Blue by Kiriko Nananan is not your typical shoujo manga. Although Nananan adheres to some visual trends in shoujo such as a focus on facial expressions and an exploration of interior thoughts, it lacks the melodrama and frilly visuals I often associate with shoujo genres. (Full disclosure: I am no expert in shoujo genres, and this assessment is based on my personal observations.)
The visual style itself is economical and understated with striking, intelligent compositions. The dialogue is just as spare to match, but, like the visuals, are rich with what is implied. Together, they present an emotionally complex story about a relationship between two teenaged school girls. I’ve long considered the intense emotional/erotic bonding between teenaged girls to be in some ways, more complex than sexual relations between men and women, and in my experience, it’s not easy to find this represented well. The only other story that immediately comes to mind is Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures. There’s this undercurrent of possessiveness, competition and jealousy intermingled with exclusivity, sisterhood and profound emotional vulnerability and intimacy that I find fascinating and that Nananan captures so accurately.
Anyways, here’s a passage I’m translating into English so you can have a flavour of what the writing is like:
“Even when she smiled, even when she held me, I was so in awe of her, she seemed inaccessible. I regret what I’d done to her; my awe for her turned to compassion. And that hurt.” (Original: Même quand elle riait, même quand elle m’embrassait. Je l’admirais trop, elle me semblait inaccessible. Je regrette de l’avoir blessée, mon admiration envers elle se transforme en compassion. Et ça fait mal.)
I was introduced to Nananan by Geneve at The Beguiling who suggested her when I requested a comic that was along the lines of John Greyson’s Lilies, or Atom Egoyan’s Exotica or Bertolucci’s The Dreamers. Something elegant, erotic, vaguely fantastical, with an undercurrent of violence and psychological damage. You cannot say that I don’t know what I want. (As a side note, the staff at The Beguiling are always so obliging with such outlandish requests…!) Anyways, I did read a French translation but I imagine that you could hunt down an English version.