Manga artist and writer Kaori Tsurutani’s BL Metamorphosis is a sweet story of a cross-generational friendship forged over an unusual pastime. Ichinoi Yuki, widowed, age 75, and high schooler Sayama Urara bond over a mutual love of Boy Love manga.
Manga literally means “comic” in Japanese, but has come to represent a very specific type of comic book or graphic novel style mostly produced in Japan. Boys Love or Yaoi (shortened to BL for this title) is a particular manga sub-genre featuring gay romance. In Japan, BL is almost exclusively produced by female artists for a mostly female audience.
In volume 1, Ichinoi stops in the bookstore where Urara works part-time and picks a manga to read based on the beautiful artwork on the cover. When she reads it, she is so hooked on the romantic plot that she returns to the store to buy more of the series.
Urara, a BL fan herself, feels isolated and unable to discuss her favorite manga because of the topic. But when she and Ichinoi connect over their love of the books, they start spending time together, even attending a fan convention to meet the artist.
The unlikely pair show the wide appeal for this particular type of manga, but it also reveals our need for human connections. This series gently touches on issues such as the isolation of the elderly and the young. As their relationship grows, they find themselves growing in ways they didn’t foresee. Urara lamented that she didn’t have anyone to talk about her favorite series, but she recognizes the chance with Ichinoi and enthusiastically, if awkwardly, begins sharing her own collection of BL manga with the older woman.
In some very amusing ways, volume 2 reveals a few issues BL fans face. Some of the material is explicit—and Ichinoi’s adult daughter is shocked to find copies of the manga in her mother’s home. When Urara tries to buy a self-published manga at the con, she is unable to because it’s adult material and she is underage. But many of the plots of BL manga revolve around the romance. And the attraction to its audience is undeniable.
The metamorphosis in the title is subtle. Urara lacks confidence and experience in talking to people. She recognizes Ichinoi’s experience and wisdom and wants to ask her advice on dealing with real-life relationships. Ichinoi, who is retired but teaches children calligraphy, is encouraging and urges Urura to try her own hand at drawing.
Tsurutani’s artwork is soft and sweet. The elderly are not often represented in manga so it’s refreshing to see an older face. There are panels of the pair’s favorite manga between chapters and as a manga-within-a-manga. There is also a bonus chapter in volume 2 featuring the manga artist whose work Ichinoi and Urara enjoys.
I am an unabashed fan of Boys Love manga and especially of this cleverly layered series. It’s not condescending or comical, but a warm, witty story of an unlikely, but believable friendship. It’s rated for teens but will have real appeal for adult manga fans, especially fans of the Boys Love genre.
BL Metamorphosis is published by Seven Seas Entertainment and a third volume is scheduled for publication in December 2020.
BL Metamorphosis, vols. 1-2
By Kaori Tsurutani
|BL Metamorphosis Vol. 1||9781645052951|
|BL Metamorphosis Vol. 2||9781645055044|
Seven Seas Entertainment, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: Teen
Series ISBNS and Order
Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Character Traits: Japanese
Creator Highlights: Japanese
Related to…: Book to Comic