My first two whole volumes other than Kizuna!
Kiss Blue Volumes 1 and 2 by Keiko Kinoshita
Okay, so Kiss Blue is a bit more BL with touches of yaoi, but that’s fine. (I kind of just lump them both together in my head because they use a lot of the same tropes and plots.)
Tomosaka and Noda are now in college, but they’ve been good friends since middle school. Noda is a bit of a player, while Tomosaka’s never been in love and can’t understand why Noda bothers.
As Tomosaka struggles with sexual harassment at work and people taking advantage of him, he begins to realize that his feelings for Noda are more than just friendship. He tries to keep it from Noda, he becomes very depressed at the thought of losing his friendship. Of course, Noda notices and tries to get to the bottom of Tomosaka’s issues. In the process, Noda discovers Tomosaka’s feelings and winds up offering to sleep with him to help ease his pain.
This, unfortunately, only hurts Tomosaka more as he realizes that even sleeping with Noda won’t give him what he really wants: Noda’s love. Even his manager at work (the one who had been sexually harassing him) tries to give Tomosaka some support. Noda tries his best to rekindle their friendship and be there for Tomosaka, but in the middle of it all, Noda discovers that one of their female friends has a crush on Tomosaka. He lets Tomosaka know, but in turn, he gets a little jealous of the woman and begins to question his own feelings for Tomosaka.
Meanwhile Noda and Tomosaka’s friendship wavers, Tomosaka begins hanging out with his manager and even goes on a date with the gal who has a crush on him. He finally realizes that he has to full confess his feelings to Noda before he can move on. As he moves to do so, Noda breaks up with a girl he had been seeing, allowing him to be with Tomosaka. They get together and everyone’s happy. (Except the manager, who’d be secretly hoping that Tomosaka would get over Noda and date him.)
The second volume ends with a short story about Tomosaka’s manager and the unrequited love he has for a friend who is married with kids. Even though the two never get together, it becomes clear to the manager that his friend cares for him very deeply on a level that he doesn’t even care for his pregnant wife. It’s a little sad, but touching at the same time.
Yay! More BL/yaoi with no rape or sexual assault! Yes, there’s the harassment from the manager, but it’s more come ons and slaps on the ass than anything rape-y.
I really enjoyed Kiss Blue (as sad as it was.) It was the kind of slow burn, but with serious character development that I think yaoi and BL could use more often. I thought the art style was really familiar and it turns out that I’ve read Kinoshita’s Honey Colored Pancakes too! Plus she has a lot of stuff on DMG and a few more from June. There was one manga of her’s on Jmanga, so I’ve purchased it so I can read it before they go down. I’m glad. If a lot of Kinoshita’s manga is like Kiss Blue and Honey Colored Pancakes, then there’s more BL/yaoi out there that isn’t awful and rape-y.
This manga actually brings me back to the “totally straight, but turned gay by a friend” trope. With Tomosaka, it’s a matter of him not realizing his true sexuality earlier. He might not even be gay (I’m debating whether or not he was asexual originally,) but only interested in Noda. There should be (or might already be) a word for when you’re only with someone opposite your usual sexuality because your love for them is that intense. I’ve heard stories from a few people who have gone through this in real life, so it may seem implausible for those who are less fluid with their sexuality, but I believe it to exist. Noda however…
Normally I would have problems with Noda becoming gay for Tomosaka, but the way his dramatic change of sexuality comes about is done well. You see him take extra special interest in Tomosaka, wanting to help him out of his depression, to the point of sleeping with Tomosaka. (Which, I think is the only way Noda knew how to comfort Tomosaka at the time.) Then he thinks about how he feels Tomosaka, but doesn’t immediately come to the conclusion that he’s also in love with Tomosaka. It takes him time to realize it and I feel it’s way more believable because Kinoshita gave him time to develop these feelings.
Perhaps this all was only possible thanks to Kinoshita getting two volumes for this series. It seems like she’s popular enough to go beyond the usual one-shot or short story collection, which is nice.
Kinoshita’s art is solid, but readers who dislike artists with sketchy styles should steer clear.
As you can already tell, I’m interested in keeping Kiss Blue and definitely interested in pursuing more of Kinoshita’s work.