Blue was something I found while wandering around MICE (Massachusetts Independent Comic Expo) a couple weeks ago. One of my purposes in going to that convention was to find interesting and little-known comics to review for this blog. I saw this particular one sitting on the display shelf, its cover almost a solid blue with the faint outline of a girl, and knew it would be something great to review for this blog.
Written by Kiriko Nananan, who got her start writing for the prominent magazine “Garo” in Japan, which specialized in alternative or avant-garde comics. The story itself follows the relationship that grows between two girls, Kayako Kirishima and Masami Endo. We see their friendship slowly develop into confused feelings of love as their high school years slowly come to an end. It’s a story of fleeting love, told in a sweet yet powerfully moving way.
One of the first things that drew me to this manga was the quality of Nananan’s art. The strong line art that contrasts with the mostly stark white backgrounds can leave the reader with an almost ungrounded feeling for the whole story. It also forces you to focus on the characters and their expressions rather than any details that would have been put in the backgrounds. I’m usually in favor of more detail when it comes to backgrounds and comics in general, but I think the minimalist look here works well especially when you consider the nature of the story (which I’ll get to in a bit).
Nananan doesn’t even use that much in the way of values when it comes to the character drawings, just a bit of black above the chin and darker line art around the jawline and hands. Which works well because she seems to focus on those areas the most when it comes to telling her story through the panels. Hands are one of the most expressive parts of a human, they can easily be used to show emotion in the absence of facial expressions or vocal cues, depending on how they are positioned in relation to that person or another. You can really see the planning that she puts into telling this story through her panel design and how she situates the characters within them. You’ll see shots focusing on hands, feet, or faces shifted to the side. You’ll almost never see a whole person in a shot, and when you do it’s for a good reason. This kind of planning is essential to telling a story focused on emotional turmoil especially when the art is so minimalist in nature.
The story is one of fleeting love in a time of turmoil. Kirishima and Endo are almost at the end of their high school life, starting to worry about college entrance exams and what they want to do with their lives in the future. Kirishima finds herself becoming fascinated with Endo, whether its because she had just come back from being expelled or from her energetic personality, I’m not quite sure. In a sense, Endo can be seen as a break from mundane reality for Kirishima. Slowly, they begin to spend more and more time together and Kirishima begins to do thing she would never do. This begins to cause problems for her other friendships, but Nananan doesn’t fall into the tropes shoujo writers use to either lengthen the narrative — this is a one volume manga after all. Her characters may not reconcile right away, but they display real maturity by talking their problems out in the end.
This is a story about jealousy, fleeting love, and the choice between love and following your dreams. We see the jealousy in Kirishima’s other friends as she gets closer to Endo, and we see Kirishima get more and more jealous as she finds out Endo has been hiding things from her. However, even as their love becomes more serious, we get the feeling that it will never last as the end of high school approaches. Kirishima is planning to leave for Tokyo, while Endo, with all her talk of wanting to leave and how much pressure she feels her parents put on her, is choosing to stay and lead a normal life. I think that’s the one thing that’s hard to understand about this manga: Endo’s choice to stay behind. Perhaps it is from her past relationship troubles that she sees a normal life as something that she needs, who knows.
All I know is that this melancholy story about adolescent love drew me in with its art and characters leaving me feeling like I wanted more even though I know that would never be. If you ever wind up picking up this manga, let me know in the comments what you thought. I’ll have more comic reviews coming up from my time at MICE.