Butterflies, Flowers 1Posted: December 6, 2009
Yuki Yoshihara – Viz – 2009 – 8 volumes
Josei is sort of a funny thing. While I like reading it, and I read as much of it as I can, there are very few I actually enjoy. Aside from a couple one-shot volumes, the only josei series published in English that I actually enjoyed was Tramps Like Us. Happy Mania was great and I loved it in the end, but it was hard to figure out until much later. I dislike Suppli because it’s hard to follow its sense of place and time and I can’t really get a bead on the main character. Sorry, Happy Mania and Suppli.
Butterflies, Flowers may be what I’ve been looking for since Tramps Like Us ended, however. Kuze’s formerly wealthy family went bankrupt during the economic crisis in the 90s, and they dismissed all their servants, including Kuze’s former favorite Cha-chan. Living a normal life without all the money, Kuze just started a new job as an office lady under a tyrant boss she soon finds out is her childhood Cha-chan.
It seemed a little off at first, but I think the reason I like this as much as Tramps Like Us is that it strikes just the right balance between serious situations, humor, and romance. Cha-chan, or Director Domoto, frequently terrorizes Kuze and makes her life miserable in fairly comedic ways. Kuze takes it, but comes through as a former aristocrat in a couple tight spots. They don’t have any chemistry at first aside from the comedic way Kuze simply collapses in disbelief under Domoto’s demands, but later the two begin exploring their feelings for each other in little subtle snippets. Domoto seems to like Kuze, but may just be acting on his former need to protect her as a servant. Kuze does eventually warm up to him, but she may be the one who has to open up affectionately to him since she’s not sure if Domoto is serious. Incredibly, breaking the ice about their feelings only takes one chapter, something else I like about it. There are various crises in each chapter, and other characters at the office make life hard for Kuze since she is a rookie and a clear favorite, and there are other aspects of her job that the story takes seriously as well. But the story does a good job of giving everything equal time as it goes on.
So far, the format is similar to Tramps Like Us, too. Each chapter is a one-shot story that also has a little character development, which seems to be taking the place of an overarching plot in the same way it did with Tramps Like Us, which is fine by me. There’s no real continuity between the chapters, and the stories are things like… a possible rival for Domoto (something that is taken care of almost immediately and probably won’t come up again, thankfully, but we got an awesome side character out of it), Kuze giving up socializing with coworkers to help out at her family’s noodle shop on a busy day, and learning how far she has to go in her job training. Other than the romantic rival, the stories are different enough from the standard one-shot fodder to make them interesting reading, and Domoto and Kuze’s constant needling of one another also make reading the mundane-sounding material a joy.
I loved it. I was a little leery, and it took me a chapter or two to warm up, but I was a complete convert by the end of the book. I can’t wait to read more of this. Highly recommended, especially if you’re like me and are a little older than the standard target audience for shoujo, but like it anyway. This is exactly what I want josei to be, just a well-done shoujo story for older women.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.