When Chouko Mizushima was in her first year of high school, she lost both parents in a traffic accident. The shock and grief left her unable to speak and she was shuffled around amongst various relatives before finally ending up with her father’s cousin, the reclusive and cold-seeming author, Kei. Kei sets some conditions for living with him that include tending to his decrepit garden. As Chouko cares for the plants and flowers, her heart slowly begins to mend. She credits Kei with spurring her to shake off the darkness of her grief with her own two hands, not realizing just how much her presence has affected him in return.
The first adjective that comes to mind to describe The Name of the Flower is “quiet.” Although it has its funny moments, the overall feel is serene, focusing on small moments of interaction between the lead characters rather than intense drama. One way in which it accomplishes this is through the story structure. I had been expecting that the story would begin with Chouko moving in with Kei, but actually, it begins after she’s been living with him for two years. Gradually, over a series of flashbacks from both Chouko and Kei, we see not only how they were then but also how they have changed because of each other. I found this to be a very eloquent way of getting the point across.
Kei’s garden also plays a big part in the series. Not only is Chouko’s transformation of the neglected garden into a thing of beauty indicative of her own painful journey, but it also symbolizes the gradual thawing of Kei’s heart. He had been known for very dark literary works before taking Chouko in, but his latest novel is actually a love story based on his life with her.
After reading the novel, Chouko asks Kei about it, but he cowardly claims it isn’t based on reality. Therefore, she doesn’t know that he has romantic feelings for her and he can’t believe that her love for him is real, thinking instead that it’s “more like a newborn chick following its mother.” I thought this was an interesting way to deal with the age difference (twelve years) between them. Although Chouko is technically an adult now, Kei feels she hasn’t experienced enough to know what real love is, and thinks it’d be unfair to saddle her with his unworthy self when she might be able to find someone else who could make her really happy. This makes me like him for not only his maturity but also the angsty possibilities of a hero with an inferiority complex.
Saito’s art works well with the story, though the character designs are rather familiar. Kei is the bespectacled kimono-wearing author, Akiyama (Kei’s editor) is so bland-looking I can’t even describe him, and Chouko occasionally bears a distracting resemblance to Asami from High School Debut. I really like the chibi art, though; it’s very cute.
If a calm love story sounds intriguing, or you’re a fan of CMX’s other shojo offerings, then you might want to check out this series. It’s also short, at four volumes total, if that’s any incentive.
The Name of the Flower was serialized in LaLa DX and is four volumes long. Volume one is available now and volume two will be released on May 19, 2009.
Review originally published at Manga Recon.