Of Sapphires and Secrets – Blue Phobia

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is an age-old metaphor that my English teacher in high school absolutely hated due to the amount of times it was used within various essays. For those who might have forgotten, it means that you shouldn’t prejudge the worth, value, etc of something on it’s appearance alone. Which, is something I do a lot when it comes to manga because if I didn’t prejudge titles based on cover art I’d have way more manga in my possession then I do.

Which leads me to Blue Phobia, the manga in question. Literally the light hit the cover just right and it actually sparkled. And I’ve never seen a manga cover that sparkled before. I was intrigued with sparkling woman, blue hair, blue eyes, and a shiny blue skeleton and a watercolor splashed background. Next to her was a man, similar appearance with a blue heart, and circulatory system, with a heavier colored background. My eyes switched between the two covers, reading the obis and trying to weigh my ability to read it. I cracked open the pages trying to scan for furigana, and eventually giving up, grabbing both volumes and heading to check out.

I was going to experiance this metaphor for real. With no regrets, because this series truly is a deeply unknown gem.

Blue Phobia is a disease that dyes the human body blue. This disease turns human bones into “sea sapphires” that shine beautiful like the deep ocean is trapped within them. Then people who have lost their ethics pursue the possibly that the disease. No one must stay on this isolated island. A young man whose lost his memory and a girl with the disease then try to escape from here…” (Edited a bit from the original for clarity and grammar)

Just… wow. Blue Phobia is a manga I went in with few expectations. Any expectations I did have were completely blown away from start to finish. The story was well crafted, taking the ideals of show not tell, and weaving in the details in a brilliant manner. Incorporating elements of a medical drama, government conspiracy, some supernatural elements slowly being introduced and then wrapped together was excellent. These story elements jelled together well, and worked together to create not only individual issues but the larger issues that became more prevalent as our characters progressed.

The pacing was accurate for the circumstances of the story. There was always an undertow of pressure, insistent that the characters kept moving. Yet only the true depth of this pressure only manifested itself only when the moment was just right. Every single revelation within the series was stunning, and unexpected. They were beautiful rendered by Eri Tsuruyoshi’s distinct style, tinged with a type of horror that can only come from a primal place that most of us will (hopefully) never experience first-hand.

Yeah… no… I don’t wanna deal with this.

I had my doubts that the cover would match the panel contents, but I was wrong. It flowed brilliantly together. The variety of things that needed to be draw with significant technical details; medical equipment, the human body accurate to real life, jewels as well as crystallization patterns, on top of fight choreography was top notch for a first time publication. I seriously thought that Eri-Sensei had other published pieces but found out aside from Blue Phobia as a one-shot (now referred to Chapter 0) this is their first work. If this is the type of art, and the type of story they want to tell; I’m incredibly excited to see what else they have in store, hopefully in the near future.

There sense for panel layout is also top notch. The art speaks for itself, and Eri-Sensei knows how to balance scenes flowing between text dense, and then action dense pages incredibly well. The fact there is a distinct flow with showing a scene from multiple angles, a few seconds apart is brilliant. Blue Phobia could have been adapted into an anime so well with how well grounded it is in panel layout and action sequences.

I know that I’ve been talking about this series at length without actually talking about the cast of characters, or the heavier plot details. That’s intentional because this series, despite being finished, is still relatively new having only finished in 2018. It’s a series that I really can’t talk about the cast of characters without revealing a lot of critical plot points which would be spoil the whole thing. It’s seriously a series that I want more people to know about. I even told my co-workers about, hoping to gauge their interest (no confirmed new readers yet), and now I’m sharing with you.

Just damn, the concept being convey in a mere page.

Blue Phobia isn’t without it’s flaws. I might be yelling via the internet for you to read this story, but it’s not perfect. A lot of details, are lacking especially if it was translated and localized into English. I can tell that Eri-Sensei had this story set up to go on longer then it did, and therefore the pacing of these details and conclusions are rushed. It seems a lot of characters that I believe were intended to be a bigger part of the story are introduced, backstory and all so they do actually have motivation, are quickly trotted out in a bombardment of action. There are many questions that the series poses, both literally about the disease and others more about the overall situation are left unanswered due to timing. Eri-Sensei did manage to salvage the key points of their story, and wrap it all together in a conclusion that I accept but I truly wanted to know more about!! I demand a sequel!!

For me, Blue Phobia is the type of page-turner manga that I’ve been missing for awhile. The story is dark, mysterious, including a bit of horror at times at what humans will do to one another. It’s action packed with pacing to match, and leads to a conclusion that satisfies but leaves you wanting more. For a debut title, Tsuruyoshi Eri is setting a gold standard for their future work and I am eagerly awaiting their next serialization.

I want to talk so much more about this series. I might do a follow-up with more in-depth discussion points (Ie spoiler heavy), but for now I’ll leave this here. I sincerely hope this series gets it’s time in the limelight as you can find it to certain capacities online… For now, thanks for reading and see you next post!

Also check out Tsuruyoshi Eri’s Twitter!



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