I have said again and again both here and in my other blog that I hold girls’ love, or yuri, in a special place in my heart, and I’m not afraid to let others know. My friends all know it, my roommates at the University Dormitory know it, heck, my parents even have an idea that I love it. As such, I have dedicated this post to the series that started the break-off from the stereotypical themes associated with the intended pure and innocent genre of girls’ love.
As this post had gone through several days of hard work and research, it would be appreciated if you give us your thoughts and impressions if you were introduced to the series by this blog post and have played the game/s. Who knows, maybe it would pave the way to official localizations. and if this post is popular enough, I may do reviews for each game separately.
I invest my attention (and money) to good storytelling, good character interactions and relationships, and pretty much anything that can make a series as pure and heartwarming as possible. All the yuri anime I have watched all fall under these categories.
Now, even though I say yuri, I don’t like the other ‘kinds’ that involve heavy themes and especially cross-dressing guys or gender benders (duh). Yuri H is no exception. I absolutely hate anything that has heavy fetishist materials like uncalled-for foreign objects, body parts that don’t belong (I think you know what I mean by this.), distorted facial expressions, unbelievable bodily feats, unsavory camera angles, extreme sadomasochism and pretty much any other heavy fetish except the main concept of yuri.
The Sono Hanabira ni Kuchizuke wo Series by the doujin company Fuguriya, also known as “A Kiss for the Petals” within its Western fanbase, is a series of yuri visual novels that focuses on the emotional and romantic factor of the relationships of the six (or 7 if you will) monogamous girl/girl couples, doing away with the harem concept. The stories featured are always light, fluffy and passionately romantic, so it is a given that there aren’t any twists and turns in the story such as heavy drama, issues about same-sex relationships and destructively manipulative plots and characters. All the H-scenes involved are free of all the fetishes I have mentioned earlier except for one in particular (to be mentioned later) which I can forgive.
It is so popular within the niche market that a doujin company originally composed of two people got to release (as of the time that I wrote this post) nine separate main series games, two all-ages spin-off games, eleven light novels, five Drama CD’s, several soundtracks, an artbook, a four-episode radio show (as of the time that I wrote this post), an anime adaptation of the most popular game in the series, Anata to Koibito Tsunagi (Joined in Love with You) and a (currently) ten episode all-ages mini-series centered on the most popular couple: Mai x Reo Diaries, all in just four years. Fuguriya’s website also reached an amazing 5 million hits, and counting, recently. It is also the only purely yuri series I know that has a sizeable female fanbase. I kid you not, a female fanbase. Not to mention all of the fan videos in Nico Nico Douga.
The series’ popularity within the non-Japanese population is also staggering. So far, three of the games are translated into English, with three more translation projects still ongoing. Three of the light novels are also translated. There is also a translation for the Drama CD bundled with the OVA and it even has the addition of video and subtitles to complement it. SHiN-gx subbed six of the Mai x Reo Diaries episodes. I am also doing a translation of the first Drama CD, Zutto Shiawase na Kiss (A Kiss of Eternal Happiness). Also, taking a look at ListlessInk, a popular blog that discusses the series, the number of devoted non-Japanese fans should be seen right away.
All the games are set in an all-girls school called Saint Michael’s Academy for Girls. As the name suggests, it is a Catholic school. It is supposed to be a school where rich, young ladies train for religious service. However, like most other yuri anime like Marimite or Strawberry Panic!, this is not a a hindrance for our girls to have their sweet love.
Most often, the relationships of the girls start with the first kiss, which is usually seen by many people. The story then focuses more on building the bond and the romance between the two characters as well as providing quite a generous helping of H-scenes which are always on the sensual side rather than the purely erotic side. There are even those who complain that they can’t do what they would usually do with games like these. How’s that for an eroge?
What makes the series special, as I have said earlier, is the intricate personalities that the characters have. Even though the first game in the series can be called a nukige, the personalities of the couple were explored further in the follow-up game, the Drama CD’s and the light novels. The introduction of deeper characters started from the second game, and was continuously improved as more games and merchandise came out.
The characters of Sono Hanabira cover the many archetypes of characters, not only the stereotypical senpai(Onee-sama)-kouhai relationships. I will now provide an introduction to the different couples that the games have to offer.
First up the list is the Nanami Oda and Yuuna Matsubara couple. They star in the first and sixth games in the series. Nanami is pretty much a simple girl in her first year of high school. Compared to the others in the prestigious academy, she is comparatively plain. Yuuna is a girl from a rich family and the chairperson of the Environmental Protection Committee (their name for the student council) who is admired by many as one of the top three Onee-samas of the academy because of her elegance and good behavior.
Nanami falls in love with Yuuna at first sight when she meets her during the opening ceremony of the school. Nanami, full of hope, applies to be a member of the council Yuuna is in. Due to some events, she was accepted to be a council member and watched her beloved Yuuna from the sidelines.
However, this was all changed when one time after a council meeting, Nanami discovers Yuuna’s feelings for her in a rather unconventional way. She catches Yuuna in an empty classroom, holding Nanami’s gym uniform and touching herself while calling out Nanami’s name. This completely destroys Yuuna’s image of a refined, well-behaved young lady. Sure enough, Yuuna sees Nanami and confesses to her. The couple’s story finally starts.
Being the first couple in the series, they have these stereotypical personalities of most yuri manga couples out there. An honest, simple girl paired with a well-raised, rich lady. The first game doesn’t have much in terms of story and character development as it was supposed to be a one-shot game done in defiance to the norm of most other doujinshi out there. However, as I’ve said earlier, their true personalities and relationship are as intricate as any other couple of the series. I consider the sixth game, Kuchibiru to Kisu de Tsubuyaite (Whisper through Lips and Kisses), another game that they star in, to be one of the best of the series.
The first game, Sono Hanabira ni Kuchizuke wo (A Kiss for the Petals), has been translated into English and the patch was released on February 14, 2010; just in time for Valentine’s Day and Valence’s birthday (Play the games, Valence.).
The next couple will be the Kaede Kitajima and Sara Kitajima couple. As their surname suggests, they are blood-related, but they are not sisters; they are cousins. Kaede is an introverted girl with good grades and Sara is a very energetic kind of girl.
They used to live together when they were kids, but were separated because of family issues. Sara is now a very popular model who appears in a famous fashion magazine. Because of this, she became instantly popular when she transferred to St. Michael’s. Sara soon finds Kaede and kisses her in front of the many girls there. Kaede’s world then took a 180 degree turn. She was now, along with Sara, the center of attention among the other girls.
Of course, Kaede doesn’t want all this attention so she tries to stay away from the outgoing Sara. Sara, feeling rejected and desperate, proceeds to let Kaede know her true feelings through
assault assertive means. Sara wastes no time in changing the now introverted Kaede back into her ideal prince who saved her from various misfortunes when they were still young.
It was in the second game, Watashi no Ouji-sama (My Dear Prince), that Fuguriya made an attempt to include a significant storyline to the game. And no, the story doesn’t center on the issues of incest or anything heavy like that. Rather, this particular game is about how Kaede changes from her “I don’t want to stand out” personality to the prince of Sara’s dreams. Their story is made more beautiful by the fourth game, the light novels and the Drama CD, Kaede-chan Super Mode (arguably the most popular Drama CD in the series).
An English translation patch for the second game was released on January 9, 2011 and translation for the fourth game, Itoshisa no Photograph (Beloved Photograph) is already translated and the patch released on July 22, 2011.
Now we move on to the arguably most popular couple in the series, Mai Sawaguchi and Reo Kawamura. Mai is a responsible girl with a bit of a playful attitude. She is respected and admired by her peers because of her cool personality. Reo, on the other hand, is a very obstinate girl who avoids all contact with anyone except for Mai, whom she a has a crush on. Of course, Reo, being a Type B tsundere, doesn’t let Mai know her true feelings directly and instead, causes a lot of trouble for Mai.
But one day, Reo finally confesses to Mai leaving the latter in a state of confusion. But of course, Mai realizes that her confusion was a sign of her love for Reo too. She answers Reo’s confession in a trip to the almost always empty infirmary.
The third game, Anata to Koibito Tsunagi (Joined in Love with You), is probably the most popular game in the series. Some of you may even know about this particular title because of the OVA that was released on July 30, 2011. However, there are some major differences between the aforementioned anime and the original game.
In the OVA, the characters weren’t explored as much due to the time constraint and as well to appeal to as many people possible outside the fan empire of the games. The OVA, successful as it is, does not even graze the true value that you can get from playing the game.
The Sono Hanabira series is marketed to be a “yuri love comedy” and this installment set that claim in stone. The playful yet responsible Mai and the mildly violent Reo always get into interesting situations that never get old. Their fresh character interactions paved the way to the series’ popularity among the niche market, as well as setting a standard for all the other games to come. Their story continues in the fifth game, Anata wo Suki na Shiawase (Happy in Love with You).
An English patch for Anata to Koibito Tsunagi was released on March 16, 2011. It works for both the original game and the remake. There are also subbed versions of six episodes of the Mai x Reo Diaries, and of course, the anime itself (it has a ten-language subtitle option).
The fourth couple was the subject of controversy. The Takako Suminoe and Runa Houraisen pair is quite a daring approach to the already infamous student-teacher relationship trope. Takako is a new teacher in St. Michael’s Academy’s Elementary section and Runa is one of her students. The story was originally from an all-ages web novel. Fuguriya took the fans by surprise as they announced the release of a seventh game without holding back on the adult content.
The story begins with Takako trying to wake up a sleeping Runa. However, it ends up with Runa seducing and manipulating Takako for sexual favors. This game is where Fuguriya’s masterful creation of characters surface the most in my opinion.
Takako tries to be a teacher to be admired and respected by her students. However, due to her apprehensive personality, she has a problem with achieving this goal. Then Runa becomes one of her students; she has the charisma and the beauty that Takako wants to have. On the very start of the day, Runa comes up to Takako and kisses her in front of the whole class, declaring that Takako is now her property as of that day. On top of that, this new girl seems to be the sister of someone Takako knew back in her college days. This now becomes a story of a different kind as Runa shows dominance over Takako during most of the game.
Amazingly, the story of Amakute, Hoshikute, Torokeru Chuu (A Sweet, Desirable, Passionate Kiss) doesn’t even touch upon the obvious issue of Runa’s age. Rather, the focus was more on Takako’s role as a teacher to Runa and the possible issues of a student-teacher relationship. Their story continues in the ninth game in the main series, Amakute Otona no Chuu (A Sweet Adult’s Kiss).
As of the day that I wrote this post, the translation for the seventh game is still ongoing. There is a work-safe web novel with translated chapters if you are interested.
The last couple in the main series, Shizuku Kirishima and Erisu Shitogi, had their debut in the eighth game, Tenshi no Hanabira-zome (An Angel’s Dyed Flower Petals). This is a very interesting dynamic between a sheltered Yamato Nadeshiko and a half-British girl. The character designs for the Shizuku x Erisu couple can be considered as some of the best character designs in the history of eroge when it comes to appearances. Shortly after their debut, many fans are already head over heels in love with the character designs without even playing the game yet. Of course, their personalities are equally as intriguing and engaging as any of the other couples. Shizuku is a sheltered young lady from a rather conservative Japanese family while Erisu is more of a mix of your stereotypical happy, airheaded foreigner with overflowing charm and beauty.
The story begins when Erisu transfers to St. Michael’s as a return student. The homeroom teacher then assigns Shizuku to be Erisu’s guide for the latter to be more familiar with the new school environment. Erisu soon takes an interest in Shizuku’s pure Japanese beauty and tries so stick around with her more. Shizuku, having been raised as an innocent and responsible lady, doesn’t know how to respond to Erisu’s advances and as a result, her tsundere side surfaces. However, Shizuku eventually opens up more to Erisu and their relationship improves, with the help of Erisu’s advances in the school garden and an empty classroom.
I have said that Shizuku has a tsun side to her. But unlike other tsundere we know, Shizuku only tries to push Erisu away when she gets too close and not before. She’s not your typical Rie Kugimiya tsundere that will resort to violence and verbal abuse. Her tsun side is brought by her innocence and her ladylike upbringing, which is a very refreshing break from all the overused tsundere archetypes. She is also very kind and sweet, as you will see when you play the game.
The eighth game has an ongoing English translation project. I think there is also a tenth game in the works featuring this couple. A light novel for this couple was also translated.
As this is a series of visual novels, you get to see the game in the eyes of one of the girls. You get to see the inner thoughts of the different kinds of personalities that you thought you will never understand in your lifetime. You see the events through the eyes of Nanami for the first and sixth game, Kaede for the second and fourth game, Mai for the third and fifth, Takako for the seventh and ninth, and Shizuku for the eighth. This gives the player an opportunity to see rich personalities in every game as opposed to the generic male protagonist.
As for playing the games themselves, the player just goes through the story, presented with some choices along the way, just like most other visual novels. However, there are no branching endings, and making too many wrong choices would only lead to the game being cut short. This does not prevent the games from being as popular as they are, though. They’re just that good.
As for the narratives and voice acting, the games are wonderfully paced and appropriately voiced. You can enjoy the character interactions between the girls even if you are not into yuri at all. They all have different personalities and their own ups and downs that are very fun and intriguing to see. You will also notice the absence of any male voice in the games even though there are some very minor male characters. Also, this is as explicit as yuri can get. No one interferes, no love polygons, no guys, no subtext; just two girls in their yuri heaven. If you define yuri and shoujo-ai and find an appropriate series that fits both definitions, you will have this series on the top of your list.
I have said before that the graphics for these games are probably the best of all the doujin produced games out there. They can even compete and win against other widely commercial companies in terms of art. The character designs and CGs were produced by Peko, the one behind the character designs of the light novel-turned-anime, Mayoi Neko Overrun! and a few other visual novels.
The music for the first few games are limited, but soon expanded to a full showcase of 21 tracks, including some voiced ones.
And as this is an eroge series, of course there would be H-scenes. This means that the games are not intended for the young *ahem*. The scenes are pretty well done, though I don’t really have a standard since I tend to skip H-scenes for most other eroge. However, I have reservations about some of the H-scenes. The series tends to put some rather saucy scenes where “golden showers” are involved, though they are very rare. It’s easy to avoid these kinds of scenes, though. Just watch out for any H-scene that happens in the bathrooms and in the school’s main staircase in the sixth game. Perhaps you will lead a happier life if you do. Some people argue that these scenes can be quite charming, and they are not really shown explicitly most of the time, but I digress.
All that praise being said, the series isn’t perfect, as all the others are. However, if you are into explicit yuri that doesn’t even have the slightest hint of subtext, and just goes directly to the point, this series is for you.
I will also take this opportunity to introduce the characters for the all-ages spin-off, Hanahira!. This was Fuguriya’s response to the plethora of fan letters, mostly from female fans, who want to be able to play the games not behind locked doors, as well as the amazing view count of Fuguriya’s Youtube channel. The result is a game much like a girls’ club anime, but instead of just plain subtext, it has obvious yuri overtones.
The game includes four characters, the main couple, Kaori Hanemura and Amane Yuuki, supported by another pair, Koharu Uozumi and Makoto Toudou. The story is also set in St. Michael’s Academy and the surrounding city. The focus is more on the everyday happenings in the lives of the girls rather than a solid plot conflict. There is also a follow up game called Hanahira! Side Story.
I would like to encourage everybody interested in the series to buy the games and merchandise if you are able. They are relatively cheaper than most other eroge ($20) and worth a lot more than what you’ll pay for them.
For the other translated media, please visit ListlessInk’s page on the series.