With an anime adaptation on the horizon, now is the perfect time to check out the new series from Baka and Test creator Kenji Inoue, Grand Blue Dreaming. Teaming up with rising star Kimitake Yoshioka, Inoue tackles a new comedy series in a vastly different setting.
After graduating from an all-boys’ high school, Iori Kitahara moves away from home to go to college in a seaside town. He’s eager to start a new chapter in his life – one filled with dreams of reinventing himself, meeting beautiful girls, and revelling in his youth. But when his new abode is his uncle’s dive shop, Iori’s college debut doesn’t turn out as glamorously as he planned! Can Iori keep himself afloat, or will the booze-fuelled antics of his university’s diving club wash him away?!
Subtle or nuanced aren’t often words that come to mind when one thinks of comedy manga. But Grand Blue Dreaming takes those words and throws them straight out of the window. The tone is set immediately when Iori is greeted by a drunken party held by the university diving club where they are partaking in baseball strip rock paper scissors. Two senior members of the club Ryujiro and Shinji quickly latch onto Iori and coerce him into joining the diving club whilst spending most of the volume wearing little to nothing in the way of clothing. Readers will find themselves adjusting to having impossibly ripped nude/semi-nude frat boy divers appearing in most pages pretty quickly.
Much of the comedy is derived from Iori’s struggle to not get sucked into the frat boy life style that permeates the club, especially after he was set on starting a new life that was far removed from the all-boy school he attended. His fellow club members not only instantly tarnish his reputation with the rest of the student body by painting a picture of him as a wild party animal and deviant, but also seem to disrupt every attempt of his to get closer to Chisa and Nanaka in either misguided attempts to help or just plain hazing. It’s common in most romantic comedy manga for the main character to have a degree of bad luck, but it’s rarer for that character to basically have an outer force actively preventing him from achieving any of his goals. Inoue is clearly having the time of his life writing this series as he gets to be as insane as possible whilst keeping it in a reality based setting. The fratboy humour really works, especially when it’s at the expense of poor Iori.
The art is equally manic. Unusually for the genre, the female designs are a bit more reserved whilst the male characters are ripped to the point of sometimes appearing to be primal (that closing illustration especially). Yoshioka clearly is a good fit for comedy manga, especially in the facial expression department.
This is a fantastic new comedy series that doesn’t appear to have any restraints. Any manga fans looking for something crazier than usual will definitely be hooked.
Grand Blue Dreaming 1 is out on 12 July 2018 from Kodansha Comics
(9781632366665, p/b, £10.99)
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