Butterflies, Flowers 8

Yuki Yoshihara – Viz – 2011 – 8 volumes

Yay, final volume! This has been up there with Tramps Like Us as one of my absolute favorites of the josei I’ve read. Both are great, and Tramps Like Us is better, but Butterflies, Flowers is definitely funnier.

One of its best qualities is highlighted in the first story of this volume. One of the chapters is about an arranged marriage between Choko and a wealthy family her father is indebted to. The dramatic tension isn’t very high, since this is the last volume and I knew this wasn’t going to go anywhere. But for some reason, Masayuki goes along with this, and even attends as her butler at the meeting between Choko and her future spouse. There’s all sorts of sadness and drama, not only because of the marriage, but because Masayuki is forcing Choko to say all the right things to make her a perfect bride.

But the reason I love this series is that Masayuki also knows the exact right time to say something shockingly inappropriate. Like, not only funny, but a real mood-smasher, too. Which is okay, because Butterflies, Flowers is best at its character-based humor, and Masayuki’s horrible innuendo is the reason I read.

But seriously. The first chapter of this volume. I couldn’t believe that came out of his mouth. Bravo.

As expected, marriage is discussed several times in the chapters here. There’s some feeling affirmation, some other stuff… but what’s interesting is that, while both of them want to get married, the hang-up at the very end is that Masayuki can’t give up calling Choko “Milady.” He can’t call her by her first name, and she doesn’t want to be addressed like a mistress in marriage.

The real proposal was sudden, but Masayuki does something hilarious and inappropriate to make up for it. Not inappropriate in the sexual innuendo sense, but in the social sense. It’s definitely the most memorable marriage proposal I’ve ever seen. And Choko pursues him relentlessly because of it. Choko gets to use a lot of underhanded tricks. Including her parents. It was genuinely funny, and I laughed hard through the last chapter or two. Romance manga that are both genuinely romantic and genuinely funny at the same time are a rare treat.

The last chapter is all sorts of funny and sad, and I wouldn’t have traded that last scene between them for the world. It was obvious how it was going to end, so it doesn’t get many points for creativity story-wise. But I love and adore Masayuki and Choko, and seeing them together was great all the way to the end.

This series gets a high recommendation from me. Even if you don’t normally read romance manga, this one might be worth picking up anyway. My roommate usually hates them, and he seemed to genuinely enjoy this one after I forced it on him. It really is both that funny and that touching. And outrageously full of innuendo. Seriously. Masayuki, you try so hard.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Butterflies, Flowers 7

Yuki Yoshihara – Viz – 2011 – 8 volumes

I was very, very worried that this humorous and charming series would step over into the drama side. The last volume ended very badly, and that’s never really happened before. Since when has the silly, devoted Masayuki had eyes for anybody but Choko?

The Masayuki side of the drama is sorted out in the first chapter of this book. I was a little underwhelmed by what was “actually” happening, especially since it’s so out-of-character for Masayuki to not let Choko in on what was going on.

It’s the Choko side of the drama that troubled me most, though. Her new boss is set on stealing her away from Masayuki, and he resorts to dirty tricks to do it. Dirty tricks that wound Choko deeply. It takes Masayuki a lot of effort to comfort her after what her boss did. What’s worse, instead of taking any sort of action against her boss, she simply tells him off the next time she sees him at work. Really? REALLY?! Masayuki’s sexual harassment is one thing, especially since the two were so clearly an item immediately. What the boss does is something else, and it really upset me that no action was taken.

It also upset me that something like that even came up in Butterflies, Flowers. Something identical happened at the end of Sensual Phrase. Sensual Phrase took it uncharacteristically seriously though, and spent a long time examining the after-effects. Sensual Phrase is also a drama. But something like that has no place in Butterflies, Flowers, a series that I enjoy for its sense of humor. When the light mood is gone, it’s really upsetting, and I hate seeing the characters go through something like that.

After that… whole business, the stories go back to focus on Choko keeping Masayuki’s silliness in check. The two chapters at the end of the book were very charming. One was about how the other office ladies couldn’t believe that Choko wasn’t having sex with Masayuki more frequently, given his massive sex appeal. Meanwhile, Masayuki pulls every sort of gag possible in an effort to get Choko in the mood, which of course backfires horribly and lays Choko’s fears to rest. It’s funny stuff. The last story is about just how much Choko’s yutaka means to Masayuki.

Again, this series is all about how charming and funny Masayuki can be, and how close his relationship with Choko is. Masayuki can take almost any story and make it funny, and to waste him on drama is a crime. I’m glad the stories seem to have reverted back to the old ways at the end of this volume, and I’m really, really, REALLY looking forward to the next one, the final in the series. I’m hoping Masayuki will be in rare form.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Butterflies, Flowers 6

Yuki Yoshihara – Viz – 2011 – 8 volumes

After enjoying the absurd silliness of volume 5, the drama in this volume came as something of a shock. I like this series a lot for its light touch and sense of humor, and Masayuki’s hilariously terrifying presence, and it’s almost as if drama has no place in the happy relationship between Choko and Masayuki. So when romantic rivals for both characters appear in this volume, things get very ugly.

The volume starts out innocently enough, with a cute one-shot about Choko moving back in with her family, but not wanting to move out of Masayuki’s apartment. There’s all sorts of funny sweetness in this story, though it’s only of moderate quality in the context of the series. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but Butterflies, Flowers has done better. The second story is another relatively cute one about a work-related hot springs retreat. This… goes about how you think it will, but at the end a few characters sew a few plot-related seeds. Gossip shows that the board of directors is looking to overthrow the president of the company, and also that Masayuki was involved in a relationship with another woman before Choko began working at the company. Choko gets jealous, but it ends in a relatively pleasing way, with both characters laughing it off. I love it when the manga relationship can weather drama like that unscathed. Rarely are the characters tied together that strongly.

My pleasure was short-lived, however, as the next few chapters introduced a new character, brought in to sort out the board of directors business. He has designs on Choko, and although Choko tries her best to dissuade his advances, he is rather persistent, and Masayuki remains relatively silent on the matter. This character also brings Masayuki’s old girlfriend back to the company, and Masayuki begins spending a lot of time with her rather than Choko, again, with no reason why.

The book ends on a very ugly note. What would be par for the course in any other romance manga was extremely upsetting here, since the romance and laughs are usually perfect and reading a volume always makes my day awesome. I wasn’t expecting to be so disillusioned by the new path the story took here, and Choko and Masayuki are so out-of-character I feel like I’m suddenly reading a different book. With two volumes left, I hope it’s not an ongoing plot thread to the end of the series, because Masayuki being serious and quiet is a waste of a wonderful character.

Oddly enough, this made me want to read the next volume even worse than usual, because I have to know whether things are truly going south or not. What can I say, drama works even in the happiest of series, I guess.


Butterflies, Flowers 5

Yuki Yoshihara – Viz – 2010 – 8 volumes

I haven’t read this in a long time, which is a mystery. It makes me laugh so hard every time I read it, and Masayuki is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters of all time.

This volume pretty much seals this series’ reputation forever in my mind. I do love romances between older couples like this, and I can safely say that this is the first romance comic I’ve read where the couple has to deal with… erectile dysfunction. Masayuki, with his love of sex and penchant for hilarious dialogue, is the perfect target for such an affliction. And Kuze doesn’t help him much, since she’s clueless about what this means to Masayuki and says all the wrong things to him. Masayuki cries several times.

That’s the gist of the book, but really, it’s Masayuki being himself more than the stuff that’s going on that makes me love this series. He makes me smile on every page. He’s so insistent on what he wants for Kuze, but at the same time dotes on her and takes care of her in every way. He’s the ideal Harlequin husband in the worst way, but with a foul mouth. And that’s okay, because Masayuki pulls it off.

His attentiveness to Kuze begins to wear on her when she starts to think that Masayuki’s dysfunction is related to the fact that their relationship is more master/servant than it is lovers. She tries to break Masayuki of some of his servant habits, but treating her like a princess is something he’s fond of. Things get childish on both sides, but not in a bad way, and we find out that Masayuki cries and laments when Kuze holds out on him for treating her like his master… but he can’t stop himself. It’s just so… him, I guess. Distinctive.

And no matter what Yuki Yoshihara says at the end about reader reactions, his dysfunction in this volume doesn’t make Masayuki any less cool.


Butterflies, Flowers 4

Yuki Yoshihara – Viz – 2010 – 8 volumes

I have a gut-wrenching love for this series. It is a very mature, office-lady josei series with an older (20-something) woman in a relationship with her handsome and mature boss, set on a path in life and going places.

But then it is so, so immature in everything that it does romantically. Mostly just Masayuki, the love interest. He hits new lows in this volume when he magically appears in Kuze’s bed and offers to read her “Edward Penishands.”

The two flavors war for supremacy, and I find that it is always to my liking. Its sense of humor really is the best. Especially if you like low blow junior high jokes as much as I do. They always come when they are least expected.

Then again, there’s a little part of me that hates some of the more… humiliating and demeaning things that happen to Kuze. She is constantly a prize, which she seems to take in stride and even in good humor, since Masayuki will always save her. Masayuki does constantly sexually harass her, but part of me feels that Kuze would stop it if she didn’t secretly enjoy it from him, which is revealed as fact later in this volume. But… the contest between Masayuki and another suitor (who characters warn “not to get within seven feet of for fear of pregnancy”), where they are seeing who can get closer to Kuze’s “neither regions” over the course of three days, in order to determine Masayuki’s future, is a little much. Just a wee bit. Especially since the “suitor” is the president of the company both of them work for. That’s all sorts of ugly.

But the series’ sense of humor somehow makes it okay. Kuze isn’t exactly a weeping damsel in distress, though she does seem rather helpless in the face of all this. The war fought over her “neither regions” is done comically, with constant Gundam references flying all over the place and lots of elaborate traps and mecha saves. I think the thing that really makes it okay, though, is that Kuze never really tries to get either of them to stop, when she cries foul they do give up what they’re doing, and neither of them try to rape her or even get remotely sexual with her. It really is all for a laugh. That’s the difference between this being funny and uncomfortable.

At least, for me it was. I thought it was very, very funny.

Later, Masayuki does stop harassing Kuze, and she misses it very much. They settle a thing or two between them in the last two chapters (pretty typical romance stuff I’m glossing over here, but very important in any romance comic, especially one with a couple as cute as Masayuki and Choko), but I’m hoping that things return to normal next volume. Pervy Masayuki is who I’ve come to see, honestly, and he’s what makes this spectacular.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Butterflies, Flowers 3

Yuki Yoshihara – Viz – 2010 – 8 volumes

Masayuki is such a CREEP. I really, really enjoy the humor, but on the other hand, Masayuki is crossing this weird line that I didn’t even know existed. Maybe he’s made more creepy by the fact he’s wearing a suit and keeping a straight face while doing things like asking for sex or loudly discussing Choko’s period with the entire office.

There’s a suppository chapter. I don’t even know what to say about that.

It’s still ridiculously romantic when it wants to be, and part of me loves that Masayuki can switch from gallant lover to perverted little boy in the blink of an eye. It’s what makes this very much worth reading, but it’s creepy all the same.

There are still a few white knight chapters, where Masayuki steps in to save Choko from uncouth men or other bad decisions, but a lot of the focus in this volume is getting the mood just right between Choko and Masayuki so that they can consummate their relationship for the first time. For a manga, there’s surprisingly little beating around the bush (even considering the intended audience), and I think Masayuki has a lot to do with that.

There’s also a new character introduced, another servant from the former Kuze estate and a childhood friend of both Masayuki and Choko. Jinguji is one of the uncouth men that Masayuki has to save Choko from, but after his initial introduction (he and Masayuki really don’t get on well), he blends in and becomes a background character, reappearing for comic relief alongside Choko’s brother and Suou at the office. The last thing this series needs is a lot of miscellaneous characters that don’t do anything except stand around and crack jokes, so I hope things don’t get too much more crowded.

But I like this more and more with every volume. A big part of that is just what a pervy creep Masayuki is, and I think the shock of this is still quite novel. It’s also surprisingly crass at points, another thing that I love. But the jokes are funny and the romance is intense when it wants to be, and so far it’s been hitting all the right buttons for me. The chapters are still mostly one-shots, and with not very many major milestones for Choko and Masayuki to hit, I’m looking forward to seeing the smaller nuances of their relationship in side stories in the upcoming volumes. As blunt as it is about some things, it is subtle when it comes to the actual relationships, and I like this contrast.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Butterflies, Flowers 2

Yuki Yoshihara – Viz – 2010 – 8 volumes

While I really, really like Please Please Me for its insane similarities to Happy Mania, I think my heart lies with more sentimental stories like this, especially when they’re written for older women and incredibly well-done.  Things like this are super-rare in the US, so I’m quite pleased that we are treated to Butterflies, Flowers.

There’s something slightly… off between Choko and Masayuki, and I think it’s that Masayuki is very cruel in his teasing.  I don’t think this is out of place, because I think borderline lewd and slightly cruel behavior is commonplace between two people that are close, especially if they grew up together.  It’s slightly uncomfortable because I’m not “in” on the joke, I guess, but it seems very natural to me.  I think the workplace environment turns it into something more, too, and Choko is always complaining about sexual harassment, but I really only do see it as an overgrown Masayuki teasing his childhood crush in a different setting, appropriate or not.  And, I mean, they are dating now.

The format of the series is still one-shot chapters with each contributing to the maturation of the relationship between Choko and Masayuki.  Different things happen, like the company president’s niece setting her eye on Masayuki and Choko getting terribly jealous, or the two going on their first date, or later not able to go on dates, things like that.  Choko is a virgin, so lots of tine is spent with the two of them trying different things to make Choko more comfortable with her new feelings.  She wants to have sex, but is too embarassed.  Masayuki doesn’t help much, because he teases her even then, but the two of them do try, and Masayuki can be nice when he wants to be.  There’s even a rare moment towards the end of the volume where Masayuki is speechless with embarassment.

I like this a lot better than Suppli, mostly because the latter focuses on introspection rather than just showing you what is going on.  Also, I tend to like estabished relationship stories like this, especially when they’re more romantic than comedic.  Masayuki’s teasing is a little uncomfortable, and probably pushes this back just a smidge in the josei manga age range, but I’m still absolutely crazy for this.  I’m pleased to see the length is only 8 volumes too, which means we’ll probably get a really solid story, too.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Butterflies, Flowers 1

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.


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