BL Metamorphosis Volume 1
BL Metamorphosis is a charming, low-key manga about how friendship can develop based on shared interests, regardless of how different the friends might otherwise be. It’s a lesson I’ve learned myself, and it was refreshing to see it portrayed on paper by Kaori Tsurutani in this English edition published by Seven Seas.
Ichinoi is 75 years old. One day, she stops into a bookstore after she finds her favorite cafe has closed down. She wanders into the manga section, where she buys a boys’ love book because of the lovely art on the cover.
Urara, a high schooler who works in the bookstore, is a loner and also a fan of the series. She’s got a busy mother and a divorced father, so she’s mostly taking care of herself, not particularly well. Her always-disheveled hair makes her visually recognizable and sympathetic compared to her put-together classmates.
She begins discussing the manga with Ichinoi, and the two gradually become friendly acquaintances as they discuss the series. (Ichinoi is cute when she admits “I really hope those boys can make a go of it!”) Urara hides her reading from her family, and I get the impression that Ichinoi not being ashamed of it is a good thing for Urara to see.
We rarely see older people in comics beyond comedy relief. I was touched by how Ichinoi just gets on with things, coping with what she can and willing to try something new because the cover appealed to her. I also found it appropriate that her new interest comes after the end of something else. We don’t often seek change, but it’s part of life.
The unhurried pacing suits the characters. Ichinoi is obviously more likely to move slowly, due to her aging body, but Urara is also resisting the next phase of her life. The quiet moments of Ichinoi’s day are well-captured in single panels, as she finishes with a student (she teaches calligraphy), makes dinner (trying a new recipe), eats in front of the television, and washes up before bed. Sometimes she has to find different ways to do things, acknowledging her limitations.
I found this volume calming and reassuring in reminding me of the power of connection between two people, no matter how odd their friendship appears to others. It’s also quietly funny, as when Ichinoi finds out how often manga volumes come out and calculates how much of the series she’s likely to see before she passes on.
As the series continues, the two attend fan events together, and Urara is encouraged to try making her own manga. BL Metamorphosis concludes with volume 5, due later this fall. I’m eager to continue spending time with these two.