蝶よ花よ (Chou yo Hana yo)
Josei – Romance, comedy, smut
8 Volumes (complete)
Although they were once rich, Choko’s family is now working class. She gets a job as an office worker, but her boss, Masayuki, is strict with her and even sexually harassed her at the interview. Choko eventually realizes Domoto was once her family’s servant, and now she must handle both his boss side and servant side…
I wasn’t expecting so many otaku jokes in this series or the male lead to be so crazy.
This series is probably as far from realistic fiction or slice-of-life you can get without crossing into the supernatural or fantasy genres. And for once, I’m not talking about the romance. Characters will blow up walls. Two guys will bring up Gundam. Somebody will cross dress. The fourth wall will be broken. There’s even a few scenes for BL fans. Don’t expect too much realism (even stretched realism) from this series.
That being said, the craziness is what makes Butterflies, Flowers fun. Because if it wasn’t, this would just be a series involving a bunch of workers who should have been sued for sexual harassment for stalking a long time ago. While others view Choko and Masayuki as a lovey-dovey couple, the two actually spend a good portion of the story running away from each other. In true romantic tension fashion, several rivals appear, but their former master-servant relationship is the more prominent issue as lovers. Sometimes their previous lives are dragged into their messes humorously, but it does seem awkward for it to be such a huge issue so many years later.
Most of the chapters are pretty episodic: Choko wants to be romantic, Masayuki wants to be intimate, and then someone else comes in (or a big event happens) to meddle in their lives. The chapters do form a cohesive narrative, and time does not jump ahead much. The series does not get caught up in trying to cover all the holidays in a short period of time, like trying to cover three Christmases in eight volumes. One annoying aspect is that each chapter has Choko introducing herself and Masayuki. It gets old really fast, even when the self-introductions are tongue-in-cheek.
While romance is the center of the series, the comedy is what steals the show, for better or for worse. I chuckled when what looked like an emotional embrace turned out to be a slap. However, the during dramatic moments are not that engaging, as I knew a punchline or secret agenda was coming up. Masayuki is the guiltiest on both these counts. As the story goes on, he keeps warping into further insanity, so much of the humor involves his sexual appetite and his love for Gundam.
Choko is actually one of Yoshihara’s better heroines. She doesn’t mope about her family’s financial situation and will stand up to her boyfriend. I thought she would be the kind of protagonist who always gets into trouble, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out this wasn’t the case. It is Masayuki who is the crazy one in the relationship. He’s a servant, supersoldier, pervert, and otaku all wrapped up into one. Even the author adds she wasn’t expecting Masayuki to become so strange. He is a romantic male lead that does not hide his feelings too well, a refreshing change from the emotionally restrained ones that dominate the genre. The two balance out each out: when one is crazy, the other is sane and visa versa.
To me, the funniest character is Choko’s brother Masahiko. He speaks like a samurai and tends to think his family still has money, but he such a loser. (Even his family thinks so.) Coworker Suou is also a delight, as Suou gets to be a source of support for both Masayuki and Choko. So many other manga would have Suou forced into an unrequited love, so it’s nice to have a friend not forced into a love triangle role. Masahiko’s crush on Suou is also funny. The series has someone else in the role of former rival, and there are a few other quirky characters. However, nobody else gets much time or development outside of meddling in or observing Choko and Masayuki’s relationship.
Yoshihara includes a lot of SD faces and chibi characters in her stories, well above the average. She also pokes fun at herself, noting in one instance that it was drawn by an artist with 20 years of experience. Despite her self-deprecation, her art is crisp and bright. It’s a good blend of both older and newer manga styles. Characters have defined noses yet the eyes are very modern. Her character designs are similar to those in her other series, but this is not a big issue here, as Butterflies, Flowers is her first work released in English. The women tend to look extremely thin. Hairstyles are rather simple, as to be expected of a josei work office manga. Masayuki is a male lead that tends to show his emotions, so it’s nice to be able to visually see how he’s feeling. As this is a sex comedy, lots of smut scenes are included. Private parts are obscured by angles in the romantic scenes and mosaics in the comedic ones. Although her art isn’t one of my favorites even among josei authors, this is far from terrible. It’s one of her best artistically.
Outside of a few nicknames, honorifics are not used. It’s really no surprise that Butterflies, Flowers reads a lot like Happy Marriage?! and Midnight Secretary, as they share the same editor. Mr./Miss, Director, Chief, etc. are all used in place of the Japanese titles. Domoto’s “ojou-sama” is translated as “milady”. His childhood nickname is kept as “Cha-chan”. Unlike the other two josei series, this manga has quite a few references to anime and J-pop singers, and I was surprised to read these were kept intact. Translation notes are included at the end of the book for these references. Interestingly, Viz Media romanized the originally title’s first kanji as “chou” in the credits/publishing page, but the heroine’s name, which uses this same kanji, is written as “Choko”. Choko’s brother keeps his old-fashioned speech pattern. It is actually kept up throughout the series and not just implemented when other characters comment on it (minus using few contractions). Overall, I’d say this adaptation is pretty typical Viz Media (or, more specifically, Shojo Beat).
This is a series perfect for anyone who just wants a lighthearted read with a healthy dose of spice. However, Happy Marriage?! is a better choice for those wanting more of a realistic story rather than one steeped in craziness.
I thought Yoshihara’s Aisuru Hito (released in Germany as Love Triangle) would have been picked up by now, but I personally don’t care for it. It was released in German by Tokyopop several years ago.
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