Aoi Hana – Sweet Blue Flowers – 01
Manjoume Fumi has recently moved back to her old town with her family, and she’s starting school at the all-girls Matsuoka high school. Across town, Okudaira Akira is also on her way to her new Fujigaya high school, and the two girls run into each other in front of the train station. Not recognizing each other, Akira notices how tall Fumi is, and when they’re on the train, Akira sees Fumi crying and saves her from a molester. Fumi thanks Akira afterward, but the two then go their separate ways to their respective high schools without introducing themselves to each other. In class, Fumi is able to become acquainted with a girl named Youko and her two friends in the drama club, but Fumi declines to join them and continues to bury herself in her reading. Akira meanwhile makes a new friend in a short-haired girl named Ikumi Kyouko, but she continues thinking about Fumi.
By chance, Fumi and her mother come visit Akira’s house that night, and it is at this point that the two girls finally realize that they were childhood friends. Back when they were young, Fumi was a crybaby and needed Akira to help her with everything. When Fumi had moved away, the two had promised to write to each other, but they never did. Akira is amazed now at how tall Fumi has become, and she also observes that Fumi is rather flat-chested. When Fumi returns home, she tells her cousin Chizu all about it. Chizu eventually puts her hand on Fumi’s, but they get interrupted by Fumi’s mother who presents a cake to Chizu congratulating her on her upcoming wedding. Fumi is shocked by this news, and Chizu can only apologize. When Akira runs into Fumi the next morning at the train station, she finds Fumi crying. Giving Fumi a handkerchief, Akira comments on how she is always so quick to cry, and Fumi realizes that those words easily jump across ten years time.
Both the opening and ending songs here are decent, but not very memorable. Of the two, I liked the opening song better. More interesting was the opening animation sequence which starts out slow like the song does, but it then goes to a very nice dancing scene and ends with a rather eye-opening shot of Fumi and Akira. It’s like, in case you still weren’t sure what kind of series this is, here you go.
From someone who’s read a bit of the Aoi Hana manga and enjoys a good yuri story, this was about what I expected. It’s very a pleasant slice-of-life story to start with not too much going on, but there are already hints of the girls-love relationships and heartbreak to come. In fact, I thought they did a good job keeping Fumi’s relationship with Chizu sort of ambiguous, yet still showing the impact it had on Fumi. Production-wise, J.C.Staff and director Kasai Kenichi do a great job with the animation, and I was especially glad to see that they didn’t skimp on backgrounds and use a lot of white gradients like the Hatsukoi Limited team did. To that end, I liked how they showed an entire sequence of Akira running to the train station and had that playful piano piece to go with it.
I think the only blemish on this episode was Takabe Ai’s voicing of Fumi. I could tell immediately that this was her first role as a voice actress because it sounded raw and awkward. It’s not entirely bad though, and I got used to it after watching the episode a second time, but it makes me wonder why they don’t give new voice actresses some more minor roles to ease them into the job. The answer is probably that they want to promote these voice actresses with a big splash, particularly for someone like Takabe Ai who’s semi-well-known already as a model and drama actress.
Note: For anyone waiting for me to blog Umineko, I will, but probably not until later. I’m about to keel over right now after having not slept well for several straight nights.