Aoi Hana is a delightful yuri manga, with fascinating characters and moving relationships. Now director Kasai Kenichi (Honey & Clover, Kimi Kiss) has made it into an anime, and the first episode was both excellent and true to the spirit of the manga.
Helping Kasai get it right are lead writer Takayama Fumihiko (Rescue Wings), and top sound director Aketagawa Jin (Ichigo Mashimaro, Shakugan no Shana, Nodame Cantabile, Queen's Blade, etc. etc.)
None of the main seiyuu cast, Horie Yui aside, are stars. But they are all intriguing choices, as I will outline below, and I trust director Kasai to hire good voices and direct them well -- with the help of Aketagawa Jin.
The OP song by Kukikodan and the ED by Ceui are both gentle and pleasant. The OP animation is by Ikuhara Kazuhiko, the director of Revolutionary Girl Utena and many episodes of Sailor Moon. The whirling dance, the nude scene with flowers, and especially the shot of the girls' legs running together are outstanding.
Fumi (Takabe Ai)
Fumi is a shy, gangling girl who moves back into her old neighborhood just in time for high school. She meets up again with her childhood friend Akira. When they were little, they were inseparable. Fumi was a cry-baby and Akira was her defender and comforter.
Fumi is played by Takabe Ai, 2o, who is a well-known photo idol, TV actress and TV personality. She was good as the star of the late-night supernatural comedy-drama Guren Onna.
This is her first role as a seiyuu, but she has little of the dead voice of a first-timer, and does a nice job bringing the character to life. The voice is softer than I expected, if I expected anything, but it seems perfect to me. Takabe-san's voice adds something to the character I know from the manga.
For sexy photos from Takabe Ai's idol shoots, search Google Images.
Akira (Gibu Yuuko)
Akira is a little live-wire who spreads positive energy wherever she goes. She is in the high school of the prestigious Fujigaya Academy for Girls.
Gibu Yuuko, 28, burst onto the scene in 2005 with roles in five shows, including a major role in Koi Koi Seven. She had eight roles in 2008, then dropped back to four in 2007. That year, she and her partner Ninomiya Yoshimi were promoting their singing duo BooNo.
But Ninomiya quit the entertainment business at the end of that year, and Gibu was left at sea, doing only one seiyuu role the next year. Now she is back with a vengeance, with important roles in both this show and Umi Monogatari.
Yasuko (Ishimatsu Chiemi)
Yasuko is a bold and handsome girl who is the prince of Matsuoka Girls' High.
Ishimatsu Chiemi has had a small number of roles in every year since 2003, under this name and that of Misumi. She was Ellis in Triangle Heart and Michelle in Zero no Tsukaima 2.
Kyouko (Horie Yui)
Kyouko is a classmate of Akira's at Fujigaya. She has an unrequited love for Sayoko.
Horie Yui, 32, is the most successful -- or at least the busiest -- female seiyuu of the 21st century, with over 140 roles in her twelve-year career. Her best-known roles are Naru in Love Hina, Toru in Fruits Basket, and Ayu in Kanon. She already has 15 roles this year.