est em is an artist well-known for creating unconventional manga with a tinge of BL. How exciting for me, then, when I encountered Golondrina (ゴロンドリーナ ), an unconventional manga with a touch of Yuri.
The story begins as Chica, sobbing miserably in a bathroom, contemplates suicide. Blade to wrist, she just cannot bring herself to do it but, despite that, she still wants to die. We learn why in a flashback – Chica’s lover Maria has left her. Worse, she’s left only because Chica’s a woman. Yes, they were happy, but Maria wants a marriage, a child…a “normal” life. Chica is devastated.
She tries again to die, this time by stepping in front of traffic in the pouring rain. A car screeches to halt in front of her and the driver, an old man, yells at her – what does she think she’s doing? She tells him she’s trying to die, at which he throws her in the car and takes her back to his place to dry off.
Disconcerted, crying in her sleep, Chica wakes in the old man’s house. When he sees that she’s a girl, he realizes he’s made a mistake. He was going to make her into a Matador, but since she’s a girl…
The last straw snaps, and Chica demands that he take her seriously and teach her, because she wants to die in the ring.
Thus begins Golondrina, a manga about a young woman training to become a matadaor.
The art is classic est em – everyone is thin and less gangly than they have any right to be. Chica comes off as consistently hot-headed, but hard-working. Her friend Sechu, who is dead set against this, is still a good friend. We hardly had time to learn to hate Maria, but we are given plenty of time to learn about Antonio, Chica’s teacher. Is he a murderer, as Sechu says, or is he a man left behind in this life by a student, maybe lover? We learn a tantalizing bit about Antonio, but by the end of Volume 1, we don’t know much about him, really.
We do know that, despite being grossed out by bullfighting, Chica still says wants to die by the bull – in front of Maria if she can. Then we can see that her hard training is having some effect on her – even Sechu tells her she looks cool as she practices with the pink muleta.
Bullfighting is the ultimate in macho sports – will Chica make it into the ring at all? We’ll have to tune in to find out
Art – 8 The art is pleasantly realistic, without any attempt at photorealism
Story – 8
Characters – 8
Yuri – 2
Service – 1, which is to say there is some nudity, but really not at all of the Fanboy type. Everyone looks their age. This is a Josei manga, but even the guys aren’t particularly pretty. (See Art rating)
Overall – 8
Ultimately, as with any est em story – indeed, with most manga – it’s the characters that are the strength here. And, as my wife points out, pretty much anyone looks good in a suit of lights. If the cover is any indication, Chica will not be the exception to this.