A few months ago, YNN Correspondent Brennan B suggested I read a series that follows a gay high school student as he comes to terms with himself and his sexuality. That sounded good to me, so here I am reviewing Volume 1 of Shimanami Tasogare (しまなみ誰そ彼 1) by Kamatani Yuuki. (You may, perhaps, recognize the author’s name as the creator of Nabari no Ou, which had it’s moment of fame in 2008-9.
Tasogare Shimanami begins with Tasuku, a stressed out high school student being bullied by his classmates who call him “Homo,” contemplating suicide. When he sees a woman apparently leap off an even higher ledge, he finds himself dragged into the lives surrounding the “consultation room,” a kind of cafe for outcasts. Compelled by “Dareka-san,” the woman no one really knows, Tasuku finds himself helping with a local non-profit group for the summer.
Tasuku isn’t gay, he insists at school, but when he meets Haruko who casually mentions she’s a lesbian and refers to her “wife,” Tasuku’s chest literally bursts with pent-up emotions and the pressure of the closet he’s created for himself. And, as he helps Haruko break up a decrepit shack in order to build a shelter for cats, he tears into his own fears and desires and finally admits to himself and others that, he is, after all, gay.
Aside from the mystery of Dareka-san, the story is a pretty straightforward coming out narrative, but one that is crucial for gay Japanese youth, No foreign setting here, nothing exotic, or unusual…this story is about an average Japanese high school student coming to terms with being gay in a society that has no place for gayness.
Of course, I approve that his mentor in this is an out, adult woman, comfortable with herself and her life, but that isn’t the whole story there, either. He wife isn’t nearly as comfortable as she and is very angry that she has been outed to some guy she doesn’t know. When Tasuku tells her that he too is gay, she is only partially mollified.
Also importantly, this book explains that there are online LGBTQ forums that are not focused around sexual encounters…Haruko explains that she met up with the other folks in the NPO on a board for LGBTQ community activism and volunteering. That alone makes the book a real treasure in my opinion. I understand that some folks miss the old gay bar culture, as centers of LGBTQ community life, but give me a good old online forum any day. ^_^
Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters- 8 I look forward to understanding them all better
LGBTQ – 10
Service – 0
Overall – 9
This was a great read, with both young and adult characters of varying ages and sexes to identify with.
Volume 2 is also available and I look forward to it very much. The series apparently had a booth at the 2015 Tokyo Rainbow Pride festival, where they were able to consult with many folks about LGBTQ life in Japan for verisimilitude. That gives me a lot of hope for the series.
Thanks Brennan for the suggestion and Hannah for the second opinion. Great catch!