Flower of Life

Flower of Life by Fumi Yoshinaga 4.5/5 stars (amazon)

Antique Bakery was a gem, so I had high expectations when I picked up the first volume of Flower of Life. I wasn’t disappointed. Flower of Life uses a series of vignettes to showcase different aspects of friendship in high school. Hanazono is enrolling in school a month late, and he’s a year older than his new classmates. He spent the past year recovering from leukemia. Hanazono quickly makes friends with the roly-poly Mikuni but he’s annoyed by Mikuni’s other friend, an otaku named Majima who delights in lecturing people about his favorite anime and manga characters.
Yoshinaga is great at capturing small moments that define her characters – Mikuni notices Majima slamming manga down at his desk, Hanazono’s lunches evolve as his sister tries to fix him just the right meal, and observing an exchange between teachers leads to the revelation that they are having an affair. Hanazono’s boisterous outspoken personality meshes well with Mikuni’s more retiring nature, and it is nice to see their friendship develop. Hanazono’s family life is entertaining, as his sister reminds him that she’s his savior for giving him her bone marrow, and he calls her an old hag when she’s trying to coerce him into running errands for her.
So many manga series set in high school end up incorporating story lines where there’s bullying taking place or a sub group of students is really mean. So it is refreshing to read a manga set in high school where everyone is generally nice, working through the typical misunderstandings of teenagers while being supportive of each other. Yoshinaga’s deceptively simple drawing style excels at portraying her character’s emotions. After reading one of her books other manga looks crowded and overdone with too much screentone. I’m looking forward to reading the next volumes of Flower of Life.