Title: Butterflies, Flowers
Author: Yuki Yoshihara (Story & Art)
Genres: Romance, Comedy, Drama, Josei
Rating: Mature (18+)
Published: 2006-2009 (Japanese tankoubon); 2009-2011 (English)
Volumes: 8 [Complete]
Japanese Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: Viz Media & Shojo Beat Manga
Available to Purchase in English?: Yes (Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Indigo )
In Butterflies, Flowers, the
damsel in distress main character is Choko Kuzu. Thirteen years prior to the start of this story, Choko’s parents went bankrupt and have spent the ensuing years running a soba noodle shop. Choko’s younger brother Mikihiko is in college and presumably not working, so Choko takes it upon herself to get an office job to help her family make ends meet.
Choko applies for a job with Benten Estates, the leading real estate company in Japan. However she is sexually harassed from the moment she steps into her future employer’s office for the interview. The top boss asks her inappropriate questions and grills her over details about her life which are completely unrelated to the job. Who is this guy and why is he being such an asshole?!
Turns out that this is her childhood crush Domoto Masayuki, all grown up. When Choko’s family had been rich they’d had servants, and Domoto was their family’s chauffeur’s son. Domoto was a few years older than Choko but due to their master-servant relationship he’d always called her “Milady.” It goes without saying that they were very close despite their age gap and spent all of their time together. Now reunited as adults, Domoto knows who Choko is but she doesn’t recognize him. However Domoto accidentally reveals himself to Choko when he calls her by her childhood nickname during a tense hostage situation. (Yes you read that right. Not even 1/4 into the first volume!)
Domoto is extremely handsome, sharp and quick-witted, and at the office he delights in sadistically tormenting Choko whenever he can. Their shared past is initially kept a secret from almost everyone, so most of the other people at the office don’t understand why Domoto picks on Choko to the degree that he does. Heck, even Choko doesn’t fully understand why he gets so much joy from making her work life miserable. But after hours Domoto is kind and loving towards Choko, and this confuses her. Why would he torment her if he claims to care about her and her well-being as much as he does?
Unfortunately, this hot-cold-dynamic is what makes up the base of Butterflies, Flowers, and you have to be accepting of certain cultural differences and manga tropes to read this series all the way to its completion. You have to be ok with Domoto treating Choko like garbage and, at times, severely sexually harassing her around the office. You have to put up with Choko doing literally everything Domoto tells her to do, no matter how ridiculous or embarrassing, because he’s the top boss and she’s the newbie at the very bottom of the work totem pole who must survive long enough to have a hope of moving up the corporate ladder. Nevermind that her paycheck is helping her family, so if she loses her job then they lose that precious income. Much of the series’ comedy stems from Domoto taking advantage of his boss-underling relationship with Choko, and then the romance comes during their afterhours time together.
As an aside, I enjoyed Butterflies, Flowers‘ secondary cast a lot. Mikihiko is often used for comedic relief, especially when paired with Domoto’s friend and employee Suou, who enjoys dressing up as a woman in the office and whom Mikihiko finds attractive (without realizing, at least in the first two volumes, that Suou’s actually a man). There’s also a running joke throughout the series that Choko’s father’s soba noodles geniunely taste gross, but people still keep coming back to eat them; in fact, Domoto himself thinks they’re delicious. ^^;;
This series is rated Mature so in addition to some occasional crude dialogue, yep there’s smut. It’s censored in the usual way because Japan, but it’s there. So don’t go reading some of the later volumes in public without using caution. xD
I myself only made it two volumes into the series before I got tired of watching Domoto abuse Choko then make up for his behaviour later. Choko is also incredibly dense and naïve so sometimes I got frustrated with her not standing up for herself, even though I know it would mean risking her job to do so. (Again, I know, cultural differences.) Although with that being said there is the occasional scene where Choko “snaps” and takes charge of a situation, and Domoto always praises Choko afterwards to show that deep down he does truly respect her. So there’s that at least…?
The other reason why I stopped reading Butterflies, Flowers was that it was becoming fairly predictable, at least to me. Domoto abuses Choko left right and center at work, then sweet-talks her afterwards and leads her to think he cares about her. Choko is confused, not sure what to do. Rinse and repeat. I’m sure over time the characters and plot both develop more, but as amusing as the office antics were, there wasn’t enough plot in the first two volumes to keep me reading. I’ve googled the series so I know how it ends, but without spoiling anything I’ll just say that the predictions I made while initially reading the series seem to come true, and I will leave it at that.
Butterflies, Flowers has a very pleasing art style and is very easy to read. In particular, Yuki Yoshihara does amazing job of emoting extreme emotions on her characters’ faces (anger, fear, lust, etc). Although this title was not for me, if I find others by Yuki Yoshihara I would definitely be open to reading them.
My Score: 7/10
Do I Recommend This Title?: Meh? If you can overlook Domoto abusing Choko at the office then you might enjoy this romantic comedy. It definitely doesn’t hurt that Domoto’s very easy on the eyes and the smut is good. However this series is definitely not for everyone.