Cover Image: Blue Flag, Vol. 8

Blue Flag, Vol. 8

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Be prepared for the flash-forward to give you a bit of whiplash after the conclusion of the main story. I didn't dislike this final volume by any means, but it felt like the series was intentionally ended one way with one ship becoming canon and then a second ending was added to placate readers who preferred another ship. Certainly, people and feelings change over time and very few high school romances end well, but it felt like KAITO should have chosen one or the other to end the series and instead couldn't chose and decided to do both.
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This was such a beautiful manga - from start to finish the nuance, pathos, and emotional richness made this title a stand out.  The basis for the story was always about choices; while romance was a major choice that the characters made, it was not the fundamental for the story.  As such, many readers will either love or hate the ending, depending on if they were expecting more emphasis on how characters came to be together or separated.  For me, the ending was perfectly written and so unique as to be a treasure.

Story:  Ichinose and Futaba are in shock from Toma's confession and neither know how to deal with it. Ichinose is left with memories of all the things they shared together as childhood friends while Futaba is made to feel like an unwelcome third wheel.  When Toma suddenly leaves school and moves away, Ichinose realizes he must fix what has been broken.  With Futaba's help, they confront Toma at his seaside new home.

A lot of the book is Ichinose and Futaba coming to terms with how everyone sees them now that the confession is out there.  Toma, of course, is most worried about how it is affecting his friends and decides to leave the school to spare them more discomfort.  In the midst of high school finals and the need to study heavily, personal issues have to take a backseat so Ichinose and Futaba can graduate.  But at the same time, the loss of Toma when he leaves the school particularly affects both Ichinose and Futaba strongly - and in difficult ways that both react to separately: Ichinose with a moment of rage and Futaba with more self loathing.  

The last chapter is beautiful but I can see where it will be very divisive with readers who will want more explanation than given as to why things turned out the way they did 7 years later.  It will also likely take several reads before it sinks in exactly what is happening in that sequence.  But once understood, it is clearly a masterpiece of storytelling and beautifully illustrated and written.  And it is also perhaps a huge irony that it is from Toma's perspective when the entire focus of the series has been on the choices Ichinose had to make.

In all, this tops my list of favorite manga.  From the emotive illustration work - both wordy and quiet at the same time - to the layered meanings in all the dialogue.  It's a story about how we are forced to make choices for good or bad and also about talking through situations rather than stoically ignoring them.  And yes, it is also a very interesting love quadrangle (though the emphasis is fully on the triangle).  I look forward to the next series from this author.  Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.
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Holy heck, I cried like a baby after finishing this last volume. The whole series wrapped up in a way I didn't expect at all, but it was bittersweet and heartwarming. I loved the depth this series had to relationships, both platonic and romantic. I also enjoyed the fact that each volume made me sit and ponder after I read them. All in all, this series is gorgeously illustrated and I highly recommend it!
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Blue Flag Volume 8 is a romantic drama manga written and drawn by mangaka KAITO. The volume is published and localized in English by VIZ Media’s VIZ Signature imprint. Blue Flag follows a group of friends entering their last year of high school who are in an unpredicted love quadrangle. When Taichi and Futaba start to fall in love and begin dating one another, they are completely unaware that each of their best friends are in love with them.

Toma and Futaba have their first sit-down talk after the big fight at school. Meanwhile, Taichi struggles with the problems that have been dumped in his lap by his friend’s choices, and he ends up distancing himself from Toma. Then, one day, Toma stops coming to school. Left in the lurch, what can Futaba and Taichi do? Everyone chooses their futures, and time marches on as the series moves towards a heartfelt conclusion.

Blue Flag Volume 8, completely melted my heart and took my emotions all over the place. From main characters having emotional breakdowns and passionate confrontations to heartfelt conversions and resolutions.. Blue Flag Volume 8 truly does not hold back on any of the touching moments.  All of this is due to KAITO phenomenal writing ability when it comes to crafting a story full of emotionally raw moments. One part in particular, where Taichi and Toma finally have their first real conversation since Toma’s confession. This moment was beautiful and emotional to see it unfold, and definitely well worth the wait to see in this final volume.

Additionally, the mangaka, KAITO, does not disappoint when it comes to the art in this Blue Flag Volume 8. I have always loved how KAITO switches between a simple art style to a more detailed and realistic one as a way to capture the mood of the scene and convey a spectrum of emotions on the characters’ faces. I especially liked how they applied this in the scenes featuring Toma and Futaba when they are having their argument. Switching between the simplistic and more detailed art style definitely helped to balance the seriousness and levity of their discussion.


 
Unfortunately, I’m sad to say that the last chapter of this volume felt like the weakest chapter out of the entire series. That is not to say that it was terrible, it feels rushed and not as satisfying as a reader. Granted, it does give a satisfying ending for some of the main characters. While it leaves gaps and unanswered questions for the other characters. I also question the artistic change that was made for this last chapter.

For example, without giving any spoilers away, in the last chapter it is told from a character’s first-person perspective. Which is very different from how previous chapters were done. Personally, I think if there could have been more time to feel in the gaps and questions then that would have made this chapter a stronger ending for the series.

Overall, Blue Flag Volume 8 is a must-read! Especially for long-time readers and newcomers alike, as it brings this heartfelt story of friendship and first loves to an end. KATIO does consistently delivers beautiful panels as they switch between detailed and simple art styles to capture the tone and emotions of the scene.  Accompanied with great writing that captures heart-wrenching moments between characters that were well worth the wait to see in this final volume. While the last chapter has some weak points and feels rushed, it doesn’t take away the emotional impact that this series has had. Blue Flag is a great example of how well a coming-of-age love story can be told. It is a refreshing, emotionally raw, and beautiful story that I can not recommend enough.
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In their afterword, Kaito says that they wanted <i>Blue Flag</i> to be three things: about choices, to show the world as the characters see it, and to be a story where characters actually talk to each other, because in their experience as a romance reader, most problems could be solved that way. I think it's safe to say that they succeeded on all fronts, and not just because I feel brilliant for having figured out that how Taichi was drawn depended on whose eyes we were seeing him through. While this does have a happy ending, it also never stops being about the choices people made and continue to make, from Taichi deciding on his life's path to Toma and Futaba figuring out what they want from and for him. And while some of those choices may turn out to be a surprise, like Masumi's, if you think back into the context of the characters and the story they do all end up making sense. (Masumi's choice ends up being more about her never having thought about life after Futaba, for example.) 

The two most striking moments in the book belong to Taichi. The first is when he thinks he's lost Toma after he stops coming to school, which causes him to destroy his bedroom in an explosion of emotions that even he doesn't fully understand. The second is when he realizes that he might have started dating Futaba because if he could help her change, then maybe he could change himself as well. Both scenes speak to an inner conflict Taichi can't express even to himself, and one that he doesn't grasp until at least two years after high school - because that's how life works sometimes. Happy endings and graduation are so very rarely tied together like the stories say.

Futaba remains something of a nonentity to the end. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but again, high school is not really the place where most people figure out who they are and how to be that person. That may be the lesson everyone has to learn, in the end - all choices influence each other, but the really big ones don't need to be made right away. Think. Give yourself time to grow.

And of course, talk to the people involved.
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This volume felt pretty meh... which was disappointing since it’s the last one. While I love that Taichi and Toma got together in the end, we weren’t shown a lot of their romance and relationship. And when the final chapter took place, we saw everything through Toma’s eyes (which was fine), but heard nothing he was saying. I think it could’ve been executed a lot better
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So…. Very mixed feelings.

This is a series that took me completely by surprise in how much I loved it. I never like love triangles, but the way it was handled here was amazing. It showed it to be a messy situation, and the friendships and connections between the characters felt genuine and authentic. Every volume was amazing.

So it disappoints me greatly to give this a middling review, because the series is one I would recommend to anyway, but the ending was not done well..

Here’s the thing. I wouldn’t mind Toma and Taichi as a couple. It would’ve been great and satisfying, if I had actually seen it happen. Everything was rushed. It felt as if the mangaka had to stop the series and had to wrap up everything as quickly as possible. I feel like I’m missing five volumes of story where Taichi and Toma grow romantically closer, and I feel robbed. I want to see that development, not just suddenly be told that they got married straight after Taichi rejected him when he was still going out with Futuba. Again, everything was just so rushed.

Also, I was confused with Masumi showing to have married a man. The story never suggested she liked men too. I thought Masumi was a lesbian, because she said she couldn’t understand what it’s like to love someone of the opposite sex. I’m not against her being bi, just the conclusion to getting there seems to be missing.

Despite my mixed feelings, part of me will always love this series. It has great friendship and beautiful art, but I wish it didn’t rush the conclusion.
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I'm so sad I'm giving this a three star rating when I've loved the entire series, but this just felt rushed and skipped like seven years and nothing was shown for it.
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This final volume was everything I wanted it to be and more.

The way that the ending plays out for all 4 of the core characters truly warmed my heart, because it gave the opportunity for all of the characters to explore what they wanted in life, and what kind of partner would make them the happiest. 

This series is an all time favorite of mine, and I cannot recommend it enough.
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Thank you NetGalley and Viz Media for a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This was a satisfying conclusion to a sweet story (though I wish more had been explored on the page rather that just hinted at). Throughout the series, we saw the ups and downs of these characters' relationships, and everything wrapped up rather neatly. Although I was satisfied with the ending, I still felt that it was a little fast paced, and I think the story as a whole could have benefitted from more time spent on certain emotional beats. 

I'm looking forward to KAITO's future work, and I have and will continue to recommend this to people who want a fresh take on the conventional love triangle story.
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This whole series has been such an emotional rollercoaster. Overall I really enjoyed this finale, though I want to do a full re-read of the series before I really settle on how I feel.

Storywise, the author's choice of structuring for the final chapters felt rushed. It's a bit disappointing that the reader doesn't get to see a certain relationship develop on the page; instead we're just told it happened later. But thematically, I really love that the author made the point that decisions made in high school aren't forever! It's okay to just do your best in the given moment, and then change in the future as your circumstances change.

This series really focused on characters communicating with each other and also struggling internally with making difficult decisions for their futures, which is such a beautiful thing to see in a series aimed at teenagers. I feel like Kaito did a great job of not patronizing teenage relationships, but also showing them in a wider context. High school romances don't often last forever, but that doesn't mean they aren't important to our growth as human beings!
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