INDIGO BLUE by Ebine Yamaji
After I finished reading this 200-paged girl-love manga written once again by Ebine Yamaji (whose Free Soul I also reviewed last month), I was also able to read her Afterword of the work. She revealed that her editor wanted her to write a lesbian story where men still have a role to play in the dynamic, and Yamaji found this a challenge she was eager to write about. The result is Indigo Blue which definitely involved a male perspective into a manga that is also still about two women being in love, and I have to say that Yamaji had done it justice.
Indigo Blue is about a writer named Rutsu Nakagawa who is in the process of publishing a novel after her debut anthology. Her editor is also her lover named Ryuji, a man she had great admiration for since they were in a creative writing seminar years before and she always thought he should have also been a novelist. Through the artist of her upcoming novel, she was introduced to another editor from a magazine named Tamaki Yano. Their meeting left an impression all because Tamaki asserted that in one of Rutsu's short stories entitled A Brief Moment, the character named Y had never been given gender-specific pronouns, leading her to theorize that Y could have been another woman whom the protagonist had sexual relations with. Rutsu was intrigued by Tamaki and tried to form a friendlier acquaintance. Tamaki was hesitant at first but she gave in and revealed to Rutsu that she had been attracted to her since that first meeting, and the fact that Rutsu was also her favorite author was a happy coincidence. The two women gradually enter into a passionate relationship.
Rutsu began to question her sexuality and its awakening is the premise of Indigo Blue. The consequences and fall-outs of her newfound identity are the integral elements of the manga. Rutsu's dishonesty about her situation is given more weight with the fact that she was cheating on her boyfriend-editor, and never disclosing to Tamaki about her relationship with a man in the first place. Afraid of actually rejecting Ryuji, this caused said man to believe that their relationship can now be taken to the next step which is marriage. Ryuji was devoted to her not just as her boyfriend but also as her editor who believed in her talent, and was hoping that by getting intimately acquainted with her literature, he would also be privy to her girlfriend's inner life and private thoughts. Rutsu had always been distant towars Ryuji, but he perceived this as something that he can work on if he made her feel loved enough by him. Meanwhile, after Tamaki became aware of Rutsu cheating on her and the boyfriend, she immediately ends the affair with a rather efficient and sensible explanation that made her character so dignified and secure in her own identity as a lesbian woman.
What was notable about this manga was that it was infused with Yamaji's thoughtful retrospection as well as rhetoric about lesbian sexuality, which was also present in her other work Free Soul. Comparably, I much enjoyed and approved of the romance found in this manga rather than the latter, but Free Soul had a more definitive conclusion while Indigo Blue sort of meandered by the ending, unable to give the readers a satisfying ending to all the characters. Going back to Yamaji's literary approach to lesbianism, this manga had insightful discussions about it that I agreed with. Rutsu's own confusion about her feelings for both Tamaki and Ryuji was also heftily explored where both relationships are valid dimensions of her personal growth. As Yamaji disclosed in her Afterword, her own editor wanted men to play some importance in this manga, and it showed with the way she examined how Ryuji had to deal with Rutsu's alienating treatment as his girlfriend, and the subsequent reality where he was spurned when he realized that she never wanted him as a person at all because he was a man and she essentially led him on over the course of their involvement.
Another thing worth pointing out was the artist-friend that Rutsu had conversations with all throughout the manga. He was a father in his mid-thirties with a daughter, and he became Rutsu's confidant while she struggled about her infidelity with Rutsu and finally coming to terms that she wanted to be with women after all, especially with Tamaki. This artist-friend expressed that he has sympath for what Rutsu was going through but also asked her to consider Ryuji's feelings as a man for being rejected by her. In Free Soul, the protagonist had the same conversation with her father who blamed himself for her becoming gay. Said protagonist made sure he understood that her lesbianism is no one's fault, and that it's simply who she is. Yamaji provided the same conversation but under a different context, and I appreciated her for touching upon what a male lover might feel if ever found out that the woman he loved turned out to not only be cheating with him but also devoid of any kind of romantic and sexual desire towards him. It's understandably damaging.
Tamaki Yano is the real star of this manga even if she was simply Rutsu's lesbian love interest. Her confidence about her identity and uncompromising ways were admirable, and I especially loved her after she never diminished Rutsu's feelings for Ryuji. She claimed that a part of her did love that man; but those feelings are just different from what Ryuji had for her. It was a touching moment, marked by Yamaji's understanding that even homosexuality has gray areas, leading me to personally believe that perhaps Rutsu may be more homoflexible or even bisexual. The downside is that we will never learn which because Yamaji never resolved it. I would have loved to learn more about Ryuji's life after it, and how Rutsu and Tamaki's relationship progressed after the cheating.
That being said, Indigo Blue was yet another great installment from Ebine Yamaji-sensei. Its take on a male perspective regarding a lesbian relationship was respectable for both parties involved. I'll definitely read her other two works after this.