Flowers & Bees, Volume 1

Creator: Moyoco Anno
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781569319789
Released: October 2003
Original release: 2000

Flowers & Bees was the second manga series by Moyoco Anno to be released in English. Viz Media published the first volume of the series in 2003, six months after Tokyopop published the first volume of the English-language edition of Happy Mania. In Japan the first volume of Flowers & Bees was released in 2000. Flowers & Bees was Anno’s first foray into a series aimed at a predominantly adult male audience. Prior to Flowers & Bees, Anno was primarily known for her work as a josei artist. I’ve heard Flowers & Bees described as a male version of Happy Mania. Having read both manga, I’d have to say it’s actually not a bad comparison; the two series share many themes and other similarities. Even though I had previously read Flowers & Bees, I was looking forward to reading it again for the Moyoco Anno Manga Moveable Feast.

Masao Komatsu is desperate. He’s convinced that the reason he’s unpopular is his unattractiveness. All he really wants is a little respect and for Noriko, a girl from another high school who he’s developed a huge crush on, to give him the time of day. That’s when he stumbles into the World of Beautiful Men, a men’s beauty salon filled with people who delight in tormenting Komatsu just as much as they do in helping him to develop something at least resembling style. What starts out as a simple eyebrow job soon spirals out of control as Komatsu will do anything and everything he possible can in order to look cool. And it seems to be working. Sort of. The attention that he starts to draw isn’t exactly what he had in mind, but at least women are starting to notice him.

I’m rather fond of Komatsu as pitiful as he can be. I can’t help but feel some sympathy for the poor guy. He’s not nearly as big of a loser as he thinks he is. He just hasn’t realized quite yet that he needs to work on his confidence and self-esteem more than he needs to work on his hair. (Granted, a decent haircut certainly doesn’t hurt, either.) But Komatsu tries. He really, really tries. His earnestness and obsession with becoming attractive is impressive. It is also highly amusing. As self-conscious as he is as a person, he is also incredibly self-absorbed. Anno doesn’t go easy on Komatsu. He’s the subject of some pretty cruel treatment. Admittedly, Flowers & Bees can be a little mean, but it can also be hilarious.

As harsh as Flowers & Bees is on occasion, Anno actually does incorporate some legitimate fashion and relationship tips into the manga. At times they’re a little difficult to discern as Komatsu is put through all sorts of overly dramatic, not to mention traumatic, experience. Komatsu is desperate and highly impressionable, grasping at even the smallest piece of advice. He doesn’t always quite get it, but there’s still hope for him. I think that’s one of the reasons Flowers & Bees works for me. Komatsu has plenty of room to grow and develop as a character. Many of the changes in the first volume are merely physical, but the foundation for his metamorphosis as a person as a whole is also established. I really do enjoy Flowers & Bees.

My Week in Manga: January 14-January 20, 2013

My News and Reviews

The Moyoco Anno Manga Moveable Feast has begun! This month’s Feast is being hosted right here at Experiments in Manga, so expect to see more content than usual this week (including a guest post!) beginning with some quick takes of Anno’s manga available in English below. To start things off, I posted an introduction to the Feast on Sunday. For more information about how to contribute to the Feast, please check out the Call for Participation. I’m looking forward to the Feast and hope you all are, too! I will be doing my best as host, so please enjoy.

Although I was busy preparing for the Feast last week, I was still able to post a couple of reviews. The next review in my Blade of the Immortal review project was posted—Blade of the Immortal, Volume 17: On the Perfection of Anatomy. Hiroaki Samura doesn’t progress the plot much in this volume, but it features some very important character development. I also reviewed Miyuki Miyabe’s fantasy novel The Book of Heroes. I had previously read Brave Story and so was looking forward to reading The Book of Heroes. The novel actually frustrated me as a story, but I loved the ideas and concepts that Miyabe explored in it.

Elsewhere online, the Toronto Comics Art Festival announced the list of featured guests for 2013 which includes mangaka Gengoroh Tagame and Taiyo Matsumoto among some other fantastic creators. I finally have a passport, so I’m hoping that I can actually go to TCAF this year. Over at Narrative Investigations, Helen has a nice review of Saki Hiwatari’s Please Save My Earth, Volume 1 which she won during last month’s giveaway here at Experiments in Manga. (This month’s giveaway will be posted next week, so stay tuned!)

Quick Takes

Flowers & Bees, Volumes 1-7 by Moyoco Anno. Masao Komatsu desperately wants a girlfriend but is hopelessly unpopular. Believing his problems stem from his unattractiveness, he becomes a slave to beauty and improving himself. Flowers & Bees is frequently crass, rude, and raunchy, its humor often bordering on inappropriate. It’s not a series for the easily offended, but it is hilarious. I prefer Flowers & Bees when it is being manic and outrageous. The second half of the series calms down a little once Komatsu begins to settle into an real relationship. Granted, that relationship isn’t without its problems. There’s also actually some legitimate fashion and dating advice to be found in Flowers & Bees.

Happy Mania, Volumes 1-11 by Moyoco Anno. Happy Mania was the first manga by Anno to be released in English. It was also one of the first josei manga to be published in North America. The series follows Kayoko Shigeta and her crazed pursuit of true love, or at least the perfect boyfriend. Happy Mania is often ridiculous and absurd; I don’t think there’s a single healthy relationship in the entire series. Shigeta is an incredibly self-absorbed and selfish character, but I still ended up liking her. Unfortunately, every time she looks like she might get her life together, something gets in the way (usually herself.) In some ways, the ending might be a little disappointing, but it is very much in keeping with Shigeta’s character. And in that way, it’s perfect.

Sakuran: Blossoms Wild by Moyoco Anno. Taking place in the Yoshiwara pleasure district of Edo, Sakuran is one of the few period pieces that Anno has created. The manga is about Kiyoha, a girl who is sold to a brothel as a maid, eventually becoming one of the district’s highest ranking courtesans. The portrayal of sex work in Sakuran isn’t idealized or romanticized. Overall, I think the manga is one of Anno’s strongest works in English; it’s certainly her most serious, although it’s not without humor. Plus, Sakuran is the only manga of Anno’s available in English that features her gorgeous color artwork. Anno is currently working on a sequel to Sakuran; hopefully Vertical will be able to license it, too.

Sugar Sugar Rune, Volumes 1-8 by Moyoco Anno. In 2005, Anno won the Kodansha Manga Award for best children’s manga for her series Sugar Sugar Rune. Arguably, it is her most widely popular and well known series, appealing to both younger and older readers. One of the things that I like best about Sugar Sugar Rune is its huge cast. The wide range of characters all exhibit distinct personalities and stylish designs and each play their own role in the increasingly complex story. Chocolat and Vanilla are two young witches and best friends competing to become the next queen of the Magical World by collecting hearts in the Human World. Meanwhile, war is threatening to break out between two rival factions in the Magical World, putting everyone in danger.

My Week in Manga: May 7-May 13, 2012

My News and Reviews

So, I finally got around to reading Hiromu Arakawa’s manga Fullmetal Alchemist. I really enjoyed the first anime series (I haven’t watched Brotherhood yet) but I think that the manga might be even better. I took a look at the first omnibus and loved it. I also reviewed the last volume of The Guin Saga to be published in English, The Marches King by Kaoru Kurimoto. I’ve become quite fond of the series, so I wish there was more available in translation. It’s nice to have the first major story arc, though. And then there’s always the anime, even if it isn’t as good. I’ll probably make a point to review The Guin Saga: The Seven Magi manga now that I’ve finished the translated novels.

I reviewed Math Girls by Hiroshi Yuki soon after Bento Books published the novel in English last year (it was their debut release). I rather enjoyed the book. The second volume of the series will be published later in 2012. Bento Books also recently began a Kickstarter project to release the manga version of Math Girls. The translation itself is already completed but they need a bit of a financial boost in order to finish up the English edition of the manga. I hope the project is successful; I’d really like to see this niche manga made available.

And for a couple of other interesting things online: Erica Friedman of Yuricon and Okazu has posted videos for a five part series about yuri. Completely unrelated, if you’re interested in how the March 11 earthquake affected libraries in Japan, the National Diet Library has released a report on the subject. Part of the report, “The Great East Japan Earthquake and Libraries,” is available as a pdf in English. The report is fairly extensive and isn’t necessarily for casual reading, but it is one of the definitive resources for information about libraries and the earthquake.

Oh, and one final heads up! May’s Manga Moveable Feast, featuring Oishinbo and other foodie manga and hosted by Khursten Santos at Otaku Champloo, will begin on the 22nd!

Quick Takes

Brody’s Ghost, Book 1 by Mark Crilley. I picked up Brody’s Ghost on a whim. I’m glad I gave the series a shot, though. In fact, I liked the first volume so well that I immediately went out and bought the next two available books in the series. Brody is a very average guy (at least, he thought he was) who has caught the eye of a ghost. She’s determined that he will be the one to help her track down a murderer. The story is fairly average so far, but I’m really enjoying Crilley’s artwork. He has created a futuristic, rundown, urban environment that works marvelously well. My only real complaint is that the book is so short, well under a hundred pages. Still, I’m looking forward to continuing with Brody’s Ghost.

Flowers & Bees, Volumes 1-7 by Moyoco Anno. Komatsu wins a prize—I have never seen a character go through so many different hairstyles within the course of a single series. Even though it is completely different in so many ways, Flowers & Bees reminded me a lot of another of Anno’s manga, Happy Mania. Both series feature protagonists with extremely bad luck when it comes to love and who tend to overreact and freak out over the smallest incidents. The humor in Flowers & Bees is manic, raunchy, and cruel, frequently bordering on offensive, but I still found it to be hilarious. The second half of the series does sober up a bit, but not by much. The epilogue to the series seemed tacked on and unnecessary, but it was nice to see where many of the characters ended up after the series proper.

Let Dai, Volumes 1-5 by Sooyeon Won. So far, Let Dai is a very intense manhwa series. I wasn’t expecting it to be as violent as it is, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised since one of the main characters is a notorious gang leader. There’s also quite a bit of manipulation and intimidation. Dai, the aforementioned gang leader, is vicious and terrifying and yet his charisma makes him captivating and strangely alluring to others. Jaehee, who was once a straight-laced student, has been caught up in Dai’s influence. Their relationship is complicated to say the least. At this point, I really can’t imagine anything turning out well for any of the people involved; the series has a very ominous atmosphere.

Princess Jellyfish directed by Takahiro Omori. As someone who is rather socially awkward, a lot of Princess Jellyfish hit pretty close to home for me. Amamizukan is an apartment building home to a group of women, all of who are some sort of otaku. Tsukimi, one of the residents, has her life thrown into turmoil when she meets the cross-dressing son of a politician. Princess Jellyfish is leisurely paced, paying more attention to characters’ development rather than intricate plots. The anime finds a decent place to stop in the story, but it’s not much of an ending as almost nothing is actually resolved. I loved Princess Jellyfish, it’s a wonderful series, but it leaves me wanting more. I’d like to read the manga upon which it was based.