My Ultramarine Sky Review

He was always right next to me, and I took that for granted. But then, life as I knew it… got turned on its head.

Kai and Ren have been in the same class since the first year of middle school – and they’ve always sat next to each other. But at the start of their final year at high school, the two find they’ve been put into different classes. Kai and Ren used to act out BL-type situations to amuse their friends Andy and Kaname – but beneath the joking around, Kai has been aware for some time that he really likes Ren. Now that they’re in separate classes and don’t see each other that much, he’s feeling bereft. Yet he can’t tell Ren because he’s terrified to do anything that might destroy their friendship, in case Ren doesn’t feel the same way.

My Ultramarine Sky © Nagisa Furuya/Ichijinsha Inc.

Coming out of the school shogi club one afternoon, Kai notices Ren has fallen asleep at his desk in the empty classroom. Was he waiting for him? Kai tiptoes in and when Ren doesn’t wake, he finds himself saying softly, “You know, I’ve always liked you, Ren. Always.” Only after he’s spoken does he notice that Ren has opened his eyes and is staring directly at him.

Is it just a coincidence that, after this, Ren is seen around with a girl from his new class? Kai, distracted, ends up concussed in the nurse’s office after an accident playing football – and, hearing the news, Ren hurries to find out how he is. It’s only after Kai has gone home that he receives a text from Ren, stating, ‘You should know I got a girlfriend.’

My Ultramarine Sky © Nagisa Furuya/Ichijinsha Inc.

Told mostly from Kai’s point of view, My Ultramarine Sky (2015) is a touching, insightful account of a school friendship that might have evolved into something deeper if circumstances hadn’t split the two apart. Or so Kai believes. Much later on in the story, we get Ren’s perspective on the way things are falling apart between him and Kai, which is illuminating. It’s impossible not to want the two to talk things out together so when Kaname says bluntly to Ren, “Personally… it sucks to see you two at odds. I wish you’d get back to being your usual selves.” Kaname’s observations set Ren thinking – at last – about how he and Kai interact and what really matters to him. But is it too late to patch things up with Kai?

Nagisa Furuya has a real gift for creating BL manga about first love; her clear lines and attractive, expressive character art lend themselves to bring to life the stories she tells. Some, like Number Call (2014), are more upbeat and light-hearted – others, like My Ultramarine Sky, explore the more painful side of growing up. In this accomplished one-shot she gets the balance just right; her high-school boys are just as capable of goofing around as struggling with unresolved feelings. A single shogi piece takes on a symbolic importance as the story progresses. The side characters/friends are distinctive too: Kaname who loves anime and ‘never hesitates to say stuff’ according to the mangaka, making him ‘super helpful story-wise’ and ‘Andy’ who looks older than he is and ‘lacks tact, according to Kaname’.

Kodansha have brought out My Ultramarine Sky in the same trade paperback format as My Summer of You which really does justice to Nagisa Furuya’s art, as well as giving us a colour illustration at the front. The mangaka’s varied and well-thought-out use of panels – some just featuring the characters’ thoughts – help to deliver the story in a very fluid and cinematic way; it flows very naturally. The excellent translation by Sawa Matsueda Savage also helps as does Nicole Roderick’s clear lettering; the brief translation notes page is helpful and includes a fact of which I was not aware till now! (Check out the explanation of the ‘Asunaro hug’). There’s also a bonus chapter: ‘I Still Don’t Know Everything About You’ at the end, as well as a delightfully illustrated afterword by the mangaka and a character page about the central characters’ three friends.

Even though this is only Nagisa Furuya’s second published manga, it’s an accomplished piece of story-telling, both graphically and in the way the story unfolds. Above all, it’s her depiction of Kai’s understandable and relatable confusion as he tries to make sense of his feelings that makes this manga stand out among so many other similar BL stories of first love.

Read a free preview on Kodansha’s website here.

Our review copy from Kodansha was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK. 

10 / 10


Sarah's been writing about her love of manga and anime since Whenever - and first started watching via Le Club Dorothée in France...

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