The first volume of (Ao no Flag) Blue Flag proved to be a surprise favourite for “New series that Luke absolutely obsesses over” for this year! KAITO delivered a debut volume packed to the brim with lovable characters. Plus striking yet adorable art and tons and tons of feels! To say my expectations were high going into this second volume would be an understatement. They were though the roof! With the core trio of Taichi, Toma and Futaba now united (a nice contrast compared to the cover of volume 1, where there was still some distance between them), this volume focuses on building upon that blossoming friendship. And maybe more?! with a couple more heart-pounding surprises along the way. But as always, the big question remains: Isn’t Futaba just the cutest? Wait, I mean, is Blue Flag Volume 2 worth reading?
I think they’ll do fine
After a charming ice-cream excursion with Masumi to kick things off. Much of the first half of this volume focuses on the big Sports Festival for Aohama Public High School. As Taichi and the gang are all third years, this is quite a significant event for them. It’s even more significant for some, as college is not a guarantee for all. This year the whole class is adamant that our gentle giant Toma will be cheer captain for their squad, a role Toma has refused for years. He finally accepts this year, but with one condition. This year, Taichi and Futaba will join him as vice-captains! As you can imagine, the reluctant Taichi and shy Futaba aren’t exactly thrilled by the concept!
Neither are their classmates. But Toma believes the two can pull it off together, and who can say no to that bewitching “Hot guy smile”! Taichi and Futaba get busy practising, resulting in a touching moment between them. Taichi is about ready to throw in the towel, but Futaba is the one to spur him on for Toma’s sake. As Toma won’t be going to college, this will be his last School event. The situation begins to hit home for Taichi. It’s a strong character moment, especially for Futaba. She has a very shy and timid personality. However we know from volume 1 that she can be quite strong-willed when it comes to her friends. KAITO’s simple yet expressional art shines here!
The big day
Eventually, the big day arrives. And it all comes down to the last event of the day, the Coed Relay Race! Toma represents their class as the Anchor leg, so it’s up to Taichi and Futaba to lead the final cheer and raise morale. The only problem is, poor Futaba has caught an awful case of stage fright. She freezes up rigidly right on the podium. KAITO does an excellent job of portraying Futaba’s fear with terrifying realism. Showing an incredible sense of loneliness as she finds herself alone as her mind goes blank in the spotlight.
Thankfully, a quick-thinking Taichi is on hand to save the day. He starts the cheer with a bang (lots of drum percussion!) to give her the kickstart Futaba needs. Snapping her out of her “Deer in the headlights” mode! Just as Futaba was there for Taichi in his time of need, he’s there to back her up. It’s a touching moment and a perfect showcase of just how far Taichi has come since his nonchalant days back at the start of the series. And as the icing on the cake, Toma wins the big race! It is a happy ending all around. But this is Blue Flag we’re talking about, I don’t think we’ve filled our heartbreaking quota just yet!
Blue Flag volume 2 spoilers
What would you do?
A chance encounter on a rainy day finds Taichi bumping into an uncharacteristically flustered Masumi at the train station. She just broke up with her boyfriend. We’ve heard rumblings that she was in a relationship earlier in the volume. It was something that threw Toma off (remember the ending to volume 1?), but now Masumi, get full focus. She explains that it wasn’t him; it was her. He was a great guy and all, but her heart’s already fallen for Futaba (preaching to the choir over here, Masumi!).
The unlikely pair share a very frank yet personal conversation about friendships, love and relationships, and what they mean to different people. It was a welcome surprise to see Masumi open up to Taichi of all people. She was brisk and standoffish last volume. However, it’s clear from her relationship with Futaba and her future career goal as a veterinarian that she has a caring side. She even warms up to Taichi a little here too, which was great to see.
Then Taichi reveals his burdens to her. He recounts a traumatic past where he could not save a cat from getting run over by a car. It sounds simplistic, but KAITO does a phenomenal job of portraying the event. The mangaka’s storytelling is brutal yet straightforward, and you feel for poor Taichi. It’s clear he regrets his past, and it haunts him to this day. You can understand why he was so withdrawn and closed-off initially in the series, as he didn’t want to fail others once again. While his classmates are looking to the future, Taichi is stuck reliving his past nightmares. The work KAITO puts into these two characters for this scene alone was terrific!
After so much wholesome content, KAITO was waiting to hit us with an emotional gut-punch. The gang is all together to cheer on Toma’s big baseball game (after an adorable snacks dilemma at practice with Futaba). Once again, Toma proves his worth as team captain, and it’s smiles all round.
In a split-second, it all changes. Taichi’s past comes back to haunt him. But the Taichi of the present isn’t going to make the same mistakes as his past self. KAITO portrays the moment with stunning art as usual, but it’s over just as fast as it began. Your heart soars for Taichi in a well-deserved hero moment, then drops as the full reality of the situation becomes clear. Leaving you to realize the full ramifications of Taichi’s actions for all parties involved.
I must admit when I finished this chapter, I screamed “That’s the end!?” and was utterly inconsolable for at least the next 20 minutes. And when I reread the volume for this review, it happened all over again! After a cliffhanger like that, I need volume 3 in my hands ASAP!
Is Blue Flag volume 2 worth reading?
You betcha! Blue Flag (Ao No Flag) Volume 1 was a tough act to follow, but once again KAITO delivered. After a wholesome but slower start with the Sports Festival chapters, which had some excellent development for Taichi and Futaba. KAITO swings the heartbreaking haymakers our way once more for a moving second half and a genuinely devastating finale!
Taichi and Masumi were the weakest links for me in the first volume. I appreciated KAITO’s care to give them some extra depth here. And that ending! Even thinking about it now is getting me misty-eyed. The only thing I’m regretting is that I didn’t start this series sooner! And now that the whole two volumes worth of chapters are currently available via the Shonen Jump Vault I highly suggest you do the same! Just pack your tissues and get ready to anxiously await the next volume with the rest of us!
Note: Luke wrote this review in the summer, and I’ve been a lazy boy.There is presently five volumes in the Shonen Jump Vault!