Wednesday, April 11, 2018


There are loads of BL manga with flowers in their title, just in case that you might miss that these are manga targeted towards women.  This particular one brings in a reincarnation angle, but is it truly timeless or not?

KABUKI: FLOWER (Kabuki - Hana no Shou), by Yukari Hashida.  First published in 2004 and first published in North America in 2008.


Over 500 years ago, the young lord Kounosuke and his page Kagaya took their lives in ritual suicide instead of surrender.  Before they died, they vowed to find one another in another life, no matter how long it took.  Kounosuke awakens afterwards in the modern day, the scion of a wealthy family who was recently orphaned in a fire.  He sees signs of his beloved Kagaya in three generations of his servants, but which one is the reincarnation of his true Kagaya?  Can he find him before forces beyond his control kill him a second time?


There's nothing wrong with a love story about reincarnation.  Maybe this is just the Sailor Moon fan in me talking, but there is something romantic about the notion of two souls that care for one another so deeply that they will seek one another out time and time again and potentially learn from the mistakes of the past.  If only Kabuki had the sense to plumb this rich emotional vein for something other than fish-out-of-water jokes and a romance that goes nowhere.

It's surprising that we don't see more BL manga about samurai considering that the homosexual relationships that existed between some samurai and their follows is often used as evidence that Japan is historically more accepting of homosexuality than the US (which is a long and complicated subject onto itself).  Yet the manga does virtually nothing with it outside of the odd flashback, choosing instead to focus on the fish-out-of-water material and bringing our main couple back together. 

That wouldn't be so bad if either Kounosuke or Kagaya were the least bit interesting.  Kagaya at least gets to demonstrate a modicum of growth, as he's initially quite the grump and we see in a later side chapter that he too underwent an awkward reincarnation after an accident.  Then there's Kounosuke, who is permanently stuck as the victim in his own story.  Everyone from servants to school chairmen to his childhood friend want to exploit him for either his wealth or his body.  Either way, this peril is diffused almost instantly by Kagaya swooping in and saving the day.  It's meant to demonstrate Kagaya's dedication to his lover through the ages, but in practice it's simply tedious, predictable, and stunts Kounosuke as a character.

This wouldn't be so bad if their relationship made any sort of progress after the first chapter.  Once the two are united, Kagaya does nothing but shut down all of Kounosuke's attempts to consummate their relationship.  While it's nice for once to see a seme that actually respects things like 'lack of memory' and 'statutory rape laws,' it also means that Hashida can keep dragging out this premise as long as humanly possible because she has no idea what to do with them after they have sex.  Why should anyone continue reading this series if the mangaka herself has no idea what to do with after the first chapter?


While there's a pleasing softness in the characters' eyes and Hashida's linework, her art is plagued by the usual problems of mediocre BL art: spidery limbs, overly angular faces, ridiculously over-tousled hairstyles, and panels that seldom give them any sort of space.  Hashida never draws anything smuttier than a few deep kisses and some shirtlessness, and beyond that there's nothing on display here that stands out as particular bad or good.


Kabuki: Flower takes the promise of a love that literally crosses the ages and wastes it on a lot of formulaic peril and mediocre art.  Maybe next time she should keep things simple and stick with the samurai romance instead.

This series was published by Digital Manga Publishing.  This series is complete in Japan with 5 volumes available.  4 volumes have been published and are currently out of print.

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