March 28, 2010

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Blue Sheep Reverie Volume 1

Written by Makoto Tateno
Illustrated by Makoto Tateno
June Manga

Standard warning--I still haven't read a lot of yaoi manga, so please keep that in mind when reading my review.-Rob]

A young man named Kai is on a mission to find the killer of the woman he loved, Maria. the key will be to find a certain ring--a cat's eye set the wrong way. When he encounters the man who might have killed her, Lahti, Kai will do anything to learn the truth.

But what happens when that truth is far more complicated than Kai expects? Drawn into a world he had no intentions of staying in, Kai soon finds that life is full of difficult choices. What decisions will he make to shape his life after he learns the answer to his quest? Can he ever go back to the way he was before Maria? Does he even want to?

Those are the questions that shape this manga, which really has more in common with a mature shojo story than a yaoi one. (The author explains this in the afterward, but I had no trouble figuring it out on my own.) Those looking for extensive scenes of love between two men aren't going to find them here. Kei's focal suspect being gay just adds another level to the love triangle in the book, rather than being a central plot point.

Since I read comics for characters and story and not particular kinds of story, this was just fine by me. I mention it this far up in the revie, because a person who reads more for genre needs to know going in that this is not heavy on signs of affection between the male characters. Similarly, those who might use this manga to try the yaoi genre should be aware that in my opinion, it's not typical and is not a good example of what yaoi stories tend to do.

Don't mistake me, however--I liked this manga a lot. I like the idea that Tateno works with in this story, taking what seems to be a typical plot and mixing it with other concepts. We've certainly read the revenge plot a time or two before, but I don't think you often see the results come out quite like this. The sacrifices that Kei makes in beginning stages of the book really seem hollow as you read on in the story. The fact that Kei doesn't give up despite all that has changed for him makes Kei a very interesting character that I want to keep reading about.

You can make a slight argument that the way in which Kei comes to this decision is a bit too abrupt, but I was okay with it. In order to make things work, he has to want to stick around and create the love triangle we get over the second half of this trade. Since we're new to Kei, it's not like you can say he's out of character for the actions he takes.

The main thrust of this manga is Kei's evolution from a man seeking revenge to a man trying to find his way in a complex world. His character development moves quickly through the pages. We don't get a lot of soul searching, which I found rather refreshing. Kei makes his decisions and lives with them, no matter what happens. The idea that he must make a literal choice between staying in the dangerous game and returning to the oblivious world he knew before was a great idea. I'm sure we all knew how it would play out, but the way Tateno tells the story worked well for me.

Our two other main characters, the dead Maria and Lahti, form the other points on the triangle. As you may have guessed from my summary above, their link is a bit stranger than Kei believes it to be, setting up the possibility for extended plots and stories in this world. They are far more alike than I think Kei wants them to be, based on what we're shown by Tateno, and I'm curious to see how that plays out in other volumes. Despite being featured prominently, both are shrouded in mystery and make me want to read more about them.

Tateno is not the strongest artist I've seen thus far, but I read more for story than artistic beauty, unless I'm looking at a CLAMP title. Her males are not as pretty as I would expect from a yaoi title, and the few sex scenes we do get are framed rather awkwardly. Characters tend to dress the same and seem to be grouped a bit too closely together. There's also not a lot going on in the way of backgrounds.

However, I do think her action scenes were well drawn. I never had a problem following the action, even when some of it was obscured for dramatic purposes. Characters react to getting shot, kicked, and generally abused in natural-looking ways. I've been looking a lot lately at how action scenes are framed, so her steady hand in these sequences stood out to me.

Blue Sheep Reverie may not be the best example of yaoi manga, but I liked the story a lot and found the characters to move smoothly in the world created by Tateno. I'm interested enough to want to read the second volume. Those looking for romantic intrigue should really like this one, as should fans of strong character development.

You can find a hard copy out there somewhere, or go to eManga and read Blue Sheep Reverie Volume 1 online.

[A complimentary electronic copy was given to me by eManga to review.]