Mangaka Nagabe is known for their work on The Girl From the Other Side and The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms, two stories that embrace fantasy to great heights. Now, they’re turning their creative storytelling and stunning art to BL with Monotone Blue. Created, written, and illustrated by Nagabe, Monotone Blue is a one-shot published and localized in English by Seven Seas Entertainment, with translation by Adrienne Beck, adaptation by C.A. Hawksmoor, and lettering by Vanessa Satone.
Monotone Blue focuses on Hachi, the cat, and Aoi, the lizard. Hachi finds most things monotonous, especially high school. But when Aoi, a quiet, high-achieving transfer student, arrives, Hachi catches a glimpse of a more colorful life. Over the course of the one-shot, Hachi and Aoi open up to each other, giving each additional space to explore their curiosity and selves in the process. This allows them to unlock new feelings and shake up their lives, with bumps along the way.
The anthropomorphic animal of it all isn’t just a story in Monotone Blue. Instead, it’s crucial to understand how the characters move through the world and how they connect to each other. Instead of focusing on the common theme of predator versus prey, Monotone Blue looks at the world through the monotone eyes of a cat and how it brightens when a lizard with a blue tail walks into it. As much as the beautiful art captures the animal characteristics of the cast of characters, it’s how Nagabe captures their emotions and animalistic qualities when it comes to love that makes this one-shot shine.
For Hachi, his territorial behaviors and solitude make his feeling of romance extremely intense. But for Aoi, his fear and past trauma, coupled with his urge to run and protect himself, make his walls almost too high for Hachi to scale. This complexity and how Nagabe unfolds each layer helps set this apart from other anthropomorphic stories.
The only fault that Monotone Blue has is that it isn’t a full series. With two compelling characters that begin working through the emotions and hang-ups with connecting to others, I want more. It feels like the story just ends with so much more to be said between the two. Having reached across their insecurities it feels too unresolved not even to get a small epilogue. With gorgeous art and an array of emotions, I want more Monotone Blue and hope Nagabe will add to the one-shot as other mangaka have done.
Overall, Monotone Blue is gorgeous. Visually, it’s striking, in a style only Nagabe can bring to life. Narratively, it’s strong and emotional. I didn’t know what to expect when I first picked it up, but it’s easily one of the year’s best stories.
Monotone Blue is gorgeous. Visually, it’s striking, in a style only Nagabe can bring to life. Narratively, it’s strong and emotional. I didn’t know what to expect when I first picked it up, but it’s easily one of the year’s best stories.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.