The creator of beloved series Baka and Test returns to western bookstores with another comedy series, Grand Blue Dreaming. Publisher Kodansha USA are bringing Volume 1 of Grand Blue Dreaming to print after successful digital sales. With this hit manga currently being adapted into an anime, which recently began airing this summer season, it’s the perfect time to jump on board. Today I’m here to find out what all the fuss is about and see why this series has won the hearts of many in Japan and in the West.
Grand Blue Dreaming follows the story of Iori Kitahara, who after graduating from an all-boys high school is looking for a change of pace. Iori decides to move away from home and live with his uncle and cousins near the sea to attend college, but little does he know that the peaceful, rose-coloured campus life he was looking for is going to be anything but…
Iori’s uncle owns a scuba diving shop, and upon opening the doors to step inside, Iori is greeted by the sight of multiple buff, naked men. Surely his eyes deceived him, right? Unfortunately this proves not to be the case, and worse still, these crazy people turn out to be a part of the diving club at Iori’s college! Hunted down by his classmates, it’s not long before Iori is dragged into their chaotic antics, which include lots of drinking and playing rock-paper-scissors naked. Losing the respect of his two beautiful cousins but winning that of his senpai, Iori is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Vowing to take back his picturesque college life, our hero does his best to reclaim what’s been lost – but he appears to be fighting a losing battle.
I often talk about how the comedy genre isn’t my thing. It’s rare for a comedy series to grab me and keep me interested for an entire volume, but Grand Blue Dreaming managed to cross that line and pull me in. Admittedly before reading this volume I’d already watched the first episode of the anime adaption, and that was so funny and well animated that I wondered if the manga would be able to grip me the same way. Thankfully the manga did, and this is down to how true the anime adaption was to the source.
While I mentioned earlier that Grand Blue Dreaming is from the mind behind Baka and Test, Kenji Inoue, the series is actually a joint project with mangaka Kimitake Yoshioka. Inoue is credited for the story while Yoshioka handles the artwork – and what a great job he does! All of the comedy in this series is hinged on visuals and how Iori reacts to things and the people around him, and Yoshioka conveys this well with a wide variety of expressions for our protagonist. The exaggerated reactions reminded me a lot of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and how that series portrays its characters. It’s an interesting style and it works well for Grand Blue Dreaming because over the top reactions and humour go hand in hand.
Having said all that, I do have some minor issues with the story that Inoue is crafting. Right now it appears that the future romantic love interests for Iori are his two cousins (one of whom also attends his college). I’m really hoping that someone else comes along to steal his heart as if he does pursue any romantic relationships with either cousin that’s probably going to be enough to stop me reading further. My other problem is that I’m not entirely sure what the series is going to do going forward. The comedy has served it well enough for a first volume but I’m not sure it can survive on just that alone. However, toward the end of the volume it starts looking like we’ll see Iori become a fully fledged member of the diving club and going forward maybe we’ll see something more akin to Amanchu’s story. I’m definitely interested in the diving club side of the story so I personally do hope it goes down that route.
Grand Blue Dreaming is being brought to print thanks to Kodansha Comics, who have already previously released 9 volumes digitally (which means they’re almost caught up with Japan, who are at 10). Volume 1 opens with colour pages and also has a couple of pages of translation notes in the back. Speaking of translation, this one has been handled by Adam Hirsch and reads smoothly without any issues. The series is also being simul-published over on Crunchyroll’s manga service, which houses all the chapters that have not yet been compiled into digital volumes.
Overall I find myself thinking fondly of Grand Blue Dreaming. Although I have reservations about where the plot is going and any romantic pursuits it may have in mind, I can’t deny that I had a grand time with this first volume. With the anime also airing now (streaming on Amazon Prime in the UK) I feel like it’ll help me make up my mind about the franchise. Chances are, I’ll definitely be coming back for more of this manga.
Read the first chapter of Grand Blue Dreaming free on the publishers website here