The Fragrant Flower Blooms With Dignity Volume 1: Sweet Things



It’s always interesting what the digital and scanlation manga communities latch onto. For the longest time I’ve heard nothing but praise for this series, but after picking up The Fragrant Flower Blooms With Dignity volume 1 all I can say is- it’s alright. It’s very far from bad, thanks to the wonderful character designs and blocking from Saka Mikami, which I’ll talk about later, but from a narrative perspective it simply follows the beaten path. That surely doesn’t mean that it’s bad, though. More so it’s just that this first volume is very much like going through the motions of a Romeo-and-Juliet styled romance. It’s forbidden, it’s two unlikely sides coming together- it’s just this and that and nothing new, you know? I have hope that it will deviate from the norm as the story goes on, but the simplest way to put it right now is that The Fragrant Flower Blooms With Dignity is stuck between thoughtful and theatric.

Allow me to explain. Tall, blond, and scary is Rintarou Tsugumi, a student at the less-than-popular Chidori high school. Opposite him is short, sweet, and sweet-loving Kaoruko Waguri, a student at the rival (or really oppressive) and high class Kikyo Girls’ School. Together, the two form an unlikely pair and begin to navigate a not-so-secret life separate from the hatred Kikyo students have for those that enrol at Chidori. It’s a little… familiar, no? A “delinquent” at a lesser school falling for the perfect girl at the higher end school. There’s a dozen and a half variations on this concept, so I’m not exactly overly forgiving towards the dime a dozen that have appeared.

Truthfully though, if you’re able to produce characters and interactions of a high enough level, the concept isn’t too much to worry about. The Fragrant Flower Blooms With Dignity volume 1 isn’t quite afforded that opportunity, however. Rintarou and Kaoruko are both character archetypes through this initial volume, a volume which doesn’t leave much space for character development. In my eyes, it certainly makes the story rather monotonous to follow. The interactions of the pair are very well set in stone, down to the smallest chuckle a reader might make. Without development that can throw the story off the beaten path, it’s hard to really find a good reason to get behind it. You can laugh, smile, and maybe even gasp- but how much is that worth when you’ve done much the same with previous series? The narrative doesn’t offer any space for proper originality (let alone a deliberation on the tone of the series), and the characters are foils for ideas that have already been thoroughly expressed in manga. All of that is to really say, if you’re looking for a lot of value out of a story, this first volume doesn’t provide it. It provides enough, to the point that people will still pick up and read the series, but it doesn’t really endeavour to go past that threshold. Maybe it would have been a better series 5 or more years ago, but in the sea of similar content these days, it’s hard to proclaim it an overly worthwhile story.

Anyways, despite my bemoaning of the quality of the story and characters, I’m likely to keep reading purely for the art. I wouldn’t quite include the panelling or page layouts under that umbrella though, as much like the narrative they remain passable. In comparison, Saka Mikami’s art in The Fragrant Flower Blooms With Dignity volume 1 feels like a heaven sent savior for the manga. In the most interesting way, Mikami’s art gravitates towards the realm of visual fidelity, but never crosses the boundary. It’s as if our Icarus has understood their limits with this series. Rintarou and Kaoruko’s character designs really embody that sentiment, as they climb towards the upper limits of details and quality while still retaining a great deal of simplicity and personality. Of course, our supporting cast also have solid designs, but aside from Mikami’s love for drawing hair, they remain features of the background- which is a good thing.

Mikami has a very strong understanding of their art to that end. Like a finely-tuned dial, The Fragrant Flower Blooms With Dignity volume 1 is able to tweak the “quality” of designs to fit the circumstance and space within the story. Kaoruko’s hair in particular is very… dynamic. Its appearance always changes based on the size of the panel and the point in story- which really is normal for a manga. It’s just that in Mikami’s case, their control over those changes is quite good. Part of that comes from their obsession over hair, but part of it also comes from how they build their pages. It should come as no surprise then that the majority of The Fragrant Flower Blooms With Dignity volume 1 is head shots. No way Mikami would diminish the opportunity to show off the best part of the series, right? The most impressive part of that, however, is the character blocking for these closeups. Despite the prevalence of so many single-character head shots, they remain excitingly unique through all the different poses and angles that you catch the characters at.

In a sense, it has me intensely curious as to what Mikami could accomplish purely as an artist for a manga. Considering that this is their first (serialized) work, it’s hard to really be all that harsh on The Fragrant Flower Blooms With Dignity volume 1. It deeply struggles to set itself apart from the pack in terms of narrative work, but Mikami’s art is miles ahead of expectations for a first-timer in the industry. Because of that, I think it’s still worth consideration for real fans of romance manga. It doesn’t do anything new, but it certainly doesn’t fail at what it’s trying to recreate. Add on top Mikami’s artistry, and it’s very easy to see why people might like this manga.

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