Archive for the LGBTQ Category


LGBTQ Comic: Legend of Korra: Turf Wars, Part One

August 11th, 2017

 Legend of Korra: Turf Wars is a continuation of the Legend of Korra animated series, co-created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, illustrated by Irene Koh, published by Dark Horse Comics. Picking up immediately after the end of the cartoon, the story begins with Korra and Asami in the spirit world. Their vacation comes to an abrupt end when they encounter a hostile spirit, but, it turns out that their presence is needed in the human world. 

In their absence, there have been several major issues that have developed in and around Republic City. Refugees from the wars at the end of the cartoon remain unhoused and the mayor is uninterested in helping them beyond the minimum amount of support. he can provide while he focuses on reelection. Unsurprisingly, morale is low and tensions are high. A real estate developer with ties to organized crime is attempting to exploit the land around the new spirit portal, with plans to turn the spirit realm into a destination vacation. The spirits are not at all pleased with the idea. Every single sentence in this paragraph should make you roll your eyes and sigh with frustration at the timeliness of the narrative, (excepting, perhaps, the bit about the spirits and I’m not sure that isn’t true either.) As I pointed out today on Twitter, have we learned nothing from decades of Scooby-Doo reruns? Real estate developers are always the bad guys. Meanwhile Bolin and Mako have become police officers and work with Bei Fong to maintain the always-tenuous peace in Republic City as organized crime is once again growing in power.

The set-up here is multilayered and complicated, as it always was in the cartoon. Neither Avatar: The Last Airbender nor Legend Of Korra were simple tales of good and evil. Every plot and subplot had nuance. People had complicated reasons for their actions, their motivations were human and obtuse at times and the only truly “evil” characters are ideologues who benefited from the discord sowed by their rhetoric and the people that were controlled by it. (Another sigh seems appropriate at this point.)

And above and beyond all this completely realistic human conflict of resources, energy, ideology, needs and desires, Korra and Asami are working on fitting the unit that is “them,” as a couple, into everything. 

Their first task is coming out to Korra’s family, which goes well, but when her father suggests they be cautious about letting people know about their relationship, Korra predictably takes that very personally. Tension rises between Korra and her parents and Korra and Asami. Resolution cannot come in this first volume, but I expect it will be forthcoming.

It is Kya who provides context for us all, explaining that the Water Tribe tends to keep personal business very private, while the Fire Tribe had been open to same-sex couples until Sozin had outlawed it. The Earth Tribe, we learn, moves slowly and has not yet come around to accepting same-sex relationships. The Air Tribe alone has no issues at all with human sexuality is its many forms. Kya also speaks of a girlfriend, something that is nice to have surfaced. It provides Korra and Asami a person to speak candidly with…something that will no doubt be critical in the narrative. I hope so, at any rate.

The conversation with Kya is also key because it sets the table for what will have to be any number of outings in the course of the story, both private and public  – as it is in real life. Those of us who come out don’t just do it once.  The presumption of heterosexuality is pervasive and so we’re often required to out ourselves to complete strangers just to make a simple point. It’s not hard to see how Asami will be targeted to get to the Avatar, how the Avatar’s relationship will be used against her and how all the characters we know and some we do not yet know, will be reacting to this in some way.

Korra and Aasmi’s relationship is front and center by the end of the volume, when Korra, worried that Asami is hurt, kisses her in front of a crowd of people, including Bolin and Mako. Mako’s reaction is realistically complex for completely understandable reasons.

Characters are written consistently with the way they were presented with the cartoon- – not surprising as one of the co-creators is doing the writing. If anything, because of the limited page count, they are very much the essence of themselves. Pacing is quick. This volume feels like a very brisk 2 episodes of the cartoon, with slower moments implied, rather than lingered upon. Upon a second read, I’m impressed with how much ground they covered in 80 pages. There were a lot of conversations that had to be distilled down and still be handled with layers of meaning intact.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Service – 0
Yuri – 10

Overall – A very solid 9

My wife asked me if this book was everything I’ve ever wanted. After some thought I said, no, it isn’t, but it is everything that this book needs to be which, in a lot of ways is much better. There’s no age or grade rating on the book cover, but it displays the Nickelodeon logo prominently and is listed as Age Range 9-12, Grade Level 4-7 on Amazon. Which makes Turf Wars the tween LGBTQ book we all needed when we were kids. A nice older gay couple and a trans character or 3, maybe a non-binary character and it’ll start approaching perfect. ^_^ 

The creative team is very aware of their role in offering up solid queer representation for young people, as they say in this Entertainment Weekly interview with Koh and DiMartino. Koh describes herself as a “bisexual Asian martial artist” and she’s bringing both ethnic and sexual/gender diversity to the characters, as she told Comic Book Resources in May. Based on my first readthroughs, I trust them to do a good job. 

I think this comic will be good for comics in general, as it is #1 in all its Amazon categories at the moment. Like Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, (still #1 in gay manga!) sales are going to walk the walk and talk the talk that diversity is not something to be scared of in the comics world, no matter how loud the naysayers are. (And really, they aren’t loud, they are just used to having the mic.)

My very very sincere thanks to Okazu Superhero Eric P for sponsoring today’s review! This was awesome for me to come home to after Yurithon, and has already become part of my “don’t miss” Yuri presentation for 2017!

I’ve already given this book a second read and probably will pick it up for a third when Book 2 is released in the beginning of 2018!

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LGBTQ Manga: Shimanami Tasogare, Volume 1 (しまなみ誰そ彼 1)

August 8th, 2017

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. ^_^

Ratings: 

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!

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LGBTQ: Legend of Korra Turf Wars, Part One Preview on Amazon (English)

July 17th, 2017

Via Senior YNN Correspondent Eric P. we have some really exciting news today.  Legend of Korra: Turf Wars, Part One is due to hit shelves at the beginning of August and Amazon has a preview of the first chapter.

You know how I am with managing expectations, but for once, I have very high hopes that this book will break ground. And, from the glimpses I’ve had from the preview and the of-course leaked pages on the Internets, it look like our hopes will be realized. Korra and Asami will be balancing relationship and teamwork in this series. As the description reads, “In order to get through it all, Korra and Asami vow to look out for each other–but first, they’ve got to get better at being a team and a couple!

There, they said it.

I don’t know if this is the first mainstream large publisher, commercial property to ever say that so plainly or not, but it sure is one of the biggest YA franchises to do so. And certainly the only one I can think of where the lead was the one in the same-sex relationship, not a supporting role. We still love you Willow, just you weren’t Buffy… and I see all my favorite female characters stretching back to my childhood, all the almosts and might have and should have beens starting with like Jaimie Summers in the Bionic Woman. My life is littered with crumbs of female leads that ought to have been gay… and here we are. Finally. 2017 and we finally have a lead character of major commercial franchise who is a lesbian and the relationship is with another major character, not just someone to kill off.

Enjoy the preview and wait patiently a few more weeks. ^_^

Many thanks to Eric for the heads up and for the sponsorship!

 

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LGBTQ: Barnes & Noble Interview with Gengoroh Tagame

July 3rd, 2017

Brigid Alverson, writing for the Barnes & Noble blog has a wonderful interview with My Brother’s Husband creator Gengoroh Tagame. If you’ve ever wanted to ask him about being an out gay manga artist in Japan, here’s your chance to find out!

Openly Gay Manga Creator Gengoroh Tagame Talks Breaking Barriers with My Brother’s Husband

I was especially gratified to learn that Futabasha was supportive of his idea right from the start. As I keep saying, there’s someone on the staff there who is an ally.

 

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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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