By Yuki Yoshihara. Released in Japan as "Chou Yo Hana Yo" by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Petit Comic. Released in North America by Viz.
Things have been going fairly smoothly for our couple lately, well, at least as smoothly as you can get in a soap opera melodrama sort of world. And given this, it will come as a surprise to no one that various bad things happen in this volume to try to break them up. This involves both Choko's self-doubt (she finds out that Masayuki had an ex) and new characters arriving on the scene to be impediments. Unfortunately, the fact that two of these new characters are introduced one right on top of the other sort of makes it feel a bit as if Yoshihara is tossing in complications to extend the series out.
One thing I noticed right away is that there's very little of Masayuki being an over the top lunatic, something which was both the main fault and the saving grace of previous volumes. Despite the occasional Gundam reference and outbreaks of ludicrous violence, he's really mellowed out now that he and Choko are together, and doesn't feel the need to be obnoxious about it anymore. There's one sex scene at the start of the volume, and it's probably the sweetest one we've had in the series. Now if only he could stop himself putting tracking devices in her underwear...
Choko, on the other hand, is still having issues, mostly as she's the female viewpoint heroine in a josei series, which means she's plagued by self-doubt and concerns. Hearing Masayuki once had a lover who wasn't her makes her jealous, even when she doesn't know quite how to deal with it. She handles the introduction of a new man to the office much better, first attempting to work with him in order to help her friend Makie avoid an arranged marriage, and then fending him off once he starts to fall for her. Luckily, Otaki is somewhat socially inept, so she thinks he's merely being rude to her when he tries to give her a ring. (?!) The arrival of Masayuki's ex, Kaori, comes right on top of this, and to be honest feels a bit like overegging the pudding. Especially given she's just as bad as you imagined she was going to be, threatening Choko right off the bat.
Overall, the manga is getting subtler about both its romance and its drama. There's still humor (I loved Masayuki's reaction to finding out Suou and Makie were in love), but it's nowhere near the level of early volumes. Likewise, the relationship between Choko and Masayuki, despite its hiccups, also seems more mature and has come a hell of a long way from that job interview at the start. It's nice to see, but I do feel that I didn't get as into this volume as much as previous ones due to a lack of ludicrousness. Without Masayuki being grotesque and over the top, Butterflies, Flowers feels like another romance manga, just with a bit more spice as it's josei. I'm hoping the last two volumes bring back a bit of me staring in awe at the sheer gall of it all.