Archive for the Comic Essay Category


Sabishi-sugi Rezu Fuzoku ni Ikimashita Report (さびしすぎてレズ風俗に行きましたレポ)

November 4th, 2016

51a2nxeuzdl-_sx351_bo1204203200_Nagata Kabi’s Sabishi-sugi Rezu Fuzoku ni Ikimashita Report (さびしすぎてレズ風俗に行きましたレポ) was just licensed by Seven Seas as My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, so I bumped it up on the to-read pile, because I wanted to have my own impression of the work before reading it through the filter of a translator.

Nagata’s work was popular on the Japanese art platform Pixiv before it was picked up by East Press, a publisher that has given us a number of LGBTQ comic essays in the past few years. The story is an  autobiographical account of her struggle with depression, anorexia and anxiety far more than it is an account of her life as a lesbian.

The story begins as she is about to have sex with a woman, then immediately rewinds to ten years early as Nagata graduates high school. We watch as depression strips her of everything society holds up as the ideal of a human life. It’s a hard read, especially if you’ve been depressed, and know how heavy the burden is.

Nagata’s art isn’t super sophisticated, but it’s not bad. It isn’t a pretty manga – not that it has to be or that I expected it to be. The pink, white and black color scheme, and her art style combined to make it a more jarring experience, which I believe was the intent. The color scheme and art make it hard to avoid the prickly emotions of the story.

She ends up with a life and a career, but the loneliness is still there, although lessened. One closes the books with a prayer that she has some good people in her life now, who will fill some of those emotional and physical needs.

I think the story will resonate for a lot of people, although I am not one of them. I’m accustomed to my own bouts of depression and burn-out, but do not find solace in other people’s tales of their own experience. (I understand that this makes me atypical, but why should today be any different? ^_^) Nonetheless, I can easily imagine a lot of people will feel validated by this book and the knowledge that they are not alone in their travails.

I’ll be very interested to see what you all have to say about the English-language version of this when it is released next year!

Ratings:

Art – 6
Story – 7
Character – 7
Service – 2
Yuri – 7

Overall – 7

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LGBTQ: Okaasan Futari Itemo Iikana!? (お母さん二人いてもいいかな!?)

January 18th, 2016

2momsIf you read a lot of manga, especially shoujo and shounen manga, you’ll have encountered author’s notes and quite possibly you’ll have thought something like, “Really? You’re writing a note to millions of fans and all you have to say is that you like jelly?” But, when you think about it, we all know manga creators are put through a grinder of deadlines and appearances and it’s probably not all that surprising that they have relatively bland personal lives. If you’re out partying, you’re not at the drawing board, so…. But yeah, it would be nice sometimes to know a little more about the manga artists we love. Maybe the name of their lover, or about a hobby besides drawing manga.

In Okaasan Futari Itemo Iikana!? (お母さん二人いてもいいかな!?), Nakamura Ching-sensei, writing here under her real name, Nakamura Kiyo, gives us an  unprecedented honest and intimate look at her personal life. She lives with her wife (in name only, as Japan does not legally recognize same-sex marriage), Satsuki, and is stepmother to Satsuki’s three sons.

The book takes a good hard look at Kiyo’s and Satsuki’s relationship, opening up a few cans of worms along the way. We learn of Kishie-san, Nakamura-sensei’s deceased first wife, and about abuse in Satsuki’s  and Kiyo’s past (Of which we knew some from Dare mo Korinai.) This books includes thoughts about the tentative legal standing their relationship has and the importance of acceptance by the people around them.

But mostly, this is a book about life with a wife and three sons. An intimate, sometimes touching, look at the personal life of a lesbian couple in Japan today, and an extraordinary look into the life of a favorite manga creator.

Ratings:

Overall – 8

In places this volume is very difficult, in others triumphant…just like life.

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LGBTQ: Manga de Tsuzuru Yurina Hibi /まんがで綴る百合な日々

August 13th, 2015

download5-e1429832392551Tanu is a careerwoman, Negi is her lover, and their story – how they met, what their life is like together, what their plans for the future are – make up this non-fiction comic essay, Manga de Tsuzuru Yurina Hibi (まんがで綴る百合な日々).

Their story is fairly typical – they talk about recognizing that they liked women in school, how they met at a drinking party and became friends, then lovers and eventually moved in together. The very calm predictability of it is what makes it worth reading. It’s utterly relatable. The end of the book is a Q&A with Tanu and Negi, moderated by lesbian talent and author, Makimura Aasako (author of Doukyonin no Bishoujo ga Lesbian Datta Ken and Yuri no Real.

The text is all handwritten, which makes this book a challenge for readers like myself and the story is not exciting, per se, but this is another great addition to our comic essay library of adorable examples of lesbian life in book form.

Ratings:

Art – 5 Cute cartoons, rather than sophisticated art.
Story – 6 Slice of life
Characters – 7

Overall – 7

I would have given this book a higher rating if Tanu and Negi were comfortable enough to show their faces. As it is, they are clearly not out, so the normality of their life depends upon a certain amount of secrecy and is therefore not actually normal.  I sympathize, but….

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LGBTQ Comic: Doukyonin no Bishoujo ga Lesbian Datta Ken (同居人の美少女がレズビアンだった件)

February 22nd, 2015

DnBgLdKMakimura Asako is a woman who, for the last few years, has been working very hard to make a name for herself in Japan as a LGBTQ advocate and activist with books like Yuri no Real and her essay on being a “Yuri” otaku in the Eureka “Current State of Yuri Culture” issue. In Doukyonin no Bishoujo ga Lesbian Datta Ken (同居人の美少女がレズビアンだった件), she and her erstwhile roomate, artist Koike Miki, create an autobiographical comic essay about her life.

The principle concept is that in expensive Tokyo, there are “share houses” which function much like a dormitory – as many as 16 people in a room with bunk beds, sharing a kitchen and bath facilities. Koike, having come to Tokyo for a job, finds herself renting space in a share house and meeting Makimura. Makimura Asako, former Miss Japan finalist and TV personality, comes out to her housemates and they just sort of all get over themselves.

The middle of the book is more autobiography about Makimura’s life and experiences coming out and building a career post-coming out. And then…she falls in love. Her girlfriend, known here as “Mori-girl” or “Moriga” for short, is a French woman who was into anime that ran on French TV, learned Japanese and came to the land of miruku and hachimitsu. She and “Makimuuu~” meet at a club and fall in love. Now the housemates have to not only deal with the idea of a lesbian, but the actuality of a lesbian couple.

Ultimately, Koike and Makimura move out together, while Makimura travels the world, Koike stays behind to work on this book, which was, in part, motivated by Higashi Koyuki and Masahara Hiroko’s own bio comic essay Lesbian-teki Kekkon Seikatsu. We get a little side trip into Koike’s interest in having a romantic partner, but not much. There is quite a lot about Makimura meeting and being accepted by her French in-laws, and a bit about Same-Sex Marriage becoming legal in France. These are paralleled by Koike’s struggle to make the book work, and her editor’s coming out as Trans*.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 10
LGBTQ – 10

Overall – 10

Overall, this is a pleasant read, with an emphasis on the cute and silly moments, and nods to the struggles of LGBTQ folks, without wallowing. If I were teaching a class in Japan on LGBTQ issues, this seems like it would make a nice addition to the curriculum.

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LGBTQ Manga: Lesbian-teki Kekkon Seikatsu (レズビアン的結婚生活 )

October 27th, 2014

ltksIn spring 2013, Higashi Koyuki and Masahara Hiroko made waves all around the world with the first ever same-sex wedding ceremony at Tokyo Disneyland Resort (TDR). The two are both activists and writers, and their story was widely shared around the Internet and in print publications.

Lesbian-teki Kekkon Seikatsu (レズビアン的結婚生活 ) is the manga retelling of their story. Beginning with their decision to do a wedding ceremony at Disneyland and their experiences convincing TDR to accommodate them, the story is a very honest, very real, touching and sometimes painful discussion of their lives, their lives together and their love for one another.

Koyuki-san, a former Takarisienne, is the more high-strung of the two. She has also written a book about familial abuse she suffered as a child. After flashbacks to her first love in school, we hear very little about her life, except to mention briefly how difficult life at Takarazuka is.

Hiroko-san is, of the two, the way more mellow personality. We get a fair amount of detail about her life, and her relationship to her parents, all of which is actually relevant to the narrative at hand, as her parents help pay for the extravaganza. Her father’s speech at their wedding is illustrated with guests bawling happily and I was no different. Hiroko-san’s parents were, in some ways, the real heroes of the book.

My favorite chapter tells of Koyuki-san asking Hiroko-san to propose to her romantically, then grading her half-hearted attempts. My favorite was the moment Hiroko-san came home. “I’m in the bathroom,” Koyuki-san says. “Let’s get married,” Hiroko-san says. “Negative 5 points,” is the reply. ^_^

Many of these flashbacks are related as answering questions from the wedding guests. When did you come out? Where did you meet? Who proposed? All told with humor and honesty, interspersed with educational essays about LGBTQ terminology, coming out and other LGBTQ life issues.

The artwork by Sugiyama Eriko is appealing and cute, rather than realistic. It balances out the heavier moments well and allows readers to focus on the story and the people, rather than getting lost in detail.

If you can read even a little Japanese, I’d recommend this book with all my recommends. The story it tells is a moment of history that may well be the moment a tide turned. This is as real as real gets.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 10
LGBTQ – 10

Overall – 10

Koyuki-san and Hiroko-san have written a second book, about becoming mothers, titled Futari no Mama kara, Kimi-tachi he, so you can follow their continuing story. ^_^

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