Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
That Blue Sky Feeling
Becoming friends with Sanada has been an eye-opening experience for Noshiro, who's still trying to figure this whole sexuality thing out. That leads him to make some major blunders, unintentionally hurting people he cares about. Meanwhile, Sanada is forced to grapple with the fact that as much as he enjoys being friends with Noshiro, there may actually be some other feelings trying to sneak in there.
Although awakening sexuality may be read as a theme of Okura and Coma Hashii's That Blue Sky Feeling, volume two makes it clear that it may not be so much “awakening” as it is “awareness.” That's a word with at least two potential connotations in this context – previous to meeting and finally becoming friends with Sanada, Noshiro never really thought about the fact that there were gay people in the world, or at least assumed that they'd be somehow different in appearance or action than straight people. Although he never says this directly, he does realize that if he didn't know that Hide or Sanada were homosexual, he'd never know, because before they're anything else, they're just people like anyone else. While sexuality is something that he's beginning to think more about, that's more the result of starting to form a romantic crush than because the idea itself preoccupies him.
While he's more aware, however, he's still not used to fully thinking things through. The best example of this is when Sanada's childhood friend, who he admits to having used as a means to combat the rumors that he was gay in middle school although she was completely unaware of the fact, admits that she has a crush on him. Whether or not Sanada knew and was ignoring it or was genuinely oblivious to her crush is almost irrelevant when Noshiro finds out – and tries to set them up at a local festival. This is the sort of behavior we see and take for granted in the average romance manga, particularly of the shoujo variety; in fact, volume four of Io Sakisaka's Ao Haru Ride has an almost identical scenario. But the difference here is that Noshiro knows that Sanada isn't attracted to girls, but goes ahead and does it anyway.
Obviously this is grossly unfair to both Sanada and Ayumi, but in terms of the story it's an important illustration of how even if someone academically understands what it means to be on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, it doesn't follow that they truly grasp the reality. What to us reads as cruel, Noshiro thinks is an okay thing to do, because wouldn't Sanada and Ayumi make a nice couple? They get along so well! He doesn't even consider that “not sexually or romantically attracted to women” means all women; instead he acts as if it's an arbitrary preference or, even more hurtfully, as if Sanada just hasn't met or considered the right girl yet. It's a situation dealt with by plenty of LGBTQ+ people on a daily basis, alongside its equally uncomfortable companion “what happened to make you this way?”, and what's important here is that Sanada does get mad at Noshiro and tells him why. Noshiro is then left to think about how he hurt his friend and to consider sexuality in a more concrete way than he had previously, marking another meaning of this as a story about awareness – this time, focusing on Noshiro's awareness of his own actions and their potential repercussions.
That particular meaning of the word comes back again with the entrance of Makoto, a younger student who is not only not hiding his sexuality (although he's also not announcing it), but who develops a crush on Noshiro. At first Noshiro doesn't believe Sanada when he tells him that Makoto likes Noshiro romantically, and this leads to some misunderstandings that hurt all three of the boys, but also force both Noshiro and Sanada to begin thinking about how they feel about each other. While Sanada is in full denial mode (in part because he firmly believes Noshiro to be straight), Noshiro is beginning to think that perhaps there's more to himself than he's previously been aware of. In large part this is when Sanada's ex, who has taken on a mentor role to Noshiro, mentions to him that he's not the least bit uncomfortable that another boy likes him, nor is he factoring that into his decision about what to do. We can read this as either Noshiro's comfort with the idea that it's perfectly fine for two boys to like each other or that perhaps Noshiro himself is beginning to realize that he's homosexual, bisexual, or pansexual. It's too early to say for certain right now, but either case will have a large effect on where the story goes from here – and on Noshiro and Sanada's relationship.
That Blue Sky Feeling in its second volume remains one of the more thoughtful stories about figuring out who you are currently being published. It's gentle in its pacing, kind in its approach, but also doesn't shy away from the more difficult aspects of its story while mixing in ordinary adolescent friendship issues with its narrative. The art isn't terrific (especially those teeny tiny feet that by rights shouldn't let anyone stand), but the story is absolutely worth reading.
Overall : B+
Story : A-
Art : B
+ Story is sympathetic to all of its characters and thoughtful without being overbearing
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