Saturday, June 11, 2011

Butterflies, Flowers Volume 7

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.

I note as I continue to read this series that the reason it succeeds with me in a way that, say, Black Bird does not, is that every horrid moment in it is immediately undercut by some over the top bit of humor or fourth wall breaking that reminds you that this is merely a dumb josei romance. Case in point: continuing where we left off at the end of Vol. 6, Choko has her hand bandaged after Kaori stepped on it in her heels, demanding Choko break up with him. Choko, not one to back down, angrily confronts her the next day at work, whereupon Kaori grabs her hand and sneers "No snitching" while squeezing it hand. A dramatic scene filled with scary tension... until you turn the page, and see superdeformed Choko lying on the floor in a puddle, with a little arrow noting "pissed herself".

This is perhaps why I didn't have as much of an issue as some others did with the date rape scene later in the volume. First of all, the moment it "happened" I knew that it would turn out to be something just for show - we've known the leads for 6 volumes, and the other man involved for 2, and there just isn't any way that he would do this sort of thing, and thus it was purely for potboiler show. That said, it was a horrid thing to do, and Masayuki's response (not immediately telling Choko he knew things didn't get that far) is equally bad. But then, this is Butterflies, Flowers. If you aren't ready for the men to be gloriously horrible (but sweet deep down), you're reading the wrong manga. And again, when she finds out, we cut immediately to Masayuki... who is hiding himself behind her, wearing palm fronds, disguised as a plant.

Then there's the popularity contest, and the sheer gall of the ex-girlfriend trussed up on the bed like a meat market sale, and Choko's having to really think back on when the two of them last had sex, and of course the best line of the volume, which I won't give away here except it involves the word "semen". Every time something that would be offensive in any other manga comes by, Butterflies, Flowers is here to be so gleefully trashy and over the top that at most you just slap your forehead and sigh.

In terms of the actual couple, Choko gets some good development in the latter half of the book. She's been, despite the sex, very much the naive and innocent heroine throughout this, and thus when she is confronted by several angry women noting that she's frustrating Masayuki by her lack of sexual desire for him, she's not sure what to think. Of course, these girls not only don't have her prior history with him, but also don't have him acting like a flaming moron in front of her all the time. But we do start to see Choko think about Masayuki as an actual desirable man, and try her best to understand her own passions. Unfortunately, she doesn't really get far. Fortunately, the next volume is the final one, so I anticipate that she will soon!

So yes, the sexual politics of this series remains as questionable as ever, but it's so ludicrous that I don't care. I like Butterflies Flowers because it's funny. I dropped Black Bird because it was painfully earnest. Your mileage may vary, but I guess that's how I see the series. So if you want more of what you've seen in the first six volumes, well, you won't be disappointed.

Oh, you might be disappointed in that there are no Gundam references this time. But they do namedrop Space Battleship Yamato, so I guess it's OK.

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