Age Called Blue

est em – Netcomics – 2009 – 1 volume

I was dying for this.  While I’ve long ago given up on my prudishness about reading the online series at Netcomics, I still prefer a printed book, and I decided to wait until the print version showed up to read this.  It was hard, because it was right there, online, and it was so cheap.  I’m glad I waited though, because est em is worth it.

The main theme of the volume is musicians, specifically a repeat appearance from characters that appeared in Seduce Me After the Show.  But more on that later.  The last two stories, the unrelated ones, were what intrigued me most.  One is about an artist and student who communicate via a blue book in a bookshop and have a very quiet, but passionate and blue paint-covered love affair that ends badly.  I liked this story because the artist comments specifically on the unusual blue color of the book they use to communicate, which made me think of IKB, the most striking blue color I can think of.  When the artist covers the naked Lucian in blue and the two roll around and make love on a white canvas, that further cemented the link to Yves Klein, since that’s what Klein does, among other (mostly insane) things.  It also helps that the story takes place in France and Klein was a French artist.  The artist in the story is named Michel, but I would be surprised if Klein didn’t inform the story at least a little.  If it was possible, this made me love est em even more, because Yves Klein is one of my heroes.

The story itself was excellent, of course.  Subtle, the relationship unspoken, the twist and the sad ending most heartbreaking despite the fact almost no romantic dialogue passes between the men.  And that sex scene is probably one of the best I’ve ever seen in a yaoi manga, and it’s only a page or two long.

The last story, called… ни пуха ни пера or “Without Feathers, Without Wings,” which is, I guess, a Russian “good luck” sentiment?  It’s about two men who dream of becoming cosmonauts and flying to space together, and wind up actually doing it.  Or, rather, one does when the other is injured.  One of the men is called Yuri, the one that winds up flying on a Soyuz mission.   They reference Gagarin and his speeches.  The interesting thing is that Yuri is the name of a real cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, one that died during a mission, but in a jet.  The Soyuz mission death was Vladimir Komarov.  So once again, a story partially based in fact, but not quite.  I liked that a lot, especially since it’s told as a retrospective from the unnamed man’s point of view as an old man walking a dog.

That story is a little shorter, and it was not quite as good as some of the others, but it was still quite superb for a story of that length, and not even all that shounen-ai-y.

The bulk of the book, as I said, involves musicians.  In the original story, it’s about a young guitarist named Billy meeting an older man named Joe in a bar the night after his rock idol Pete, a guitarist, dies.  Turns out Joe is the vocalist from Pete’s band, the Rebels.  Torrid stuff follows.  In this book, the story is about Billy and his roommate Nick.  Nick is sort of a catalyst in the first story, since he’d stolen all of Billy’s money and his guitar and run off.  The first story in this volume picks back up with Nick’s return.  Nick is kind of a free spirit, but a brilliant lyricist and vocalist, and he can always manage to write lyrics to match Billy’s guitar.  They begin to get famous, but the other members of their band hate dealing with Nick’s erratic behavior.  The relationship between Nick and Billy is more heavily implied than it is overt, until you get to the end, when Billy has to decide between Nick and music and comes to a conclusion that only est em could convey this well.

The other stories about the boys are all over the place chronologically, from an alternate take on the Billy/Joe meeting to a meeting between Nick and Pete just before Pete dies, to when Billy and Nick first meet, to a nice story about Joe and Pete.  All of it is good stuff, telling just enough story and showing just enough emotion that the rest is left up to the reader.

It’s the sensitivity, I think, that I love most about est em.  Her stories have just enough plot and just enough romance that the reader interprets far more from every gesture, every action, every meaningful glance, than they would in a typical book of short stories.

How did this compare to her other two?  I think I still liked Seduce Me After the Show the most, with Age Called Blue next and Red Blinds the Foolish third.  But all of them are excellent.  Even if you aren’t a fan of yaoi, these are just good stories, and this volume is pretty yaoi-light as far as that goes… not a lot of graphic sex (even the blue paint scene isn’t terribly graphic).  I would encourage anyone looking for a good read to pick up this or any of her other books.


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