For when the sun itself just isn't enough to brighten the day.
As I'm looking straight at the piercing sky, I can feel your presence, And I hold out my hands at the warm sunlight of that sunflower of happiness-looking sun. I was born here to meet you, Even without saying anything, just being able to be by your side is enough. I'm your flower, I want to shine for you, just gaze at me, I want to shine with the strength of the mid-summer flower, You're my sunshine, you're my every happiness, is this destiny ? I love you, who's like a dazzling sun !
A flower native to Central America, the sunflower holds a powerful cultural image. Being a beautiful and colorful flower that needs lots of sunlight to be at its brightest, it symbolizes energy and happiness. An endless field of sunflowers is quite a breathtaking view to hold, and gives a heartwarming feeling. Sunflower seeds are also highly nutritious, and thus are attractive to small finch-type birds.
The sunflower blossom was an emblem of the "aesthetic" movement of the 19th century; it came to symbolize connections between the sun, fire, and warmth — both physical and metaphorical. It was a popular motif because its bold color and simple shape could be stylized, much like the chrysanthemum of Japanese art, which had a strong influence on the movement.
In official sources, the sunflower has a meaning of adoration and constancy, since the sunflower always turns towards the sun throughout the day; in common knowledge and fiction, people associated with sunflowers are more often than not seen as cheerful, energetic, and happy-go-lucky people who brighten up everybody and everything else around them.
In a work of fiction that represent characters with a symbolic flower, the sunflower will very likely be attributed to the Genki Girl.
Subverted in one short story printed in the Halloween manga magazine. There, the sunflowers turn out to be anthropophagous and mobile, at the end of the story marching down Main Street and eating people as they go. (And this was not the most preposterous event in the story, either.)
In one of his more deredere moments, Russia from Axis Powers Hetalia mentions that he dreams about living in a warm place surrounded by sunflowers. Naturally, Fanart hardly shows him without them.
Aside from the symbolism of warmth, there may be another possible, more pragmatic explanation for this sunflower motif: sunflower seeds are a very popular food item in Russia.
Interestingly enough, sunflowers are said to be the national flower and one of the chief crops of Ukraine. Make of that what you will.
An early arc of Get Backers revolved about the retrieval of a 13th painting of Van Gogh's Sunflowers series that emerged recently and got stolen by Kaitou Clayman. Throughout this arc, the painting gives a powerful and heartwarming impression to all the main characters that see it, with Ginji even saying the following: "I don't know anything about art, but... How to say... When looking at it, I can't take my eyes off it..."
An aversion: in Rosario + Vampire, episodes 9 and 10, "Summer Vacation and Vampire" and "Sunflower and Vampire", the Newspaper club discover a gorgeous beach in the human world overlooked by a huge field of sunflowers. It turns out to be the home of Dark Magical Girl Ruby, who sees the looming loss to developers as an End of an Age.
In Samurai Champloo, Plucky Girl Fuu is looking for "the Samurai who smells of Sunflowers". This samurai actually is Fuu's father, and her only memory of him is a departing figure shifting through a field of sunflowers. In the series, sunflowers seem to be associated with memory, youth, and Christianity.
Himawari!!, and its similarly-named main character, both mean "sunflower", and the symbolism of the flower is especially prominent, as Himawari herself is the happy-go-lucky go-getter sort of heroine who wants to save everybody.
Hidamari Sketch x Hoshimittsu uses floral motifs for its video releases, assigning one to each of the six tenants. The ever-bubbly and inquisitive Miyako gets the sunflower.
Hana-Kimi has a flower motif for each character. Guess what flower is associated with Mizuki.
The opening of Bamboo Blade begins with a row of sunflowers popping into the screen, the flowers rotating quickly and the last one filing the entire screen used as a frame for the main characters, with team captain Kirino Chiba to start it off. Kirino also owns a somewhat gaudy umbrella with a sunflower pattern.
Digimon Savers sort of plays with this trope - Sunflowmon is the Adult form of Yoshino's partner Lalamon, but Yoshino has a crippling inferiority complex which prevents her from fulfilling this trope. She gets over it, but by then, Lalamon has gained access to a stronger evolved form which isn't sunflower-themed.
In The Adventures of Tintin, the original French name of Professor Calculus is "Professeur Tournesol", tournesol being the French name for sunflower. The pun was not lost, as a Fruit D'Or, a famous French producer of sunflower-based products, most notably sunflower oil, made ads showing Calculus promoting the beneficial effects of said oil for a balanced diet, so much that it makes himfly.
In Harry Potter Luna Lovegood is typically very cheerful and optimistic. She wears a sunflower to a wedding, believing that bright yellow ("sun colors" as she puts it) will be good luck for the bride and groom.
Mythology and Religion
Averted in Greek Mythology. Clytie was a maiden who fell in love with Helios, the sun god. He would have nothing to do with her, so she spent all her days sitting outside watching him cross the sky. Eventually she wasted away and became a sunflower, always turning to watch the sun. (Different versions of the myth name different heliotropic or sunfollowing flowers.)
In Tokimeki Memorial 2, Hikari Hinomoto, the heroine of the game and childhood friend of the main protagonist, is the game's resident Genki Girl, and her symbolic flower is the sunflower. She's regulary shown holding sunflowers in official arts. She also fits the adoration symbolism, as she can be quite the Clingy Jealous Girl if the protagonist sets his eyes on other girls, most notably their Cool Big Sis Kasumi, and is more prone to "bomb" him out of jealousy and yearning than other girls.
Ironically, the same game has an aversion to the trope: the Bad Ending's theme song is named "Himawari", which means "sunflower" in Japanese; the song is a reflection of the protagonist having failed to score the girl he loves, saying that "he's a sunflower, and she's his sun", but will now only meet her in his dreams.
In Super Mario Sunshine, the outside section of Pinna Park has a field of sentient sunflowers that will give Mario gold coins if he waters them. It's a needed source of coins if the player wants to get the level's 100-coin award Shine.
In Plants vs. Zombies, the sunflower (and the twin sunflower upgrade) supplies sun, which is used to place most types of plants. Fitting the personality description above, the sunflower is a smiling, bouncing, happy looking plant.
The final shot of Kohaku's True Ending in Tsukihime has her waiting for Shiki in a sunflower field with outstretched arms and a bright smile. Considering her past history, this symbolizes the huge internal journey she made from a Shrinking Violet to Stepford Smiler and then a to a true Genki Girl, thanks to Shiki.
As you'd might expect, this trope is present in Sharin No Kuni. Played with, though, as the titular "sunflower girl" is the antithesis of this trope at first.
Inverted by artist Lee Brown Coye (known for his illustrations for Weird Tales): he put sunflowers in the foreground of houses that were not exactly sweet and sunny places, like Nahum Gardner'sfarmhouse.◊