Noshiro Dai has just transferred to a new high school. When he notices Kou Sanada off by himself, Noshiro tries to befriend him, only to be rebuffed. Noshiro discovers that Sanada is isolated because there is a rumor that he is gay. Noshiro becomes more determined than ever to befriend Sanada. As he tries to figure out how to make Sanada like him, Noshiro also begins to explore the roots of his own feelings.

That Blue Sky Feeling is a slow-paced story that explores the awkwardness of identity and relationships. Most of the story focuses on Noshiro’s actions to win over Sanada, many of which are quite extreme (like using a judo throw on another student). Given how naturally exuberant Noshiro is compared to the more subdued Sanada, Noshiro’s antics frequently overshadow Sanada’s character development. The romance in its current form seems very one-sided.

The story’s coming-of-age elements are its strongest points: both Sanada and Noshiro are navigating a world that, frankly, is ignorant and negative toward those on the LBGTQ spectrum. As Noshiro begins to consider his own sexuality, his awkward questions and behavior feel very accurate for someone who has lived in denial and now must confront it. Additionally, Sanada’s struggles with his internalization of negative perceptions toward homosexuality are thoughtful and well done. Author Okura has done a good job of setting up both Noshiro and Sanada’s situations, and there is plenty left to explore and resolve in future volumes.

The story gets a little uncomfortable when Hide, Sanada’s twenty-six year old ex, gets involved. Hide himself is an engaging and kind character who has accepted his sexuality, providing balance to Noshiro and Sanada’s own self-perceptions. However, some of his actions seem a little off-base to a Western reader. For instance, he invites Noshiro to dinner at his house without specifying his intentions. It adds a unnecessary element of sketchiness which is at odds with the fact that Hide is a supportive figure for both Sanada and Noshiro.

Coma Hashii’s black and white illustrations complement and support the narrative. Noshiro’s exuberant personality comes through in Hashii’s animated strokes and Sanada’s design captures his deliberate disengagement. It is also refreshing to see different body types in the main characters. Noshiro and Hide are both stocky while Sanada is more slender. Hashii has a knack for capturing facial expressions and mannerisms that make situations that much more emotional, and the panel layouts contribute to the narrative’s impact.

That Blue Sky Feeling has the potential to be a touching LGBTQ romance and coming-of-age story. Readers who enjoy well-crafted slice of life tales will gravitate toward this one and those who enjoyed the thoughtful portrayal of gay characters in My Brother’s Husband may also like That Blue Sky Feeling. Viz Media sets the age rating as teen. There is no explicit content but the implications of Sanada’s previous relationship with an adult might escape younger teens. Otherwise, there is much to like about That Blue Sky Feeling and librarians looking to develop their manga collections would do well to consider it.

That Blue Sky Feeling, vol. 1
by Okura
Art by Coma Hashii
ISBN: 9781974701605
Viz Media, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: Teen

  • Megan

    | She/Her

    Features Writer

    Megan earned her MLIS from Simmons College and is currently the evening librarian at Bay State College in Massachusetts. She satisfies her voracious appetite for graphic novels and manga through regular visits to her local public libraries and puts her love of graphic novels to good use by adding to Bay State’s collection whenever possible. Megan maintains a personal blog, Ferret with a Strobe Light, where she discusses awesome books she’s read lately. When not engaged in reading or library work, she likes running, drinking tea, and working on her own stories and art.

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