Making friends can be a complicated process. Sometimes it's easy when you're an open individual, but it can be difficult when dealing with someone on the introverted side of things. It's reading through the first volume of That Blue Sky Feeling where I found my own personal experience making friends being mirrored by its two protagonists. Not only does it capture the real-life struggles of making friends, but it also showcases the challenges of being completely open with someone new in your life.

A remake of Okura webcomic (with art by Coma Hashii), That Blue Sky Feeling follows new student Noshiro. Easily likable, the new kid finds it simple to make new friends. All except for Sanada, who keeps his distance from everyone save for his childhood friend Yamamoto. Noshiro soon finds out that the reason for Sanada seclude get himself from the others is because a rumor came out that he was gay. Upon getting to know him, Sanada reveals that the rumor is true, somewhat shocking Noshiro. However, even when he finds out he's different from the rest of the class, Noshiro makes it his mission to be buddies with Sanada, even if it means treading on some shaky paths.

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©2017 Okura, Coma Hashii/SQUARE ENIX

Perhaps what makes Okura's story work is how it sticks to more realistic portrayals rather than the tropes seen in most BL/yaoi/yuri works. We have two students who are just your average teens, with nothing remotely special that makes them stand out from the rest of the pack. How Noshiro reacts to Sanada coming out to him is very reminiscent of how I would react when a friend would do the same back in high school. You see the confusion on Noshiro's face as he attempts to put two & two together, with him even going so far as to say a couple of badly-worded compliments that come off more standoff-ish.

Right in the middle of That Blue Sky Feeling's first volume is where you realize the real issue that's at hand. It's one thing to accept someone for who they are and still be friends with them; it's another situation when the only reason why they're trying to be friendly with someone is because of who they are. Because Sanada has that feeling coming off of Noshiro, he still somewhat keeps his distance from him. Once Noshiro realizes he's in the wrong with how he's trying to be friends with Sanada, he figures out how to be a better pal with the help of Sanada's ex-boyfriend Hide.

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©2017 Okura, Coma Hashii/SQUARE ENIX

One of the big reasons why That Blue Sky Feeling gets its character perceptions right is because of how their mentalities are showcased. Noshiro is legit weirded out when Sanada comes out to him, in the real way a young teen would be to finding out a friend is different from them. They're not going to have adult mentalities and just push the fact aside like it was nothing; nay, it's going to open a can of worms and bring about a lot of curiosity from the straight guy. While some may think it rude for Noshiro to bug Sanada about such a fact, it's actually capturing how our generation's upbringing affects the way we perceive people who are different from the norm.

Thanks to this approach to the storytelling and its characters, That Blue Sky Feeling stands out from many of the LGBT-friendly comics & manga out there. While it does take a bit for Okura's true narrative intentions to be revealed, what is presented is a genuine story about friends looking past each other's flaws and just being cool with one another. As we hope that Noshiro and Sanada's friendship continues to grow, what is showcased in the first volume of That Blue Sky Feeling is an honest and often humorous down-to-earth take on accepting people for who they are.

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©2017 Okura, Coma Hashii/SQUARE ENIX

FINAL GRADE:

Promotional consideration provided by Erik Jansen of MediaLab PR. Available in stores August 14th!

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