Yuri Manga: Indigo Blue

January 23rd, 2004

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue
Part 4

Once again, I present for your inspection a truly excellent piece of unknown yuri manga – Indigo Blue, by the young, out lesbian mangaka, Yamaji Ebine. This is not to be confused with Blue, by Nananan Kiriko, which was originally published in 1996. Indigo Blue is a more recent book by several years – and one can tell instantly that it’s not bound by early shoujoai conventions and assumptions.

As I remarked in my earlier review of Free Soul, Yamaji-sensei’s work is very clean and minimalist, with rich textures being provided by solid characterization and a background of jazz music, rather than the typical shoujo manga use of screentones. Indigo Blue is an exploration of human sexuality, and is also a step closer to the mature solidity of Free Soul from her earlier works, one more of which I will review later on.

Indigo Blue tells the story of Retsu, a young novelist. She is currently dating her editor, Ryuuji, and seems very happy with him, although she knows she is not in love with him. A friend of hers introduces her to Tamaki, a bohemian young woman who is aware of Retsu’s work, but seems to be uninterested in Retsu as a person. Nonetheless, Retsu can’t get Tamaki out of her head. After various attempts at meeting once again, Retsu finally manages to meet up with her, only to be told that Tamaki is uninterested in pursuing a relationship – even a friendship – because she is a lesbian and Retsu is not. Tamaki simply has no time for women who are straight who fall in love with lesbians….

Retsu is horribly confused by this – she can’t get this woman out of her mind, but she doesn’t think she is attracted to her. Only when Tamaki kisses her suddenly and walks away, does Retsu realize that yes, in fact, she is very attracted to her .

Ultimately they become lovers, but still, Retsu can’t find it in herself to break up with Ryuuji, who is clearly in love with her, even asking her to marry him. The complicated life and network of lies that Retsu has to maintain is eventually and accidentally destroyed by a well-meaning friend, with far-ranging consequences.

In a move that signals her rejection of older shoujoai conventions, Yamaji-sensei has not only a happy ending, but one that will satisfy yuri fans everywhere, i.e., the girl gets the girl. But in more than one sense, the ending is really not important – Indigo Blue is more about the journey than the destination. The story could have very well ended the other way and I think I would have been just as satisfied, since it was Retsu’s growth that was the issue…not the gender of her lover. Okay, maybe not *as* satisfied. ^_^

To be fair, this is not a perfect story. As a protagonist, Retsu herself is really the story’s biggest weakness. Her self-examination at times becomes a little tiresome, especially when compared to Free Soul’s Keito or Love My Life’s Ichiko. Her constant questioning about sexuality in general and sexual preference in particular almost takes on a nagging tone by halfway through the book. The other major weakness is Ryuuji’s ultra-mature response to learning that he has been deceived. It might be the most desirable response, but it didn’t seem quite realistic…on the other hand, it made for a pleasant lack of screaming and throwing things-type drama.

Once again, I highly recommend this book, along with all of Yamaji Ebine’s other work, as an example of an excellent modern Yuri story.

Art – 9
Characters – 7
Character Design – 8
Story – 8

Overall – 8

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