365 Days of Manga, Day 106: Flower of Life


flower_cover.jpgFLOWER OF LIFE (?????????) • Fumi Yoshinaga • DMP (2007-2009) • Shinshokan (Wings, 2003-2007) • 4 volumes • Shôjo Otaku Romantic Comedy • 16+ (mild language, sex)
One of Fumi Yoshinaga’s least adult works available in translation (there’s sex talk, but you don’t see anything), Flower of Life is her take on the high school comedy genre. Harutaru, a good-hearted teenager who missed the first few months of class due to leukemia, comes to school and makes friends by joining the manga club. Though the same basic elements are present in many other manga–high school plays, students preparing dôjinshi for the Comiket convention–Yoshinaga’s characters are entirely original, from Shigeru, the androgynous teacher caught in an unsatisfying love affair, to chubby Shota (perhaps a case of originality in character design more than personality), to Majima, the selfish nerd who gets terrible grades and is incredibly hot. The characters carry the story like the best sitcoms, but Yoshinaga also makes some unusually perceptive comments about yaoi, moe and other Japanese nerd topics (“If you make one manly, you’ve got to make the other one pretty enough so as to be barely distinguishable from a woman! That’s the iron rule of yaoi!”). The snippets of manga-within-the-manga are drawn by other artists than Yoshinaga. Alternately sweet and cynical, but full of good dialogue and observations about people, this story strays all over the map (there’s even a recipe or two) but makes a worthy successor to Yoshinaga’s other masterpiece Antique Bakery.
I can’t believe I haven’t really reviewed this wonderful little series before (the review in Manga: The Complete Guide was just a placeholder, since the English edition hadn’t come out yet). Today’s winner is Allie R. of California — congratulations, Allie!