Butterflies, Flowers Volume 8

Butterflies, Flowers Volume 8 by Yuki Yoshihara

This is the final volume! I’ve enjoyed this series, which I tend to think of as “stealth josei” because even though it was released under the Shojo Beat imprint it skews a lot older. This series about a rich woman working in an office under the direction of a former servant to her family who she winds up dating might seem incredibly frivolous, but it ends up being enlivened by Yoshihara’s offbeat sense of humor and the caring exhibited in the relationship between Choko and Masayuki.

After dating for some time, Choko and Masayuki face the ultimate test when Choko goes on an arranged marriage meeting and Masayuki appears to be doing nothing to stop it. Of course he reveals his objections in a dramatic and hilariously crude manner, but will this odd couple be able to take the next step in their relationship? Choko resorts to hiding marriage registration papers around the office, trying to get Masayuki to sign the documents in a moment of distraction. When Masayuki finally comes around and asks her to marry him, he’s unable to call her by her first name because he’s so fully internalized their master/servant relationship. Choko wants a relationship of equals, and wants to move forward but Masayuki seems pathologically unable to see her as his equal. There isn’t really any doubt that the couple will get together, but despite all the weird master servant jokes, otaku Gundam references, and random crossdressers, there’s a certain level of sweetness present when Choko and Masayuki are able to move on from their roles as lady and servant.

I wish more series like Butterflies, Flowers would be published over here. I don’t mind plenty of high school romance shojo, but it is nice to have a little bit of variety in the settings of romance manga. I hope Viz licenses more Yoshihara manga because her quirky sensibility makes this series unique and weirdly endearing.

Review copy provided by the publisher

Shojo Beat Quick Takes – Rasetsu and Butterflies Flowers

Rasetsu Volume 8 by Chika Shiomi

I generally enjoy Chika Shiomi series. She has a predilection for creating male leads that are both attractive and somehow possessed by demons, which causes her heroines to be tormented by their love for these ultimate bad boys. I tried the first 4 volumes or so of Rasetsu and then stopped getting the series. While I enjoyed it, I wasn’t feeling as much of an emotional connection to the story as I did with Yurara, the series it was spun off from. But dipping back into it, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this volume. The more episodic monster-hunting plot elements are cast aside in favor of the ongoing dilemma of Rasetsu’s love life. If she doesn’t find true love by the age of eighteen, a demon is going to come to claim her. Rasetsu and Yako’s attraction has been growing, but she doesn’t want to use him to escape her curse. Kyuru has always been Shiomi’s prototypical bad boy, and the reader finally gets an explanation as to his true nature. The series finally seems to be heading towards a final confrontation between Rasetsu and the demon who cursed her, and I’m curious to see what happens next. I am team Yako all the way, if he doesn’t get the girl at the end of Rasetsu after his heartbreak at the end of Yurara I am going to be very disappointed.

Butterflies, Flowers Volume 6 by Yuki Yoshihara

After six volumes Butterflies, Flowers isn’t exactly heading into new territory as it details the odd relationship between “Lady” turned office worker Choko and servant turned boss Masayuki, but each volume of this series usually has at least one incident that really makes me laugh. The panel in this volume that I thought was hilarious was Masayuki’s crestfallen expression when he realizes that Choko has been stolen away from him and he realizes that he has neglected to place his customary tracking bug in her underwear.

There’s plenty of the usual office hijinks as the staff travel to a hot springs for a vacation and Masayuki tries to protect Choko from potentially lecherous coworkers. Choko shows her tougher side when she faces down a bunch of thieves to protect Otaki, a strict new boss who transfers in to her company. Unfortunately seeing Choko in action causes Otaki to develop a strong crush on her and Masayuki is faced with more trouble ahead when his ex-girlfriend returns to work with him again. I’m actually impressed that the evil ex hasn’t made an appearance in this series until the sixth volume. For all the machinations and problems that get thrown in Choko’s and Masayuki’s path, they still seem to have a strong foundation as a couple. I’m still enjoying this manga’s combination of heartfelt proclamations of love and bizarre sex comedy.

Shojo Beat Quick Takes – Butterflies and Boys

Butterflies, Flowers Volume 5 by Yuki Yoshihara

I tend to think of this series as “stealth josei” because while it is issues under the Shojo Beat imprint, the sexual content and mature readers rating puts it in the josei category for me. Yoshihara continues with her winning blend of workplace sex comedy and romance as Choko and her former servant/current boss/boyfriend Masayuki contemplate moving in together. His apartment is barren, so they go to a furniture store and try to pick out a few pieces. Even though Choko is now a working girl, she instinctively has upper-class tastes when it comes to furniture. Masayuki is crestfallen when the saleswoman doesn’t immediately treat them like a lovey dovey couple. Unfortunately when they are alone, Masayuki promptly becomes impotent because he’s unable to make the psychological switch to thinking of Choko as his girlfriend. Choko demands that he gets over his problem so they can have an ordinary relationship and refuses to respond when he calls her “milady”. Masayuki is unable to give up the master-servant relationship and decides to make love to her with the inexplicably otaku pronouncement “Even a Gundam is able to stand tall from willpower alone.” Butterflies, Flowers continues to be a little raunchy while simultaneously showing heart-warming stories about a developing relationship. It is a very unique combination that I think only Yoshihara could pull off.

Seiho Boys’ High School! Volume 4 by Kaneyoshi Izumi

This was a series I avoided when it came out for a couple reasons. I thought the premise of a shoujo series taking place in an all-boys high school had a very high potential for cheeziness. I also had read several volumes of Izumi’s other series Doubt! and gave up on it before finishing because I thought that the heroine was remarkably spineless. But I’d read several positive reviews of Seiho Boys’ High School! so I was curious to see if it really was good after all. The episodic nature of the manga and the handy character guide at the beginning made it easy for me to enjoy reading the manga even though I hadn’t read the previous volumes.

For an all-boys high school, there certainly seem to be plenty of girls hanging around. The romantic foibles of various characters are detailed in each chapter. Maki has a hard time moving forward with his current relationship due to his long-lost crush. Erika takes out her rage over his hesitation by mercilessly teaching him how to surf. The second story in the volume involves silent hunk Genda, who is utterly incapable of communicating his feeling to the girl that he’s dating, to the point of silently accepting without protest when she dumps him. When he sees her going out with a new totally unsuitable boy, he’s able to express himself with his fists and finally tell her how he feels. Izumi does a good job at showing Genda’s total and involuntary paralysis when it comes to talking to girls, which makes his breakthrough moment when he tells the object of his affections that she is “super cute” in a tiny voice. I liked the final story in the collection the most. Handsome Kamiki has a bit of a stalker in Fuyuka, who hangs around the school and is happy when he calls her by name. When Hanai confronts her, she says she realizes that she’s delusional but “My only choice is to embrace my delusions! I need to be a girl who lives in her dreams!” Hanai ends up serving as Henry Higgins to Fuyuka’s Eliza Doolittle, coaching her on how to change her personality to appeal more to boys. The interaction between Fuyuka was funny, with plenty of over-the-top pronouncements like “Master! I’ll work hard to perfect my womanly weapons!” Kamiki sees what’s going on and comments that he isn’t in favor of her sweetness and light act, and what if “people only like the plastic doll they’re seeing?” Fuyuka tries going out with a different guy and soon finds out that the strain of maintaining her new personality for someone she’s not even interested in isn’t worth it. I liked the short story format of this manga. I think Izumi’s character design and humor have improved a lot since Doubt!, and I enjoyed this volume much more than I was expecting.

Review copies provided by the publisher.