Title: The Name of the Flower Vol 1
Author: Ken Saito
May Contain Spoilers
When Chouko’s parents are killed in an accident, the high school student is devastated. She falls into a personal hell of silence and despair. Shuffled from one relative to another, she finally ends up with her father’s cousin, Kei Mizushima. Like Chouko, Kei lives in a world of self-imposed isolation. The gifted writer doesn’t know how to interact with other people and he prefers to be left alone. Will Chouko and Kei be able to find an inner peace together?
I didn’t know what I was expecting when I first picked up this book, but it wasn’t the somber, melancholy tale that I found. This book really tugs at your emotions, because Chouko and Kei are so needy and unhappy that you just want to see them smile – at anything. Two years have passed since the death of her parents, and Chouko has started to learn to adjust to their absence. She’s 18, a senior in high school, and during the time that she’s lived with Kei, she’s become the one who takes care of him. Just as he has given her the ability to accept her grief, she has given him a way to emerge, ever so slowly, from the shell he’s erected around himself.
When Chouko first moves in with Kei, the dark, brooding man intimidates her. He is twelve years her senior, and he is a person who prefers his solitude. His social skills rank up there with a gorilla’s and he has no clue how to be subtle or get along with others. This awkwardness makes him avoid interacting with other people, and makes him difficult to understand. He barely speaks, and for the still distraught Chouko, this was probably a blessing. Like Kei, Chouko withdrew into the darkness of herself, struggling to cope with the new reality of her life without her parents.
When she first moves into Kei’s house, he gruffly tells her that he expects her to cook and clean, and in return, he’ll send her to college after she graduates from high school. As Chouko settles into a comfortable rhythm of keeping herself busy, her heart begins to heal. As she begins to find contentment, she decides to tame the riot of weeds in Kei’s overgrown garden. And as Chouko’s flowers bloom, so does her love for the rough and withdrawn Kei.
I really like these characters. Chouko is shy and unsure of herself, and Kei is just a social misfit. He thinks that he doesn’t deserve to be loved. What both of them need is somebody to just understand them. Kei doesn’t really have the patience to get to know someone else, or let another person get to know him, but Chouko soothes his untamed soul. Both of them are incomplete without the other. I wanted to see them find that missing part of themselves by learning to trust each other.
Like the story, the art of The Name of the Flower is subtle and understated. Nobody is drop dead gorgeous; instead, the characters are drawn in a more realistic, easy to empathize with style. The emphasis is on the steady outpouring of emotions that flow across the pages. Despair, hope, love – they slowly parade themselves across the characters’ faces as the relationship between Chouko and Kei are redrawn and defined.
This book caught me off guard with the gentle progression of its pages. I am looking forward to the next volume, hoping that it is as satisfying a read as this one.
Rated for Teen Plus