ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Blue Flag,’ Volume 1

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Blue Flag

Love is already hard enough to understand and navigate when you are in high school. It gets even more complicated when you learn that your best friend is secretly in love with you too. This issue is precisely the case for Taichi Ichinose and Futaba Kuze in Blue Flag, a  romantic drama manga series written and illustrated by mangaka KAITO and published by VIZ Media.

Blue Flag tells the story of four teenagers as they try to figure out their complicated feelings and follow their hearts. Blue Flag Vol. 1 follows Taichi Ichinose, a third-year high school student who, for some reason, is very annoyed by his classmate Futaba Kuze. However, as he enters his last year of high school, he finds himself in the same homeroom as her, along with his childhood friend Toma Mita, the school’s star baseball player. One day, Futaba approaches Taichi and admits she has a crush on Toma and asks Taichi for help in confessing her feelings to his best friend. There’s just one problem; Toma already has a secret crush on someone else.

I can honestly say that I’ve never read a romance manga like this one before. Not only does it give a refreshing take on the teenage love triangle trope. I like the twist that Taichi’s best friend Toma is in love with him. Initially, when the story starts, you don’t get much indication about Toma’s romantic feelings for his best friend. If anything, you may just think that they are longtime childhood friends that have a special bond. However, towards when his true feelings are slowly revealed, it made me want to re-examine some moments in the volume. For example, there are some scenes when Toma is gazing at Taichi; at first, one could assume it out of concern. But those were the gazes of someone looking at their crush.

Blue Flag Vol 1

We also get a romance story that is told primarily from the male character, Taichi’s perspective, which is allowed to have depth and be multi-dimensional. In the beginning, you think Taichi is just some apathetic high school boy who is detached and keeps to himself. However, as the story goes on, you see that there is more to him than what meets the eye. For example, when Taichi begins to help Futaba, you get to know that he is a genuinely right person and friend. And later, when he realizes his feelings for her, he tries to push down and hide that he is jealous of Toma. I also think it means something that his jealousy comes up more than a few times because that shows he has a difficult time coming to terms with what it means.

The story does a great job of balancing light-heartedness and drama. You can’t help but get swept into the drama and the characters’ feelings. One of the most intense scenes, in my opinion, is Toma’s conversation with Masumi, best friend to Futaba. Masumi, who is aware of Toma’s secret crush on Taichi and confronts him about it because she is the same as him. She’s in love with her best friend Futaba. Before she can finish her next sentence Toma rushes at her and he usual happy go lucky appearance is swapped with one full of anger and panic. He yells at her and asks if she told Taichi about his feelings. In this scene, the creator does such a great job illustrating and writing it that it is almost like the audience can feel the same feelings that Toma is at that moment.

Blue Flag Vol 1

I will say, I had hoped that Toma and Masumi could have bonded over there shared situations. I thought that they could have bonded over the fact that they are in are secretly in love with their respective best friends. Since there doesn’t seem to be any other students in their school that are gay or can even begin to relate to them or their feelings. I think it could have been nice is they could have felt some relief in being able to share their secrets with one another. However, I think it is Masumi’s jealousy of Toma having Futaba’s affection and Toma’s fear of her revealing his secret that gets in the way of them being real friends.

KAITO’s art style is simply beautiful; the cover art, in particular, is my favorite. The cover gives me the vibes of a watercolor painting. I also like how the cover provides a massive foreshadowing of the story and the characters’ feelings towards one another. For example, on the cover, you’ll see Taichi, Futaba, and Toma, all standing in a triangle that represents the love triangle between them. Futaba gazes longingly at Toma because she has a crush on him.  Then there’s Taichi, who finds himself in the middle of his best friend and the girl he’s starting to develop feelings for. He finds himself conflicted with wanting to help Futaba while being a good friend to Toma, whom he becomes jealous of as he realizes his feelings for Futaba.

Additionally, at first glance, the audience might assume they are in a heteronormative love triangle where the female is the object of affection for both male characters. Upon closer inspection Toma and follow where his eyes, you see that all of his attention and gaze is fixed on Taich, suggesting that he is in love with him. Which, by the end of the volume, gets confirmed.

I honestly can’t recommend Blue Flag Vol. 1 enough, especially for other hopeless romantics. It is a refreshing take on the teenage love triangle trope. The creator does a great job of giving the characters and story depth. I guarantee by the end of volume one you will be hooked and ready for the next one.

Blue Flag Vol. 1
  • Blue Flag, Vol. 1
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TL;DR

I honestly can’t recommend Blue Flag Vol. 1 enough, especially for other hopeless romantics like. It is a refreshing take on the teenage love triangle trope. The creator does a great job of giving the characters and story depth. I guarantee by the end of volume one you will be hooked and ready for the next one.