“Is the president a bit of a queen?”
“Wouldn’t he be a ‘king’?”
“Have you seen the president?”
“Er… I guess ‘queen’ does suit him…”
Sunflower continues the Kinsei High series, being a sort of loose sequel to the two Ordinary Crush volumes and in the same continuity as Freefall Romance, but as it mostly deals with new characters and doesn’t continue the storylines from either of those, it stands alone and can be enjoyed without reading anything else by Hyouta Fujiyama (although there are subtleties of the relationships that you’ll miss if you don’t read all of them).
This volume concerns Ryuhei Ohno and Kunihisa Imaizumi, new first years in Kinsei High. Ohno has come to Kinsei high school from Kinsei middle school and is still nursing a wounded heart from being turned down by his first love. Imaizumi went to an outside middle school and is at first completely unaware of the nature of his new school, and when Ohno clues him in that 90% of the boys at Kinsei High are gay or bisexual, he’s shocked and doesn’t quite know how to handle this information. Unfortunately, he’s homophobic enough that the gay atmosphere in Kinsei makes him rather uncomfortable.
But despite that, he’s a clever, charismatic boy who quickly catches the attention of the student council, and along with Ohno he’s co-opted to be an assistant to the council vice-president. As they work together, Ohno and Imaizumi grow closer, and Ohno becomes concerned that Imaizumi’s naivete may make him vulnerable. But he gradually comes to realise that he feels more than concern for Imaizumi.
Most BL stories reach a climax — often physical as well as emotional — within about fifty pages, which is all well and good, but prevents creators from stretching their muscles and telling the kinds of stories where a couple take time to come together, where a relationship develops slowly, in subtle increments. Sunflower is an exception: by the end of this volume, Ohno has just about begun to realise his feelings, in a near-wordless sequence that shows off Hyouta Fujiyama’s superlative skill with body language and facial expressions. The relationships among all the boys — not just Ohno and Imaizumi — are given enough space to have some complexity and depth, and despite the slightly goofy premise that 90% of the boys are gay or bi, the school feels still feels like a real school and not just a convenient backdrop. And the goofiness of the premise is a small price to pay for a setting where the possibility of boys liking boys is taken for granted.
Hyouta Fujiyama’s skills are, as I’ve said in various other reviews on this site, invariably impressive, and they are shown to their best advantage in her longer stories. Sunflower is a delightful example of this, and comes thoroughly recommended to all BL fans.