Lung Flowers

Examining trends in fanfiction.


This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #87, the Rebellion issue. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.


Flowers arching up brachial trees, petals buildings up in the lungs and filling up the windpipe until the sufferer dies. They choke to death on the signs of their affection, bloody flower petals on their lips.

It’s called Hanahaki Disease, and it’s a fanfiction trope about unrequited, one-sided love. Sufferers cough up flower petals, usually delicately at first into a palm, blood splattered rose petals or strips of peonie. It’s not incurable, usually, but it remains uncured. To remove the disease you must remove the flowers, but to do so will cause the feelings to disappear. Like a character in a Victorian novel, the sufferers are unwilling to part with their desperate one-sided love, to the point where they slowly choke to death on the soft, unyielding bounty of it.

In less angsty fair, the disease can be cured by the return of one’s affections or by the completion of a soul-bond (a common fanfiction conceit). True love will stop the flowers from blooming. It is mostly still a figure of Japanese fandoms, it’s floral attributes popping up in tales about Tokyo Ghoul and bands like EXO and Bangtan Boys.

It’s melodramatic, and some view it as the height of romance. All the character has to do is move on and leave behind the unreturned love. But they can’t. They’re unwilling to, and so they pass on, a veritable garden bursting from their chest at their own sacrifice. Because it is ultimately a sacrifice they make, their lives for their love.


Amanda Hudgins is an occasional writer, former rugby player and wearer of incredibly tall shoes.

Ad Free, Books, Self-Insert, Unwinnable Monthly