Given the title and the cover, I thought Bright no Yuuutsu would be pretty standard shojo style, just with a boy in the lead role. Friends, it is not. It is so much more than that, so much more baffling than I could even imagine when I turned the first page and began to read. It’s one of those books that seems to have been going in an entirely different direction before some editorial or reader feedback came in to set this ship on a brand-new course, much like Takemiya’s Terra e. With every page came new surprises! And given the grinding rut of life in a worsening pandemic and the descent of winter taking away the opportunity for the most meagre of social activities like beers in the park, this nearly 400-page rollercoaster ride was absolutely the thing I needed to be reading right now.
It is no secret that I am a fan of Keiko Takemiya. I waxed long if not poetically about her masterpiece Kaze to Ki no Uta. And while none of her other work I’ve read has ever managed to top that daring early shonen-ai series, she consistently offers readers imaginative and entertaining experiences with expert pacing and panelling and just the loveliest art to grace the pages of comics. And Bright is no exception in that sense. It’s gorgeous and adventurous and thoughtful in its own weird way. But wow! That way sure is weird!
A note on one of the first pages tells us that the story is set a hundred years into the future. So you might expect some of the trappings of Terra e, and yes, there are spaceships and a bunch of fun futuristic doodads, plus cities on the moon and Mars and bases out at Jupiter and other places. Humankind has at last colonized the stars! That’s not the focus of the book, though. Bright is all about the journey of the titular Bright Sheraton from birth until young adulthood, and Bright kind of sucks. He thinks he’s all that and then some, he’s disdainful of pretty much everyone else in the world, and he’s on a singular mission to protect his younger twin sister, Nanae, from anyone who would harm her. He receives this mission on the day of their birth because oh yeah, he has telepathic abilities. Sure, why not? So his first memory is of being born and hearing a voice tell him to protect Nanae, who looks like a turnip. Yes, Bright got all the good looks and brains and everything, and Nanae is an ugly lump of a girl.
Then we jump ahead a few years to when he’s somehow making his riding instructor’s heart pound like the most handsome man on earth is flirting with her, which is creepy to say the least. But this uncomfortable scene is interrupted by Papa Sheraton’s helicopter coming down to land at the massive Sheraton estate. Turns out the Sheratons are maybe the richest people in the world? They own a whole bunch of stuff, anyway. Papa is super indulgent of his little princess, and 5-year-old Nanae looks like a normal girl and not a human turnip. But given her lack of big shojo eyes and the usual girly flourishes, we can safely assume that she is still no beauty. Bright knows this and he knows that people with be after her for her status and money, and so he must protect her.
All well and good until suddenly the astronaut Dan Mild shows up with his psychic wife who somehow becomes Bright’s tutor for no reason. She uses her psychic powers to appear before Bright as a girl the same age as he is for the flimsiest of reasons. And Mama Sheraton worked as Dan’s housekeeper until she finally agreed to marry Papa, but she longs to return to the position? Cleaning up after him is her passion? For some reason? Things are off to an unclear start!
Eventually, “protect Nanae” becomes “Nanae shall have no one other than me” when a potential suitor comes onto the scene, and Bright sends himself away to a training high school on Mars so he can become an astronaut. Except he can’t because he has to take over his dad’s company. There he uses his psychic powers to almost kill a classmate to teach him a lesson about…overcoming his past troubles? He does some networking, too, getting a terraforming project set up on Mars so that people can live without fear of shelters getting hit by asteroids. He’s a busy 16-year-old.
But all that astronaut stuff falls by the wayside when he meets the psychic projection of an unborn baby, with whom he promptly falls in love. Yes, this happens. His family and would-be friends try to save him from himself, while he is busy committing to a baby and their future together when she is all grown up.
I don’t usually dip so deep into the plot here, but I haven’t told you every wild detail. There’s plenty of weirdness left for you to discover! And me telling you all this will not detract in the least from the pleasure of reading the book. I guess this is a follow-up to Watashi o Tsuki Made Tsuretette!, which I haven’t read and maybe this book would make a lot more sense if I had. (I thought Bright was an entirely standalone work when I ordered it.) I feel like it actually wouldn’t, though. This series began in 2000 and ended in 2004, almost twenty years after Tsuki Made ended. Takemiya’s style and thinking no doubt changed quite a bit during those intervening years, not to mention that by 2000, her place as a master in the history of manga was firmly cemented. If you have a career as long and as storied as hers, I feel like you get to do a totally and unapologetically bonkers story at least once. And this is that story.