Brilliant Blue 1 by Saemi Yorita: B+

brilliantblue-125Shouzo Mita had no intention of going home to the rural town where he grew up, but when his father is hospitalized with a back injury, he returns to temporarily helm the family construction business and “fix things” with his family. Shouzo’s stay is extended when his father manages to reinjure himself, and he gradually relinquishes ties to his life in Tokyo while renewing some of his childhood acquaintances. Chief among these is Nanami Ushijima, sub-contracted as an electrician for the Mitas’ projects, who has blossomed from a dim-witted and chubby kid to a slightly less dim-witted but more conventionally attractive adult. As he gets to know Nanami, Shouzo grows to understand him better than anyone else, realizing that Nanami is smarter that he seems, with a genuine talent for numbers and deciphering electric schematics, but yet so malleable that he is unable to extricate himself from an unwanted sexual relationship.

There are quite a few complimentary adjectives I could employ to describe Brilliant Blue, but I’m going to go with “utterly charming.” Shouzo and Nanami are very different—Shouzo is restrained, reserved, and responsible while Nanami is child-like and easily led—but the bond between them feels warm and genuine. You can tell a lot about someone by how they behave toward those less powerful than themselves, and Shouzo shines admirably in this regard, treating Nanami with firm kindness and helping him to end the relationship that had been causing him such distress (while keeping his own growing feelings chastely under wraps). Too, because of his obvious respect for Nanami’s talents, he manages to provide guidance without coming across as patronizing.

After Nanami is freed from the relationship—in an emotional scene in which tears of relief are shed—one might assume Shouzo would promptly declare his own feelings for Nanami. Instead, he encourages Nanami to acquire an official electrician’s license, hoping to set him on the path to self-sufficiency. Shouzo’s aims aren’t entirely altruistic—he hopes that by boosting Nanami’s professional confidence the other man will gradually become more of an adult and thus be able to consent to an adult relationship with Shouzo—but I can’t help but like him for refusing to take advantage of the imbalance of power in his relationship with Nanami.

While the characters are the chief draw, the overall tone of the story is nice, too. It’s gentle and funny and there are quite few amusing moments, mostly involving Nanami being endearing (though I could’ve done without the nose picking, personally). Brilliant Blue is published under DMP’s DokiDoki imprint, and therefore has less sexual content than other titles in the genre, which is something I appreciate. There are a few slightly disturbing scenes between Nanami and his lover, but they’re not explicit and are there to show Nanami’s helplessness in that situation rather than to titillate.

I’m also a fan of Yorita’s artwork: it’s delicate to the point of wispiness with a dearth of backgrounds, but I found that its simplicity works well for the story. It’s particularly adept at conveying comedic moments and some of the humor is amplified because it just looks so durned cute.

While I’d hesitate to call Brilliant Blue a romance just yet, it’s nevertheless a satisfying story of two men growing closer while one patiently waits for a time when his feelings might be understood and returned.

Brilliant Blue is published by Digital Manga Publishing under their new Doki Doki imprint. It’s a two-volume series; the first is available now and the second will be published in September 2009.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

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