Man, was Blue Friend (ブルーフレンド) depressing.
Where Nakayoshi‘s Nobara no Mori no Otome-tachi is melodramatic in a Strawberry Panic! kind of way, and Ciao‘s Waza-ari Kiwami-chan is energetic and positive, Ribon Magazine’s contribution to the growth spurt of Yuri in shoujo manga trots out every nasty, tawdry, icky-feeling, angst-making trope it can find. And does it quite well. ^_^;
Ayumu is athletic, popular, smart. Misuzu is ostracized, unlovable, broken. Through circumstance, Ayumu find herself defending Misuzu against just about every jerky way school kids have to be mean to each other. And for her troubles, she is rewarded by a kiss from Misuzu. Misuzu, who hates boys, eventually admits that Ayumu – and only Ayumu – can be close to her. But this immediately turns possessive, when Misuzu runs off a boy who wants to become close to Ayumu. Even though it ultimately turns out that Misuzu was right and the boy was a jerk, the two cannot get their act together as friends or…whatever…because immediately a new threat appears. Someone who knows Misuzu’s dark past is determined to torture her with it. Notes threatening Misuzu appear in her locker. Ayumu can see something is bothering Misuzu, but does not know what.
The newcomer, Satsuki, who has returned from suspension for undisclosed reasons, clearly has an axe to grind and grind it she does, against Ayumu’s unknowing friendship and Misuzu’s already ground-down soul.
Thing come to a climax when papers identifying Misuzu as having had an affair with an older man, a doctor, and ruining him, are plastered all over the school. In Misuzu’s memory, we can see that this is probably not the whole story, but it’s too late for Misuzu, who collapses.
There will be a second volume, and there is an (apparently happy) after-story that has just been published, but Volume 1 is pretty much unremitting angst, no less angsty because you can see everything coming from a mile away. Ayumu is a bit too completely perfect, Misuzu is a bit too completely broken for my taste. But both are sympathetic in their own ways. I do hope for that happy ending, even if I know it’s not going to be them together.
Art – 8
Story – 7
Characters – 6
Yuri – 6
Service – 3
Overall – 6
If you loved Pieta, or any of the old, angsty classics of Yuri manga, you should probably take a chance on Blue Friend.
I did want to mention that the obi that comes with this volume reads “This Yuri Manga is great” in Japanese. Now that’s kinda interesting, isn’t it?