Brilliant Blue, by Seami Yorita, is less about romance than about two men becoming emotionally closer. As such, it was one of the better character-oriented yaoi titles I've read in a long, long time.
The set up the book is relatively simple but has great emotionally resonance for those of us about to enter that stage in life where we become our parent's parent. Adult Shouzo Mita (or "Shou-chan") returns home to help his father run the family construction business, now that is father is getting older and developing more physical ailments (none too serious, but running a thriving construction business can't be easy with a bad back). Shou-chan is a bit of an old-young man (i.e. cranky, but capable), and he takes to his new role in the family about as well as any of us might. He may resent having to leave his life in Tokyo behind to rescue his father, but he isn't so cold he can't see what a difference he makes to his parent's lives and their livelihood.
Once home he re-acquaints himself with childhood friend Nanami, previously a slow "fatty," and now a very attractive, (but still rather slow) young man, who works for the Mita construction company with his older brothers. Unlike a lot of yaoi manga with slow or "dim-witted" characters, Saemi Yorita doesn't shy away from the moral implications of a character who gets confused easily and is led far too quickly into sexual situations he may not have the emotional ability to consent to. Nanami is very charming but also quite childish, and Shou, quickly recognizing that the younger man has been coddled by his family and as well as been taken advantage of sexually by a married man, steps in and starts Nanami on the difficult path to self-sufficiency. No one's ever expected much of Nanami and so no one's ever really bothered to teach him to take care of himself. Shou, bless him, refuses to believe that just because Nanami isn't book smart, or even street smart, doesn't mean he can't learn to fend for himself in this world.
I really enjoyed the relationship dynamics in this book, particularly because Shou and Nanami's interactions were always based in very believable, appealing, and consistent characterizations. Shou is a smart guy dropped into a difficult situation, and he starts to shed his old-man attitude, learning to adapt the craziness that is both Nanami and his old hometown. It doesn't take long before Shou starts to care for Nanami, but he isn't self-centered enough to assume that it would be a good idea to involve the younger man in a romantic relationship. In other words, just because he starts thinking of Nanami as a potential lover doesn't mean he simply forgets the fact that Nanami is a pushover who would do anything to please the person in front of him. In fact, that knowledge only makes Shou more solicitous of Nanami and more cautious of not abusing any power he may have over him. I'm curious how Shou resolves this dilemma in volume 2 and want to see if Nanami ever becomes capable of consenting to an adult relationship.
The art eventually grew on me, although it was never what I would call "accomplished." Yorita emphasizes light line work and lots of white space, with just the right amount of toned backgrounds to indicate a character's (often flustered) emotional state. I enjoyed how every character's personality shone through, in spite of the fact there wasn't much detail in the representation of figures and backgrounds.
Review copy provided by DMP.