This manga took my breath away. This is by YAMAJI Ebine, and my experience with her manga, and especially her yuri ones, is that they’re about literature and self-discovery. Well, technically so. In ‘Love My Life’ the heroine studies English while her father is a translator for novels, and in ‘Sweet Lovin’ Baby’ the protagonists meet in a bookstore. ‘Free Soul’ has the jazz/music aspect of things which brings in the idea of some sort of art, or culture. I like it that they’re not just random women, but there’s a culture aspect to them, giving everything a softer feel. And not every character is entirely sure or confident of what she’s doing or wants to do – and the story is of how she confirms it. In Indigo Blue, our protagonist is a novelist who hides her confused feelings about her sexuality in her writing.
Now, when I started reading this manga, I didn’t expect what I found. Normally, I’m not so much of a yuri reader, but I try not to be sceptical and decided to give it a go. When I read manga (any manga), I look it up first, just to read a review about what it’s about – you know, one of those single paragraph quickies. Here, the quickie was way too quick. So quick I didn’t even really absorb anything. But I just held my breath and went for it anyway – I’ve got nothing to lose.
The artwork opens up like a sandwich. A sandwich that you unwrap and expect this stuffed deli-type thing with cold cuts and lettuce spilling out. And when you see it you kinda go “hmm” because it looks a bit… under-stuffed. But then you take a bite out of it and you do that face where you raise your eyebrows and the “hmm” turns into a “hmm!” and you realize it’s not so bad.
What I’m trying to say is, it’s simple – VERY simple. A lot of people, I noticed, are put off by Yamaji’s artwork. Personally, I couldn’t disagree more. The simplicity of it – once you get used to it – makes you realize it’s not about talent, complexity, detail or some intricate or life-like style of drawing. The feelings and progression in the characters are as blatantly obvious as the blank spaces on the page. Her stories are heart-felt and quite touching, and she didn’t need stylistic drawings to convey them. So even if the artwork isn’t your cup of tea, the story will more than make up for it. Personally, I think the fact that in not crowding her drawings she didn’t crowd the story.
OKAY. Enough about art. The story, the characters – the rest of the sandwich! The main character, Rutsu is a novelist who’s always had a certain curiosity or uncertainty about her feelings and sexuality. To let it out, she puts all her thoughts and experiences in her novels, using the ambiguous ‘Y’ to be vague about the gender of her character. She has a boyfriend, but one day she meets an artist Tamaki, who makes a comment about Y being a woman. This sparks Rutsu’s interest and curiosity, and she asks to see Tamaki again. Tamaki, however, refuses her, and asks to simply stay a reader of her work.
Thus begins the Rutsu’s struggle between confronting her suppressed feelings, dealing with her boyfriend and opening up to a lesbian relationship. It’s a lovely story about coming out and having the confidence to discover yourself. Rutsu tries to comprehend her discomfort in a heterosexual relationship and her yearning to be with a woman. It’s smartly written and you notice certain things that make you do a double-take. For example, when Rutsu is dealing with Ryuuji, her boyfriend, you notice that she is quite cold and distant, yet she opens up freely when she is with Tamaki. It is wonderful contrast and quietly hints at where her comforts lie. Matter of fact, you never really have any insight on Rutsu’s character until she’s talking to Tamaki – even her narration is subdued. When Rutsu is around Ryuuji, I honestly thought she was heartless and cold. Her character – at times it’s hard to sympathize with her. At times it’s because you feel like you hardly see the emotional side of her (not till the very end, at least) and at times because you want to smack her in the back of the head and go, “Woman! What the HELL are you doing?” She might be confused, but whether you think that it’s a good enough excuse, that’s up to you.
Despite that, I got a lot of emotion from this manga. It’s a one-shot of about 200 pages and in fact, it’s more Josei than Shoujo, which suits its more adult theme and more mature approach. It’s not adult to the point of ecchi – there is sex but it’s more about the situation than actual “this is a sex scene!” and no, there are no penises present. If you read this be sure to read Yamaji’s afterword once you’re done. It’s a nice finishing touch and further clarifies the story for you. As a one-shot, this told a lovely story so simply and beautifully. It’s quick and light to read (really easy to get through), so if you’ve got an hour to spare, be sure to pick this up!
(Image © YAMAJI Ebine. None of these images belong to me)