Who would you choose? Your lover or your friend?
KAITO Sensei’s school life romance, Blue Flag, is a total of 54 chapters that ran in Shonen Jump from February 2017 to April 2020 compiled into 8 volumes. It didn’t take long for Viz Media to hop on an English release of the series made available both digitally on the Shonen Jump app as well as print copies.
To escape my spoilers later on, before you pull up another tab and start reading on Shonen Jump, here’s a taste for those who don’t know about Blue Flag.
Apart from his small group of friends, Taichi Ichinose keeps to himself. In his final year of High School he finds himself sharing a class with Futaba Kuze and Toma Mita.
Futaba is your textbook definition of the small and meek, but is equal parts adorable. Taichi is very critical of Futaba and his friends actually point out that he is always on her case. He comes to realize that it’s because he sees Futaba as a reflection of himself in more ways than one.
On the other hand, Toma is the school’s it boy: The looks, the athletics, the personality, he’s got it all! As Toma’s popularity grew over the years following elementary school, so did Taichi’s self-consciousness as they drifted apart.
Now that all three of them are in the same class, Futaba works up the courage to ask Taichi for help with confessing her feelings to Toma. At first, Taichi begrudgingly agrees to be Futaba’s aid, but as he gets to know her along the way he begins to develop feelings.
From an intro like that I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d think this story is just another stereotypical love triangle BUT-
What a lot of people forget about the construction of a triangle is that each point is connected.
Taichi’s developing feelings are NOT the twist; The true twist is the triangle itself.
Before I flip to the answers in the back of the book, this will be the spoilers check point moving forward.
If this is your cue to navigate away, thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time!
Now class… let us continue-
In my years, “Love Triangle” has been used when the main character has to choose between two love interests. But this only leaves you with two pairings.
Bringing us back to the math I mentioned before, a triangle is connected at each of it’s three points.
Therefore, a True Love Triangle should have THREE parings: Futaba x Taichi, Futaba x Toma…
Are you following my lead here class?
Futaba’s calm and collected best friend, Masumi Itachi, figured out the answer long before the rest of the class did. At the end of the first volume, she confronts Toma and asks if the person he’s really in love with is Taichi.
Now this isn’t pulled out of thin air, Masumi knows this answer because she’s in the same boat. But with Futaba.
Sitting there with my heart in my hands I asked myself… So, is this a triangle with a line sticking out? 😂
I was already hooked on the story from the first three free chapters given on the Shonen Jump app, so I already knew I’d see it through, but the way Sensei ended that first volume really was the line and sinker.
Now, I will not insult anyone’s intelligence by giving a play-by-play of the entire story, because if you’ve gotten this far you could probably read it yourself or maybe you already have.
Although there are so many things I could say about Blue Flag, I’m going to give this post more structure than my braincell has for the sake of those reading.
For this review, I’ll wrangle my overall thoughts on the art, characters, and story.
Y’all know I’m a sucker for anything with pretty art, and Blue Flag was no exception.
KAITO Sensei’s art style is closer to realism more often than not throughout the series. However, they still play on the comedic moments with an adorable chibi style from time to time.
Two elements of their art style that stood out the most to me were the characters’ eyes and hands.
If you’re looking for an example of the eyes being the windows to the soul, this is a great match. There is so much emotion packed into the designs that really hit home for a lot of scenes.
The delicacy of the way the hands were drawn also played on that realism factor I mentioned before. I blow a chef kiss every time I see them.
For the aesthetic manga shelf people out there, these covers are absolutely stunning and would be a lovely series to bring home.
There’s more than meets the eye with most if not all of the characters in this story.
The story made me check myself a couple times when characters outside of the main four were introduced, more specifically being Mami’s character.
Initially, I thought that she was a character brought in as Futaba’s rival with her crush for Toma, but there was so much more to her character. Moving forward, that happened again with other characters as they were brought into the conversation more.
I like that as a reader each character’s perspective on the situations at hand made me take a moment to sit back and think. Rather than having this hive-mind mentality, a lot of conversations between them showed the reader how individualized their perceptions were.
I was NOT ready for the emotional roller coaster that was Blue Flag.
In my opinion, KAITO Sensei did an excellent job exploring the topics of love and relationships through this story in a society where the two are not as black and white as it’s made out to be.
As a reader, you get to see both sides of a conversation play out because you’re not the one participating in it.
Touching back on the previous section, each character has their own conceptions of what love and relationships are to them and how they choose to express it.
There were a few chapters when the back and forth was long winded, but I think it was necessary for what they were discussing. Being a manga and not a conversation happening directly in front of me, I’m glad that KAITO Sensei didn’t sugarcoat either of the characters or cut conversations short. In this fictional world, we’re able to see conversations play out from an objective standpoint that we otherwise might not in our everyday lives.
One of my favorite chapters was experiencing Toma’s memories from childhood to present through his eyes at the end of volume seven. You don’t get to hear his dialogue aside from his thoughts as he’s reminiscing, but the responses and expressions of the character’s he’s interacting with speaks volumes. Personally, this is the first time I’ve read this kind of point-of-view story telling in manga and I think that KAITO Sensei executed it wonderfully.
Despite the ten-foot pole I like to keep between me and online discourse, the topic of Blue Flag‘s ending is one that I’ve seen brought up a lot.
I didn’t expect for Futaba and Taichi’s romantic relationship to be forever, but I did think their friendship would definitely remain.
Futaba being someone who Taichi sees as a reflection, that change he saw in her seemed like a change he wanted to see in himself too. Before the reveal, they also touched on having differing opinions on love and relationships. Neither of which are bad to me, so seeing that they chose to build their own happiness separately seemed very fitting for the views of their characters developed throughout.
While reading this story I was honestly prepping my heart with the possibility that Taichi wouldn’t end up with anyone and find that love and self-confidence in himself.
The final chapter uses the same approach as chapter 48, and I didn’t expect any of the parings that were presented to us by the end. Honestly, It didn’t click for me until a little further into the chapter that it wasn’t Taichi’s point of view that we were seeing.
There’s a note at the end of the series from KAITO Sensei that says one of Blue Flag‘s themes is “characters struggling with their values” and Taichi’s choices are essentially the focal point of it all. The last choice of Taichi’s we are presented with in the end is intended to be thrown out at us as a question.
“life is a never ending series of choices”
This is something that, looking back, comes up more than once in this story. Whether characters do or don’t, change or remain, love or like: they’re all choices.
As readers, we don’t get to see the choices each character made that led them to the future we’re shown through Toma’s eyes in the final chapter. And while I would’ve loved to see the developments that lead us there, I don’t think not seeing them was a bad choice on KAITO Sensei’s end.
I’ve seen some call the ending rushed, but when I sat and thought about the context of the story while making this post, it didn’t feel that way to me.
The story takes us over 7 years into the future, and rather than just giving two powerpoint slides of where everyone ends up, or just not telling us at all with a “such is life” attitude; KAITO Sensei gives us a glimpse of life through Toma’s eyes.
Through this final chapter we see not only Toma’s happiness, but every character’s happiness.
The overarching message I got from Blue Flag‘s ending and overall story was this:
In a life made up of choices, regardless of how positive or negative others perceive them, all anyone can do is hope that the choices they make are the ones that will lead them towards their own idea happiness.
The more I think about the ending contextualized with the message that I received while reading this story, the more beautiful it becomes in my eyes.
A thought provoking story composed of a well-rounded cast and topped off with a beautiful art style. I enjoyed my reading experience with KAITO Sensei’s Blue Flag.
Now, I have yet another series scribbled on to my long list of manga that I would love to see animated.
Thank you so much for reading if you made it this far through my ramblings! This post will hopefully be a proactive first step towards a video review of Blue Flag on my YouTube channel! Thanks again and see you next time!
P.S. There’s a bonus story of the future the print in Toma’s POV again with Taichi that I’ll be holding onto for the next forever
The first 3 chapters of the official English translation for KAITO Sensei’s Blue Flag are available for FREE (& the entire series with the subscription) on the Shonen Jump app/site here