I wasn’t sure at first what I was going to write about for the 801 Manga Moveable Feast, and then I remembered that I bought a few volumes of manga when Deux was going out of business and hadn’t gotten around to reading them. In particular I’ve been hoarding a couple Est Em books that I haven’t read yet, I think just because I just liked knowing that there was some English language Est Em manga that I could look forward to.
As I picked up this volume, one thing that caught my attention was a quote on the back by translator Matt Thorn comparing est em to Ursula LeGuin. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of that comparison, but as I thought about it more it seemed to make sense, as both authors explore concepts, ideas, and place in their work in an extremely thoughtful way. I tend to think of est em as a literary titan among yaoi authors. Red Blinds the Foolish doesn’t disappoint the reader looking for more thoughtful yaoi.
The main story in this volume focuses on Ratifa, a young successful matador, and Mauro who ends up butchering the bulls that are killed in the ring. Maruo is bull-like in some of his characteristics, as he is color blind just like a bull. This type of set-up might seem like a bit like metaphoric overload from a lessor creator, but est em’s slice of life approach documents the growing relationship between the couple in such a natural way that the reader ends up absorbing a lot of philosophy and bullfighting information without being hit over the head with a hammer of symbolism. There are fairly explicit sex scenes in this book, but I didn’t find them to be particularly lascivious because they take place in the context of a conversation between the characters. They could just be going out for coffee or eating tapas and and talking but since this is a yaoi manga they’re having sex.
The last third of the manga is a few short stories focusing on relationships in various stages – established, just beginning, and nostalgic. What makes est em’s work so interesting isn’t so much the specific details of the plots of her stories, but the general sense of wistfulness or longing she evokes by the time the reader reaches the conclusion. Seeing est em illustrations and then going back to more commercial manga always gives me a bit of mental whiplash, as her style with delicate, not overly polished lines and a very judicious use of screen tone always evokes a sense of clarity. I enjoyed reading Red Blinds the Foolish very much. It shows how versatile est em can be, that she can produce a work that explores relationships like Red Blinds the Foolish and then is also able to make an abrupt turn into the wacky but still poignant with a manga like Working Kentauros.