Story & Art: Kaori Tsurutani
Translation: Jocelyne Allen
Adaptation: Ysabet MacFarlane
Lettering: Ray Steeves
Editor: Jenn Grunigen
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
If you’ve ever been to an anime convention, you’ve seen that mother-daughter pair who sifts through all the questionably appropriate boys’ love manga together. It’s weird to think about sharing your porn with your mom, but what if you formed a BL bond with someone even older than her — and not related to you?
Yuki Inoichi is a seventy-five-year-old woman who lives alone after the death of her husband. She teaches calligraphy from her home, but other than that leads a fairly isolated existence. One day, while attempting to cool off, she wanders into a bookstore, noting that she hadn’t been to one in over a year. She glances at the manga and remembers reading some when she was a young woman — series like The Rose of Versailles and Aim for the Ace! Finding the artwork on the cover of a manga appealing, she decides to purchase it. She is unaware that it is the first volume in a boys’ love series, but the teenage cashier, Urara Sayama, is shocked — not least of all because she enjoys reading BL, too.
When Inoichi reads her newly acquired manga, she enjoys it without judgment, and yearns to read the next volume. She heads back to the bookstore to continue her collection, and she and Urara begin to feel out a friendship with a sixty year age gap. While Ichinoi spends most of her days quietly, with the realization that she is a slave to the passage of time, Urara is blanketed in her own isolation, a byproduct of feeling like she doesn’t fit in with her classmates. When Urara learns that the creator of Ichinoi’s favorite series is appearing at an event, she shyly invites the older woman to attend with her, and volume one ends as the pair are about to enter the fray of a popular comics show.
Though BL Metamorphosis does provide its fair share of teen angst problems, it is exciting to see a much older woman protagonist take up as much space in the story. Ichinoi, though pleasant and humble, is far from being a kind old granny stereotype. The reader is treated to her inner dialogue, to the techniques she has to employ to motivate herself to keep going despite her loss and the unavoidable passage of time. She is presented as a whole person, a person who doesn’t feel so far removed from the young woman she once was, and who is open-minded, friendly, and desirous of companionship. Reading BL introduces some much-needed excitement into Ichinoi’s life, saving her from the humdrum routine she’s fallen into in the years since her husband passed.
Kaori Tsurutani has the ability to represent a wide range of character types with her artwork; Ichinoi looks like she’s seventy-five, with her kindly, wrinkled face and bony hands. The gentle colors of the cover accurately convey the soft quality of the interior art, a range of gray tones rarely interrupted by stark black. This is a tranquil story, an unlikely occurrence embedded in the monotony of everyday life, an homage to those rare relationships that help us grow in unexpected ways. It stands in stark contrast to the nastier tropes of boys’ love manga, all the while presenting the genre without judgment, seeming to laud its uncanny ability to bring readers together.
In depth knowledge or love of BL is not a prerequisite to enjoy BL Metamorphosis, however. This story’s power lies in making the reader consider that age, though it does highlight some key differences between people, should not stand in the way of meaningful friendships. For those who are excited to see representation of older protagonists, who have made friends over a shared hobby, or who simply want a peaceful, loving story, the first volume of BL Metamorphosis is available from Seven Seas Entertainment. Volume two is set for release on July 28, 2020.