Manga-ka: Fumi Yoshinaga
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: June 2009
Synopsis: “As the school year winds down, Harutaro is in good spirits. His illness feels like a thing of the past, he and his best friend Shota are developing aspirations toward becoming professional manga artists, and best of all – his mom has come home for a visit! Just when things seem at their best, life often finds a way of balancing the scales. When a family secret causes Harutaro to question his future, who will he turn to in his lowest moment? Could it be… the one person you’d least expect?!”
By the time the end rolls around, the series takes its decidedly most bittersweet turn. Not to scare any reader into believing horrible things are going to happen, but it’s more about the overall mood. Flower of Life stays true to its slice-of-life genre, which in truest form means the good, and the bad, of everyday life.
In this fourth, and final, volume both these aspects are explored, exposed and indulged in to impacting effect. The last page left me a teary-eyed as my mind filled with questions, ponderings, and an overall sense of both satisfaction and pensive melancholy.
Characters spanning from the first three volumes have their own dedicated time, bringing the series to a well-adjusted climatic finish. A highlight of the volume is Haru and Mikuni’s continued interest in making manga and it takes them to a professional manga review. Not only are readers treated to following the story’s lead characters on a bout of manga professionalism, but we’re also offered some insightful looks at the job of a manga editor from the other end of the process. The manga editor most in focus (and in question) is a brutally honest man who suddenly begins to worry his no-holds-barred approach to manga critiques will mean he’ll never create a true creator-editor bond with new talent.
Volume four also serves up some of the most intense emotional moments of the series 4-part run as foreshadowed issues bubble to the surface in a few dramatic crescendos of mental anguish. Haru’s sister has the most notable of which when various aspects of her life stress her to a level that even the words of her loving brother, Haru, just can’t seem to soothe. This semi-confrontational scene was heartbreaking in more ways than one, and though I’d never held Haru’s sister in any particular focus, here I suddenly felt shamed for it as she suffered in the background in a way that any reader can sympathize with in at least some manner.
While I don’t know what I expected coming to the end of Flower of Life, I was still surprised at the way it concluded, and while at first I was actually disappointed, in hindsight the end works well as a finale. It makes you think, and really makes you step back and evaluate where these characters have come in the period of time we’ve read about them. Though likely to leave more than a few readers with tissues at the ready, the series goes out with an emotional bang and is another tribute to the manga-ka’s ability to weave together compelling characters in dynamically true-to-life relationships.
At a quaintly sized four-volumes, and little shortage of charm, there’s no better time to go out and pick yourself up a copy of all four and enjoy.