be available in June of 2018. The LGBTQ Manga Book Club plans to revisit SBF that month to discuss the series as a whole. Until then, do you have any hopes or predictions for the rest of the series?
- Any other thoughts?
- Any discussion questions you have for fellow book club members?
You may answer as many or as few questions as you like.