Digital Manga Publishing continues to crawl along, occasionally putting out yaoi when they're not scraping by on the proceeds of their Kickstarter campaigns. Imagine my surprise when I looked over their releases from this year and discovered a new work from a previous favorite of mine!
DOES THE FLOWER BLOSSOM? (Hana wa Sakuka), by Shoko Hidaka. First published in 2009 and first published in North America in 2015.
Sakurai spends most of his days drifting through life. He's never been able to get over the break-up with his girlfriend and his work doesn't really engage him. The only thing that does interest him is the weird old house in the woods near the railroad station and the You the moody, quiet painter that lives there. More and more, Sakurai finds himself thinking of that man and finding more excuses to make his way to his house. Soon enough Sakurai realizes that he's in love with Youichi, but how can he begin to get his feelings across to a man he barely knows?
A few years back, I pegged Hidaka as a mangaka to watch after discovering the glory of Blue Morning. After that, I was all too eager to read more of her work to see if it could compare to that. I don't know if Does The Flower Blossom? will get to that point, but it's certainly setting up enough that it could become great in time.
Hidaka is the sort of BL mangaka who favors character and relationships over sheer smut and this manga is no exception to that. Most of this volume is dedicated to exploring Sakurai's mind and following him as he tries to learn more about Youichi and the other guys living in the house. She vividly captures the suffocating boredom of his life early on as well as his slowly encroaching obsession with Youichi. She also spends a lot of time establishing those two along with Shouta, Youichi's eager young roommate and it really helps to set in the reader's mind who these people are and why they are the way they are. If there's just one problem, it's that Hidaka perhaps spends TOO much time setting this all up. I don't mind slow pacing in manga if it's in service of building up characters and plot, but it feels like every revelation takes an eternity to dawn on the others and it left me feeling impatient for things to start moving forward. If I'm getting antsy reading this, then your average smut-crazy yaoi fan will be lucky to make it to the end before picking up something else.
I feel really bad criticizing this one because it's objectively not bad at all. After all, it ends on a cliffhanger with Sakurai finally figuring out his feelings, so it can only get better from here. It's just that it takes far, FAR too long to get to that point and Hidaka should have found a way to balance all that good character building with a slightly snappier pace.
Hidaka's artwork is as good as it always is. Her characters are all fine drawn with solid bodies and jawlines and subtle (if somewhat similar) faces. She puts a fair bit of detail into her panels, but she doesn't let it dominate the work. The pages are a little busy with plenty of little panels, but never to the point of distraction. It's just a very artistically solid work and as always, I appreciate anyone in the BL world with genuine art skills.
Does the Flower Blossom? is a genuinely good work, but it's dragged down by a glacial plot and its focus on character means that sadly a lot of BL fangirls will pass this one by. I guess that's their loss.
This series is published by Digital Manga Publishing. This series is complete in Japan with 4 volumes available. 2 volumes have been published and all are currently in print.
Remember to leave a comment here to enter the Holiday Giveaway to win a $25 RightStuf gift certificate!