Now, today’s review:
Blue, by Nananan Kiriko, was published by MAG Comics in 1997. Stuck as it was in the limbo space between the tough girl epics of the 1980’s and the new wave of yuri in the early twentieth century (that would be now…), this manga reads like a tentative probe into a sensitive spot.
Blue has a simple storyline – Kayako is a recent transfer student to a seaside school, still tentatively making friends. She becomes interested in the girl who sits in front of her and never really interacts with anyone. One day, on a whim, Kayako invites the girl, Masami, to join her and her classmates for lunch and a new friendship is born. Masami seems nice enough and she and Kayako start spending more and more time together.
One night, Kayako goes out with a few friends to an arranged drinking party with some guys. She ends up at a hotel with one of the guys, but afterwards, she realizes that it was pretty pathetic of her, because she’s fallen in love with Masami. Shortly therafter, she and Masami share their first kiss.
Their relationship becomes a little more exclusive, so when Kayako’s friend who had set up the drinking party comes in screaming at Kayako, she’s really taken aback. The friend is appalled at Kayako for sleeping with the guy *she* liked…for sleeping with him at all, really. In the following days, Kayako is quietly shunned by her circle of friends, but she and Masami become closer than ever – they decide to move to Tokyo together when they graduate, etc, etc.
But summer vacation comes and Masami disappears with no word to either her mother or Kayako. As Kayako’s happiness collapses around her, she’s forced to learn more about the Masami she didn’t know, and face her own fears and jealousies…and be more honest with her other friends.
In the end, Masami and Kayako do not stay together – there really is never any reason to believe they might, to be honest. If either one of them were male, this entire story would simply be a “first love” story and disappear into oblivion. The entire manga seems to be balanced on a pinhead of tension. There just isn’t much there, except the usual day-to-day stuff of adolescence. From my lofty perspective (adolescence was a *long* time ago now) it’s sweet, but not compelling, stuff.
In 2002, a live-action version of Blue was made. I haven’t managed to see it, yet, but I would like to, despite the fact that the movie seems like a slightly blander version of an already bland story. Despite the fact that I strongly believe that the movie-viewing audience is more than ready for a more robust story than this one. Nonetheless…Blue is not a hateful story, just sort of a nondescript, bittersweet “first love” story.
The one thing the does stand out about this manga is the art. To call it stark would be an understatement. There are no screentones, almost no shading and the characters are drawn realistically – not manga realistically, but actually realistically. This makes the story feel more real, but it makes it damn hard to tell some of the characters apart, if they have similar hair styles. Let’s face it, most mangaka can only draw one face and they stick different color hair and eyes on everyone, so we can see who is who. Take away weird hairstyles or distinct physical attributes, and all colors and most of the shading and all you have left is a bunch of nearly identical shapes. This makes Blue a little tougher than usual to follow, unless you can actually read the conversations. I was able to follow it alot better this time than I was the last time I attempted it. Assumably, one day I will actually be able to read every word with ease and it’ll all make sense. ;-)
So, Blue is only okay, but if you’re a completist and are trying to build a collection of all the Yuri manga ever, you’ll want this one too. ^_^