~by Moyoco Anno
Flowers & Bees was the second manga series by Moyoco Anno to be released in English. Viz Media published the first volume of the series in 2003, six months after Tokyopop published the first volume of the English-language edition of Happy Mania. In Japan the first volume of Flowers & Bees was released in 2000. Flowers & Bees was Anno's first foray into a series aimed at a predominantly adult male audience. Prior to Flowers & Bees, Anno was primarily known for her work as a josei artist. I've heard Flowers & Bees described as a male version of Happy Mania. Having read both manga, I'd have to say it's actually not a bad comparison; the two series share many themes and other similarities. Even though I had previously read Flowers & Bees, I was looking forward to reading it again for the Moyoco Anno Manga Moveable Feast.
Masao Komatsu is desperate. He's convinced that the reason he's unpopular is his unattractiveness. All he really wants is a little respect and for Noriko, a girl from another high school who he's developed a huge crush on, to give him the time of day. That's when he stumbles into the World of Beautiful Men, a men's beauty salon filled with people who delight in tormenting Komatsu just as much as they do in helping him to develop something at least resembling style. What starts out as a simple eyebrow job soon spirals out of control as Komatsu will do anything and everything he possible can in order to look cool. And it seems to be working. Sort of. The attention that he starts to draw isn't exactly what he had in mind, but at least women are starting to notice him.
I'm rather fond of Komatsu as pitiful as he can be. I can't help but feel some sympathy for the poor guy. He's not nearly as big of a loser as he thinks he is. He just hasn't realized quite yet that he needs to work on his confidence and self-esteem more than he needs to work on his hair. (Granted, a decent haircut certainly doesn't hurt, either.) But Komatsu tries. He really, really tries. His earnestness and obsession with becoming attractive is impressive. It is also highly amusing. As self-conscious as he is as a person, he is also incredibly self-absorbed. Anno doesn't go easy on Komatsu. He's the subject of some pretty cruel treatment. Admittedly, Flowers & Bees can be a little mean, but it can also be hilarious.
As harsh as Flowers & Bees is on occasion, Anno actually does incorporate some legitimate fashion and relationship tips into the manga. At times they're a little difficult to discern as Komatsu is put through all sorts of overly dramatic, not to mention traumatic, experience. Komatsu is desperate and highly impressionable, grasping at even the smallest piece of advice. He doesn't always quite get it, but there's still hope for him. I think that's one of the reasons Flowers & Bees works for me. Komatsu has plenty of room to grow and develop as a character. Many of the changes in the first volume are merely physical, but the foundation for his metamorphosis as a person as a whole is also established. I really do enjoy Flowers & Bees.