Butterflies, Flowers Book 1

This bizarre approach to male/female politics is a twisted take on relationships, but readers will relate to the characters’ confusion and control-swapping.

Butterflies, Flowers Book 1 cover
Butterflies, Flowers Book 1
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Choko Kuze used to be a rich daughter, but her family went bankrupt. Now she’s an office lady for a company run by her former beloved servant. The tables are turned, as he trains her personally and harshly to be his perfect executive assistant. She’s cheerful and works hard but isn’t particularly talented or skilled.

You know things are going to be weird when the first interview question we see her being asked is “are you a virgin?” The boss is obsessed, remarkably observant, and demanding. She’s overwhelmed, plus her co-workers know there’s something hinky going on, so they resent her being treated with such special attention (even if it is negative most of the time).

In addition to being economically timely, the series has a sharp sense of humor based on exaggeration. Choko’s brother speaks like a samurai wannabe, which others remark on. A knife-wielding disgruntled customer tries to take Choko hostage. Choko may be drawn as a kind of big-headed doll to emphasize her feeling out of control. Everyone’s extraordinarily emotional, except for Choko, and the art plays along, with plenty of closeups on faces — determined, anxious, worried. The art is otherwise refreshingly clean, a modern, updated take that’s easy to read.

The plot is is based on affection gone out of control. The boss cares so much for her that he wants to shape her into the perfect woman. He promised to look after her, and he still wants to do so, because he still sees her as a child. She accepts his control as a sign of his love for her, based on how much she enjoyed him as a childhood companion. Is this really love? Not if taken seriously, but that’s not what the book aims for.

I think some appreciation of Japanese culture is necessary to truly enjoy this story. Aside from the child/woman confusion, some of Choko’s work duties would be considered inappropriate. She’s asked to keep important customers happy by going drinking with them, for example, which leads to attempted rape. That’s another chance for her boss to rescue her, in a dementedly funny matter, but the advice she gets afterwards is that she should have gotten the lush drunker so he would pass out instead of attacking her.

The boss reminded me of the typical Harlequin hero, a strong, silent man who becomes a different person only with the woman he cares for. She’s the doofy girl mistaking control for love, confused by her feelings not sure she understands him. But at least she’s given a chance to take care of him sometimes, as when he catches a cold.

There isn’t enough josei (manga for women) translated in the US; I hope this series continues, because I’m very curious about where it will go next. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

15 Comments

  1. OMG. Somebody translated a Yuki Yoshihara book? FINALLY?! She’s done some amazing series that I’ve read in Japanese such as “Darling wa Namamono ni Tsuki”, and knowing her sense of humor and take on male/female relationships, I’m going to guess that this book is going to have a turn at some point. Usually her women are willful with a strong sense of humor and irony. And obsessed with sex.

    She’s one of my favorite storytellers. :D

    KNEW I recognized the art on that cover!

    The interview with the boss reminds me of the interview scene in “Secretary.”

  2. Now I’m really excited to see the second volume! I didn’t realize she had such a following. Or what she was known for. Sounds great!

  3. [...] Disciple on Azumanga Daioh (omnibus) (Tiamat’s Manga Reviews) Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of Butterflies, Flowers (Comics Worth Reading) Julie on Ciao Ciao Bambino (Manga Maniac Cafe) Johanna Draper Carlson on The [...]

  4. Yuki Yoshihara! I’ve always been a big fan of hers, though I have to say this isn’t one of my favorites by her. Strangely enough, the more pornographic her books are, the better they seem to be. The books that contain a heavy dose of smut usually contain funny, headstrong heroines. Choko doesn’t sound much like a Yoshihara heroine!

  5. Smut and more humor? Wow, I definitely need to follow this author! The more I hear, the more I root for this to be successful so we’ll get more from her.

  6. Maybe the author’s good, but this story sounds painful. How can anyone make sexual harassment funny?

  7. Well, besides “The Office”…but at least in The Office it’s not supposed to be sexy, too.

  8. I had a little problem with that myself, but I’m relying on recommendations from trusted sources who’ve seen more of the series.

    On the other hand, sometimes it’s healthy to laugh at such stupid things.

  9. [...] reading Book 1, I was unclear on what I was supposed to take away from this series. The contrast was unusual [...]

  10. I am impressed with your blog; also, I’m glad you did such a thorough review of this series; I’ve read all the way through book 6, and I’m also excited for the remainder of the series!

  11. Thank you very much for the compliment!

  12. [...] Viz begins serializing the eight-book Butterflies, Flowers, again as part of its Shojo Beat imprint, although the series is a josei comedy with a mature [...]

  13. [...] Butterflies, Flowers Book 1 ($4.99) [...]

  14. […] I found Happy Marriage?! (by Maki Enjoji, August 2013) disappointing because it was too much like Butterflies, Flowers, but Midnight Secretary (by Tomu Ohmi, September 2013) was more […]

  15. […] otherwise, this is just a high school romance in another costume. It’s very similar to Butterflies, Flowers, only that book had over-the-top exaggeration that could sometimes be amusing. This one just […]

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