Wow!! ^__^ My Japanese language professor just made my day. I just found out that she watched the Aoi Hana anime also, and thought it was a "とてもかわいい話" ("very cute story"). She isn't an anime fan (although she has seen some anime- mostly by Studio Ghibli), so I see this as further proof of Aoi Hana's greatness/crossover appeal to non-otaku. Score! And speaking of feel-good yuri stories-
As a romance, Fujieda Miyabi's Ameiro Kouchakan Kandan is as sweet as a sugar cube, and as gentle and relaxing as a cup of lavender tea. It isn't a personal favorite of mine, but definitely good for something heartwarming and simple. (Provided that you don't mind large doses of cute.)
It's a pleasantly straightforward story about a serious, responsible high school student named Sarasa, an airheaded but extremely kind tea shop owner named Seriho, and the slowly developing romance between them. By "slow", I don't mean that it takes them a long time to fall in love with each other (Yuri Hime's quarterly release schedule wouldn't really facilitate that)- Sarasa's head-over-heels for Seriho right off the bat, and she's working at Seriho's Amber Teahouse so she can get closer to her. Seriho clearly loves Sarasa, but doesn't seem to be fully cognizant of her own feelings, or the fact that Sarasa's in love with her. Sarasa's two best friends/regular customers, Haru and Hinoka (my two favorites), are gleefully aware of what's going on, and they enjoy dropping not-so-subtle hints in front of Seriho- even at the risk of incurring Sarasa's wrath. Sarasa eventually becomes so serious about Seriho (especially after Seriho asks Sarasa to stay by her side for the next 50 years or more- this isn't a full-blown love confession, believe it or not) that she changes her college plans and decides to enroll in a culinary academy so she can become a pâtissière and continue to work with Seriho at the Amber Teahouse. Following the main stretch of the volume, there's the Tanabata special in which Sarasa, Seriho, Haru, and Hinoka host a Tanabata event at the Amber Teahouse to save it from bankruptcy, along with a great new bonus chapter featuring a crossover-cameo from Alice Quartet. (Which means more eye candy clothing designs by Fujieda. I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. ^^)
This series is simply...cute. But in a good way. The characters are all likeable (although Seriho's ineptness does irritate me at points), and there isn't anything that I consider offensive. (Nothing remotely "adult" either; if an elementary school kid picked this one up and started skimming it, I wouldn't bat an eye.) There isn't an iota of conflict- the most we get is the threat of the teahouse closing down in the Tanabata special. But it's a Fujieda manga- we know the teahouse is going to remain open. I had to tune out my inner cynic (the one muttering "But you didn't decide to do what you originally thought you wanted to do after you began college, didn't you? How does she know it'll work out? Blahblahblah, nagnagnag....*white noise*") while reading parts of this volume, but it didn't really impact my reading experience. Ameiro Kouchakan Kandan is meant to be an airy, idealistic shoujo romance- and a Fujieda one at that- so I can take a handwave or two.
Like always, Fujieda's art is super-cute. ^^ I like his stylized character designs throughout his different works- although sometimes they cross the line to seeming a little overly simplistic (not counting the chibi scenes). But the art tells the story well (and sometimes beautifully, at key points), with good sequencing.
Again, this isn't a personal favorite, but still recommended for a cute yuri series to read.
And as far as the drama CD:
Like the "Pink Princess" CD that came with Yuri Hime volume 16, the "White Engage" drama CD that came with the LE (the one in which Sarasa and Seriho get engaged, with a cameo from Otome-iro Stay Tune's Mana-chan-sensei and Shiko) was cute to listen to. I loved the yuri meta-references- one reason I like Otome-iro Stay Tune. The DCD is basically more of what we're used to from the manga (terribly insightful, I know ^^;), so it would get a B also. The voice acting was done very well, although...despite Tamura Yukari giving a solid performance as Mana-chan-sensei, I'm not much of a fan of her voice.
Oh...and just to
BGM- "Ceui" by Centefolia