Red Blinds the Foolish
Author/Artist: est em
Publisher: Deux Press
Rating: M – 18 and up
Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance
*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.org/. Check it out! ***
Rafita Alonso is the hottest star in bullfighting. He's well known, young, fearless, and wears a red costume. He's the talk of the bullfighting world. He soon falls in love with the young butcher who rends the bulls he kills, Mauro. Mauro has a scar on his back in the exact location where matadors stab their bulls to kill them. Also Mauro is color blind, just like a bull. Soon Rafita starts having nightmares where instead of a bull charging at him he's staring down his lover. Because of these nightmares his bullfighting is suffering and for the first time in his life he's scared to step into the stadium.
Red Blinds the Foolish also contains a few stories like a brief tale about Mauro's past, a story about two lovers one of which has a shoe fetish (and he has to be the one who makes the shoes), a tale about a soccer fan and a guard at the soccer stadium, and the story of a writer who works for an older novelist who is writing a story about a ballet dancer (it turns out that the younger writer is seeing a ballet dancer).
As a story Red Blinds the Foolish is a beautiful, profound, and poignant story. The contrast between Rafita and Mauro make for great storytelling and this is the first bullfighting manga that I've read. In many places around the net and on the back of the book est em-sensei's art is praised. In one aspect it is good. Sensei uses the stark difference between black-and-white to her advantage and it works well with the storytelling. There is very little use of gray tones and where they are used it is sparingly but with good result. Sensei isn't afraid to use older men with wrinkles as characters nor does she shy away from drawing chest hair, leg hair, etc. And Rafita's matador costume is beautiful. The men are definitely more realistically portrayed in est em-sensei's work. The other aspect of sensei's art style is it's not really that great. It is definitely unique and goes well with the story, but I just have a hard time with it. There was one thing I really enjoyed though, and that would be sensei's Afterword. She told all about her research trip to Spain and her experiences at various bullfights. The best part is how she illustrated herself and her traveling companion. She used an R2D2 lookalike and her companion is a C3PO twin. It cracked me up to no end!
I have to give mad props to Deux Press for taking a huge risk on a title like Red Blinds the Foolish. Even though I may not be a huge fan of sensei's art the storytelling is very strong and is of a subject that is not generally covered in manga. Generally you get the usual fare from American publishers (you know schoolboys, salarymen, etc.) but Deux Press decided to take on est em, which she has a higher class feel to her stories. She uses characters from around the globe and from different, more artistic type jobs. I have to admit that it is a nice change of pace. One thing I have noticed is that with the est em titles the books have a different look. Instead of the usual hot pink font on the spine they replaced it with a deep red font.
I recommend this title on its storytelling alone. The art adds a little but the story is masterfully told. If you were to choose between est em-sensei's two works, the other being Seduce Me After the Show, I would definitely recommend Red Blinds the Foolish. Try it out for something totally new and truly unique.
EDIT: 01/06/2009 - I decided to change the grade from C+ to B- because the story is really quite good and unique and I can overlook the at least a little.
***Review Copy provided by Deux Press***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***