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Review: Brilliant Blue (Vol. 01)

Reviewer: Shannon Fay

Manga-ka: Saemi Yorita
Publisher: DokiDoki
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: May 2009

Synopsis: “When Shouzo Mita left home, he thought it would be for good. Although he followed his father’s career path as a construction manager, Shouzo never wanted to enter the family business – that is, until dad got laid-up with an injury. Forced to return home and oversee his father’s company, Shouzo finds that a lot of things haven’t changed, but some things have. Nanami, a childhood acquaintance, has gone from being an awkward fatty to a sparkling pretty-boy straight out of a shojo manga. As an electrician contracted to work for Mita, Nanami’s simple, naive charm and healthy appetite manage to flip Shouzo’s switch. With the choice between remaining independent and accepting responsibility for his family even more complicated, what will Shouzo do?”

Brilliant Blue is an interesting yaoi. While the focus is the relationship between Shouzo and Nanami, it’s barely even romantic at this point. The two spend time together and grow closer over the course of the volume but things like work, family and the dynamics of living in a small town make theirs a far from straight forward romance. The drama in Brilliant Blue is refreshing in that it’s the kind of drama that arises naturally out of life.

Shouzo is a conflicted guy. On one hand, he is quick to come home to help run his father’s company when his dad ends up in the hospital. On the other hand, he can’t help but resent getting sucked back into the small town he grew up in. Being caught between duty and desire is a relatable situation: who hasn’t had to choose between what they should do and what they want to do? In the end, Shouzo chooses the right thing, but he still grumbles about it. This basic facet of Shouzo’s personality shows up throughout the book, making him a solid and well-defined character.

Nanami is both more straightforward and more complicated. Nanami is a young man who has the mentality of a seven-year-old. Maybe not literally, but nearly every character talks about how childlike and simple Nanami is (with Shouzo making the most pointed observations). I found it a little disturbing that one of the leads in a yaoi manga could be so emotionally and mentally stunted. At one point Nanami tells another character (a man who regularly pressures Nanami into sex) that his family told him not to let other people touch his “private parts.” It’s a moment that shows just how young Nanami is mentally. I don’t see how any adult could be attracted to someone who has the mind of a small child, especially someone as uptight as Shouzo. It will be interesting to see how the manga-ka handles their relationship in subsequent volumes. While there is chemistry and attraction between the two of them, there’s also a big gap in their maturity levels.

The way the series is drawn and paced seems more like a slice-of-life story than a yaoi. Ample page time is given to the leads’ friends and family. They come off as actual people with their own lives, rather than merely sounding boards for the main characters’ problems. Part of the reason I want to read volume two is to see their reactions to the main characters’ relationship.

The art is all right. It’s by no means bad, it’s just nothing really stands out. That’s not such a bad thing. Considering the laid-back nature of the series, the placid art actually works in its favour. Character designs are likewise nothing memorable, but they work.

If you’re looking for hot man-on-man action you won’t find it in volume one of Brilliant Blue. The leads only get as far as a kiss on the forehead (the manga-ka berets herself for this in the funny and candid author’s notes at the end of the book) and any sex scenes are not only very brief and vague, they’re between Nanami and a real creep of a guy. But, if you are looking for an interesting drama, then Brilliant Blue is a good bet.

Review written September 6, 2010 by Shannon Fay
Digital copy provided by eManga for review purposes

Shannon Fay

About the Author:

Shannon Fay has been an anime and manga fan ever since junior high when a friend showed her a raw VHS tape of ‘Sailor Moon Stars.’ After watching it, she knew she didn’t want to live in a world that didn’t include magical transvestites and alien boy bands. Along with her reviews on Kuriousity, Shannon Fay has also written manga reviews for Manga Life and Anime Fringe. She is also a freelance manga adapter and is currently working with the manga licensor Seven Seas.



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5 Responses

  1. Kat says:

    I got the strong impression that Nanami is autistic, not dumb. I usually hate the ultra-immature-for-their-ages characters, but I think Nanami's character was handled tastefully and accurately to autistic behavior.

    • Lissa says:

      I'm really glad you brought that up – it's exactly how I've always seen Nanami. It strikes me as a bit odd but interesting that a manga would star a character with such an obvious neural disorder. I agree with you too that I find it's handled pretty tastefully and with lots of care to the depiction (though also making for some extra unnerving scenes with Mr. scary-sex-man in this first book!). Admittedly I always felt awkward mentioning this element of the story myself because so few other reviews and discussions I've followed on it have thought the same.

  2. Shannon says:

    You might be right. Nanami is definitely not stupid (it's shown that he's very good with numbers), though he seems to have no problem engaging people socially, which is one of the main problems people with autism face. But still, there's many levels of autism and viewing Nanami as autistic does put the manga in a different light.

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  4. […] things that were going on. This contrasts with a manga series it reminded me of for that reason, Brilliant Blue – a series which, though I enjoyed it overall, had a character with a similar personality but who […]

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