Flower review

Apr 13, 2021
"Flower" is one of those mangas that have more educative than entertainment value. It's very straightforward: in the very beginning it promises to tell a story of romantic trials and tribulations of a girl forced to live out her days in a wheelchair as a result of an accident and the impact it has on her as a fun-loving active person just wanting to continue her normal life. What can I say, it certainly delivers all of that, and yet leaves somewhat of a lackluster impression.

It's a slice-of-life, coming-of-age story primarily driven by the main character's disability and the way she overcomes difficulties arising from it from her middle school days up to her adult life after university graduation. "Flower" is down-to-earth and realistic, I was very impressed with how meticulously the artist researched the reality of life as a wheelchair user in Japan. This is immediately the greatest achievement and the greatest stumbling block of this manga: the author dedicated so much time and effort into researching and elucidating this topic that the story and the characters feel a bit like vehicles for exploring it rather than being the focus and the driving force of "Flower". Romance is supposed to be a major part of this story but it is quite bland, predictable, and seems to be moving in endless circles going nowhere.

The two main characters are reasonably well fleshed-out, with a clear set of ambitions, motivations and a clearly defined personality, and yet if you take away the unique situations and interactions arising from the main character's disability, they fall neatly into cliché types we all have seen one too many times. The rest of the character cast is very sporadically and inconsistently used, appearing and disappearing without clear reasons, and most of them are just walking disposable plot devices appearing for a chapter or two to try and stir up some drama which gets very repetitive very soon. One notable exception would be Kitagawa, one of the recurring characters who's charismatic enough to warrant some chapters dedicated solely to his side-story.

The pacing is a bit erratic, the primary motivation of the story clearly being to show as many aspects of a young Japanese female wheelchair-user's love life as possible. There is only so much you can do with this idea, and it shows. The tankobon version of "Flower" includes some side-stories, not necessarily connected to the main one, that are essentially sweet romantic vignettes, and quite good in their own right. Toward the end of the main storyline, when it becomes apparent the artist was running out of ideas, the side-stories even become a welcome distraction.

The art very much falls into shojo genre conventions, nothing that stands out in particular - it's decent and that's all there is to say about it. All in all, I'd highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about the struggles of day-to-day life of Japanese wheelchair users, and to anyone seeking a psychologically compelling, intricate love story or a turbulent plot with twists and turns, I'd advise to look elsewhere.


Autor Amatarou