Brilliant Blue, Vol. 1
By Saemi Yorita
Published by DMP/DokiDoki
Shouzo Mita is the heir to a construction business who left home after school to make his own way, not intending to return until at least the age of thirty. Life has other ideas for him, however, dragging him back years early to fill in for his father who has suffered a back injury. His first day on the job, he is re-introduced to a number of old school friends, including Nanami Ushijima, once a pasty-faced, chubby, slow little kid (with the nickname “white piggy”) who now has the looks of a pop idol. Nanami’s still a bit slow, especially in terms of social skills, but he’s cheerful, kind, and a skilled electrician with an unusual knack for numbers. Unfortunately, Nanami’s been taken advantage of by Douwaki, a slick businessman with a taste for pretty young things, who has manipulated Nanami into a questionably consensual sexual relationship. Watching from the sidelines, Shouzo is less than happy, partly because he hates seeing a vulnerable guy like Nanami being used, and partly because he’s developed feelings for Nanami himself. Later on in the story, Shouzo discovers that Nanami has never gotten his electrician’s license thanks to the difficulty of the written test, so he takes it upon himself to study with Nanami and help him pass the test.
For those of us who like a slow-developing romantic relationship, this series has a lot to offer, though it also comes with some built-in difficulties. Though Nanami is definitely an adult, capable of leading a fairly normal adult life, it is clear that in many ways he has a child’s mind, which makes things muddy for Shouzo in terms of what is actually appropriate between them. Though it is strongly hinted that Shouzo is gay (as opposed to just “gay for so-and-so” in common yaoi style) and is obviously attracted to Nanami, Nanami’s situation is a lot less clear. Whether he’s actually attracted to men or just likes anyone who will feed him is legitimately in question, though it is clear he has at least some kind of strong crush on Shouzo. And though Shouzo is careful to behave responsibly, his discomfort over whether or not there is any way for him to carry on a romantic/sexual relationship with Nanami without taking advantage of him is quite real and certainly justified. I actually do have hope that the mangaka can actually pull this off realistically and tastefully, however, considering the thoughtful sensitivity of the first volume.
As complicated as the relationship between Shouzo and Nanami inevitably must be, it is also undeniably sweet. Shouzo is smitten in the most restrained way possible, caring for Nanami in the simplest, most innocent ways he can and only ever letting himself get carried away enough to give him a kiss on the forhead–the only remotely sexual contact between the two of them in the entire volume. Nanami is utterly adorable with his crush on Shouzo (whom he calls “Shou-chan”)–making up songs about him, taping his high school yearbook photo up by his bed, and bursting with happiness all day at work with the knowledge that Shouzo has asked him to the movies. The scene in which Shouzo “rescues” Nanami from his relationship with Douwaki, giving him the choice between dinner with him or sex with Douwaki, is quite touching and actually really heartbreaking as Nanami tearfully asks Shouzo, “I can go home?” as though it had never occurred to him that he could refuse Douwaki (which probably it had not).
Yorita’s art is attractive and expressive, and the visual storytelling is strong. I will admit that given the nature of Nanami’s character, I could do without the occasional chibi representations of him which just make him seem even more childlike and add to the general discomfort over him being portrayed as a sexual object. This is a minor issue, however, and does not significantly detract from my enjoyment of the story.
Speaking of minor caveats, I would be remiss if I did not at least touch upon one element of the story which admittedly pushes my buttons. I’ve always disliked the fact that most authors feel it necessary to turn chubby characters into svelte beauties before they can be involved in a romantic story line. The idea that overweight people have to slim down before they can be loved (or, heaven forbid, have sex) is such a tired and offensive theme, it often will turn me off a story completely. Fortunately, Brilliant Blue has enough charm in other areas to combat this reaction effectively.
Minor issues aside, I can quite honestly recommend the first volume of Brilliant Blue. It is a charming, poignant, well-paced romance that shows a lot of promise. I’ll definitely be looking forward to its next volume, available in stores on September 2nd!