Butterflies, Flowers 1 by Yuki Yoshihara: B+

butterfliesflowers1The Kuze family used to be rich, with a retinue of servants ready to cater to their every whim. The daughter of the family, Choko, grew up experiencing the tender care of the chauffeur’s son, whom she called Cha-chan. Alas, after her father’s investments all tanked in an economic downturn, the family was forced to dismiss their household staff and open a soba restaurant.

Thirteen years have passed since then and Choko, now twenty, has just been hired at a new job. Almost immediately, she’s handpicked to join the administrative department by its manager, Masayuki Domoto, who seems to delight in harassing her constantly. It’s only when a disgruntled, knife-wielding man conveniently arrives to threaten her life that Domoto slips and calls her “Milady,” thus revealing the truth: he is Cha-chan. Happily, Choko catches on right away and no tiresome cluelessness ensues.

From then on, Domoto switches between his two personalities—the stern taskmaster and the devoted servant—causing Choko to refer to him as “scary and indulgent.” He picks Choko up for work each morning, but treats her shabbily while she’s there, yet is always around to protect her, whether it’s from the lecherous advances of a drunken client or the massive New Year’s Eve crowds at the family restaurant. It doesn’t take her long to fall for him, and though she tells him so, he doesn’t understand her feelings at all. By the end of the volume, Choko has embraced more of a master role in order to help Domoto see her as an independent woman and not the little girl he helped to raise.

Technically, Butterflies, Flowers is josei, but so far, it doesn’t feel much different from other romantic comedy titles in the Shojo Beat line. It’s a tad racier, with references to sex and some profanity, but one could find that in shojo properties without much effort. I’m sure many will read and enjoy it without being aware of any distinction concerning its origins.

Choko is an okay character: your typical cheerful, clumsy, hardworking type. Because of her sheltered upbringing, she sometimes comes across as incompetent and experiences chibified shock quite often. I like her the best when she switches into aristocratic mode and takes charge of the situation, be it bullying Domoto into seeing a doctor when he falls ill or deciding that even if he can’t grasp that her feelings for him are real, she’s going to keep on demanding his affection until he catches on. Domoto himself is an extremely difficult character to figure out—which one is the real him?—but some of the nicest moments occur when he’s flustered by Choko and shows his more vulnerable side.

Overall, this series is a lot of fun, though definitely lighter fare than I’d been expecting. Still, I like the characters and, even more, I’m intrigued by the new power dynamic emerging in the final few pages. I’ll definitely be back for volume two!

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

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