Archive for the LGBTQ Category


LGBTQ Manga: My Brother’s Husband, Volume 1 (English)

June 25th, 2017

Yaichi is not a typical Japanese man. He is a single father and works at home, raising his young daughter, Kana. But, in most things, he thinks of himself as completely typical. He believes in the social order as it was presented to him….even though he himself has failed to completely conform.

When Yaichi’s late brother’s husband arrives from Canada to learn about his husband’s early life, everything Yaichi thinks he believes in will be challenged.

My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame is a beautiful story about the passive homophobia of “good” and “decent” people and how being made uncomfortable can lead to change.

The catalyst to this change is Mike Flanagan. Mike is Canadian and openly gay. He’s come to Japan to be closer to his late husband, Ryoji. Yaichi is made deeply uncomfortable by this physical reminder that his brother was gay, and felt that he needed to leave Japan, but when Kana intercedes on her new-found uncle’s behalf, he invites Mike to stay with them.

Mike spends his time exploring locations from Ryoji’s youth. Yaichi spends his time recoiling from Mike’s emotional connection to his brother. As Yaichi comes closer and closer to recognizing his own homophobia, it’s Kana who always puts her finger on his sore spots.  In her innocence, she asks questions Yaichi doesn’t have the bravery to ask, and in doing so, she’s the one who highlights the hypocrisy of adults.

Tagame-sensei’s art is beautiful and his love of men’s bodies is apparent. But it’s his gentle touch with painting men’s emotional life that really makes this book stand out. Because, My Brother’s Husband runs in Monthly Action, a manga magazine for adult men. These men have been trained by society to not ask the questions and to be embarrassed by those who do. Kana serves to help them learn, while Yaichi allows them to share that embarrassment, and come to understand that ignorance breeds that embarrassment, and fear. 

The Japanese volumes for this series also include LGBTQ-community terminology and history in short essays between chapters. Explanations of gay pride and same-sex marriage and what LGBTQ means are discussed without complication…for the audience of Yaichis for whom this manga is written. These essays have been left out of the English edition and I’m torn on whether I think that a good or bad thing.

While in Japanese, this series is 4 volumes, (Here are links to Okazu Reviews for  Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3, with Volume 4 being released in July 2017,) the English-language edition has broken the story into two beautifully-made hardcover volumes of approximately manga dimensions. The final pages include storyboard pages from the work. 

If you have not already read this manga, I highly suggest that it would be an excellent Pride Month read.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 9
Characters – 10
LGBTQ – 10
Service – 4

Overall – 10

In America, this is an important and exceptional work – in Japan it is groundbreaking as a LGBTQ-themed fiction manga by an openly gay creator, running in a manga magazine for adult men. I hope it is beginning of positive change.

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Yuri Manga: Fujyourina Atashi-tachi ( 不条理なあたし達)

May 24th, 2017

One of the qualities of a maturing genre is inclusion of non-trope material.For Yuri that means relationships involving adult women, especially women not in a school/college situation, and relationships that aren’t all rosy cheeks and “We’ll be together forever.”

In Fujyourina Atashi-tachi ( 不条理なあたし達) by Takemiya Jin, we get both these things at the same time. In the first short story, a woman has terrible taste in men and complains to her kouhai constantly until they kind of realize they might want to be together. In the second stoy, a woman is necessarily cruel to a coworker who likes her, because she likes her, which gives her a measure of power over the other woman.

The bulk of the book is a convoluted and, in many ways, dysfunctional relationship between Yamanaka and Taneda, colleagues in an office. Yamanaka is a selfish person, uninterested in other people. When she starts feeling a little attracted to Taneda, on the assumption that Taneda’s straight, she basically is barely civil. When Taneda invites her out to a local lesbian bar, their relationship becomes more  a lot more mean-spirited and fascinatingly (rather than destructively) manipulative. Yamanak starts of thinking she’s manipulating Tanedabut she’s not right. Where Taneda appears at first to be the baby seal waiting to be clubbed, in the end she’s the one who manges to train Yamanaka into being a human.

It’s a story about two crappy people who end up with a happy ending that they actually deserve. It was such a decent story, I read it twice through.

Ratings:

Art – 8 Her ability to capture complex expressions is still her strong point
Characters – 8 Not one of these people who be invited over for lunch. They are all kind of assholes. ^_^
Story – 8 Complex, adult, bitter and deep
Lesbian – 10

Overall – 8

This is Takemiya-sensei at her best, drawing short, pithy stories of lesbian life. Even when you don’t like the characters, she pulls a good story out of them. And this, while no “happily-ever-after,” is a good story.

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LGBTQ Manga: My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness (English)

May 19th, 2017

Nagata Kabi made a huge splash on online art community Pixiv with her heartfelt and honest autobiographical comic, in which she discussed her depression, the eating disorder she developed as a result and the long path to recovery and hope. East Press picked up Nagata-san’s narrative from it’s online home and printed it in book form. When I reviewed 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) in 2016, I was convinced there was no chance we’d ever see it in English. I am so pleased to be completely wrong about that. ^_^

There are several amazing things about this book right on the surface. The publisher in English is Seven Seas, which has shown a genuine desire to be a Yuri powerhouse in the western manga market, but which – up until now – has favored moe schoolgirls over lesbians. I don’t blame them, I’m not criticizing…if anything I’m thankful that this is so out of their wheelhouse. Unlike something steeped in genre tropes like Hana & Hina Afterschool, I think Kabi Nagata’s My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness has a significant chance of reaching a non-manga-reading audience with a story that will very likely be meaningful for them. This is no Sweet Blue Flowers, this is a fairly brutal tale of a real life in crisis.

The most notable thing about this story is not that the artist is a lesbian. It’s that the Pixiv response to this woman’s honesty about her detachment from herself ,shows that a lot of people (not just in Japan) find themselves completely alienated from their own needs at an even earlier age these days than previously. The “mid-life” crisis has become just a “life crisis.” Pixiv readers resonated with this idea of the life one assumed one was supposed to have, the self-flagellation of not being able to even so much as fake that, and the breakdown when it all becomes too much. I sometimes think about the desperate loneliness of men and women in earlier centuries, unable to access – or even perhaps conceive –  of a life more emotionally fulfilling than the one they occupied.

The complete honesty of this story is moving. It hurts watching Nagata-san struggle…even when I know that she would come out the other end of this long tunnel.  

In my review of the Japanese volume I said “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 stand by this, but want to amend that the language barrier did affect me after all, because in English I was more deeply touched by the words. For that, I need to give my sincere thanks to translator Jocelyne Allen and adaptor Lianne Sentar (for whom I also owe thanks for the review copy!) Technically, this book looks awesome, maintaining the original three color interior of the original. And for that, I thank Lissa Patillo and all the fine folks at Seven Seas. You did an especially good job, with an especially challenging and especially worthy manga.

Which brings me to the final notable point about this book. It will officially hit shelves on June 6 and is already the #1 top selling manga in the Yaoi, Gay & Lesbian manga category! (And, almost in the top 5000 for books in general, wow.) When I checked yesterday Yuri manga filled 6 of the top 10 slots in that category, along with Hana & Hina Afterschool , Bloom Into You, and the Kase-san series (especially Kase-san and Bento, Volume 2 of the series), it’s something I never expected to see, and it warmed the cockles of this Yuri-lover’s heart.

Ratings:

Art – 6
Story – 8
Character – 8
Service – 2
Yuri – 7

Overall – 8

Please buy this book, so we get more Yuri about lesbians. Please buy this book so we get more comic essays by lesbians. Buying this book lets Seven Seas know that you want lesbians in your Yuri. ^_^ And tell everyone you know about it. This book is, along with My Brother’s Husband, a game-changer.

And, while you’re at it, let Amazon know that the category title ought to be Yaoi, Yuri, Gay & Lesbian. I’ve written them to ask for it to be changed. If you write them, too, maybe they’ll change it!

 

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LGBTQ Comic: Princess Princess Ever After

May 12th, 2017

There is a (probably apocryphal) story about the late Joseph Campbell, when teaching a class about his now-classic Hero’s Journey Monomyth. The story says that at the end of a lecture on the Arthurian quest legends about the Holy Grail, one of his students asked why there were no roles in the legends with which women could identify. Campbell was puzzled and pointed out that women are present as the hero’s mother, the hero’s queen, and the damsel-in-distress. “What more do you want?” he asked. “I want to be the hero.” the student replied.”

I recall that it was Bill Moyers telling that story, but itw as also a long time ago and I could be so very wrong. But the story itself, when I heard it had me nodding like a melodramatic bobble head. Of course, you stupid-smart old man. OF COURSE we want to be the hero. How and why this confused Campbell and still confuses an awful lot of men is the history of western civilization and beyond the scope of this blog. But, what is dead-center in this blog’s wheelhouse is a story that does not need to be convinced of this simple truth. Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill is a lifetime’s worth of itch-scratching and fantasy fulfillment suitable for the youngest or oldest child you know.

Princess Amira cuts a fine figure in uniform, with her fabulous hair, riding on her unicorn mount, Celeste. And when she encounters Sadie, a princess who has been imprisoned in a tall tower, she’s sure that’s she’s found both the perfect monumental adventure, and princess, for her. But first, she has to convince Sadie to be rescued. And then both Sadie and Armina must work together to face challenges and ogres and traumatic pasts. But since they do it together, you just know they’ll triumph in the end.

Although my childhood self might have scoffed at the simplicity of the tale here (she was prone to reading the story of Marco Polo, tales of Robin Hood and King Arthur in overblown faux-medieval prose) she would definitely, positively appreciated Armina’s uniform, her unicorn and her love for Sadie.

Ratings:

Art – 8 Fun and comic strip-y
Characters – 9 Ogres and unicorns and dragons and princesses. I’m all in.
Story – 9 Ichijinsha needs to read this, then take another crack at Yuri Light Novels. See? It’s easy!
Yuri – 9 and utterly adorable
Service – Nope. Well, there’s Armina in a uniform….

Overall – 9

Do the adventurous girl children you know a favor and buy them an early holiday present. Heck, buy them a not-holiday present. And get a copy of Princess Princess Ever After for yourself, so you can dream of dancing with ogres and facing bullies down and give ole misogynist Joseph Campbell the finger. ^_^

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LGBTQ: Love is Love Anthology (English)

April 3rd, 2017

On June 12, 2016, in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida a self-loathing, broken man decided that the best way to handle his problems was to take it out on innocent strangers. He hated his ethnicity and his sexuality, so he chose a gay nightclub that served as a refuge for LGBTQ people of color. Instead of taking his own life, he took 49 other people’s. For no goddamn good reason. And, it being America, it was easy for him to get the weapons and ammunition he needed, because we wouldn’t want to regulate that even as much as we regulate driving a car.  

So one more asshole guy got to destroy lives and we got to mourn…again.

 IDW and DC Comics teamed up to create a tribute comic anthology and so Love Is Love was born to raise money for survivors and victims’ families.The 1st print edition sold out quickly, which is testament to the desire to do good so many people have. I picked up a copy of the Digital Edition.

The anthology is beautifully done, with a lot of different perspectives…many of them exceptionally beautifully rendered. 

And it made me so angry I could barely get through it.

Batman was not going to help those kids. Neither was Superman or Wonder Woman. Every time a DC character made an appearance, I wanted to scream. Particularly during a story by Dan fucking Didio, the woman-hating fragile white dude  who had to be pulled from DC panels some years ago because he was so rude to fans, especially to women. What does that say about the horrible wasteful loss of life? What lesson did he learn imagining Batman in rainbow colors, lecturing us on loss? Fuck that so very much.

/Deep breath./

Legitimately, every use of DC characters fell flat as a board for me. Even the exceptionally pretty Batwoman with Gay Pride Flag by Rafael Albuquerque.

It was just all so “Nope.”

That said, there were a lot of genuinely touching stories. The ones that worked, dropped the facade if the superhero tie-in and talked about how heroic it is to be gay and joyful in a world with fragile cowardly assholes with guns.  I particularly like the one-pager by Teddy Tennebaum, Mike Huudleston and Corey Breen that called the bravery it takes – still – to love freely and openly “super-love.”

I was very glad to see openly gay artists like Ed Luce and Paige Braddock included.  I also very much appreciated those well-known straight artists who took the time to portray LGBTQ people, People of color, gay kids and trans kids, at The Pulse itself, rather than stupid Batman. 

Ratings:

Overall – I don’t know what to say. Probably it’s an 8, but it made me so angry I can’t even.

I’m pretty sure I’m not sorry I got this collection and maybe one day I’ll be able to read it without white-hot searing rage.

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