THAT BLUE SKY FEELING 1 by OKURA
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
That Blue Sky Feeling is a brand-new manga series by writer Okura. The characters and plot of the story once appeared online but have since been bound in graphic novel format by Viz, a prominent manga publisher both in the US and overseas. It’s not particularly inventive, but what made it stand out to me is that it focuses on the burgeoning romantic relationship between two boys, Noshiro and Sanada. To have the topic of homosexuality be treated with such respect is still something of a rarity in manga, and it was a refreshing change to see these two characters interact on a way that is both heartfelt and honest.
It’s 2018. Maybe you’re under the assumption that gay relationships aren’t and shouldn’t be a big deal in fiction. I live under that assumption, but it’s one that not everyone shares. When consuming media from countries that aren’t our own, it’s important to consider the cultural and societal norms of that country. Manga is Japanese, and in Japan, homosexuality still isn’t something that’s wholly accepted, which is why I got so excited when I saw That Blue Sky Feeling in a few of my internet circles. There’s a subset of manga called yaoi that deals with gay relationships, but the manga in this category is largely sexualized and not suitable for younger audiences. It’s rare, at least in my experience, to find manga aimed at young adults that centers around a gay relationship. That Blue Sky Feeling fills that void.
In this first volume, we follow a boy named Noshiro as he transfers to a new school. He then meets Sanada, a loner who doesn’t seem to have a lot of friends. Noshiro isn’t deterred by Sanada’s attitude, however, and is determined to be his friend. He soon finds out that Sanada is gay, fueling the cruel rumors that float around school. Sanada’s sexual orientation isn’t accepted by most of his classmates, and even Noshiro has a hard time with it at first. As I was reading this manga, I had to take a step back from my Western idea of how things should be and consider the writer’s standpoint in including the homophobia Sanada faces. We here in the US still have a long way to go when it comes to embracing the LGBT community, but we’ve made a lot of progress over the past ten years, so it was shocking to me to read such blatant homophobia in this manga. However, I understood where the writer, Okura, was coming from and why he included it.
Eventually, Noshiro gets over his trepidation and does his best to become Sanada’s friend, accepting him for who he is while also struggling with his own feelings regarding his sexuality. It’s sweet to see their friendship grow, and to watch Noshiro develop as a character. What would have made this manga even better is if Sanada’s ex-boyfriend hadn’t been introduced. It was a weird twist on an otherwise sweet story, seeing as Sanada’s boyfriend is a 26 year-old dating at 18 year-old still in high school. I’m not going to lie—it made me a little uncomfortable, but it was handled well enough and didn’t cross into even creepier territory.
Overall, I liked That Blue Sky Feeling and appreciated what it was trying to accomplish. This is a slow-burn story about complicated feelings and complicated relationships. There’s nothing too deep here, but it definitely has its place and would be suitable for anyone looking for a light story with a cute relationship.
Check out a copy at the Oreana Library today!