Archive for the LGBTQ Category


LGBTQ Manga: Shimanami Tasogare, Volume 2 (しまなみ誰そ彼 2)

September 11th, 2017

Last month, I reported on a fascinating series called Shimanami Tasogare. In Volume 1, we met Tasuku, a young man who hadn’t, as of yet, come to terms with his homosexuality. When he meets a bunch of older gay folks working on a cat shelter, he finds a cause to volunteer his time for, and a place to open his heart.

In Shimanami Tasogare, Volume 2, (しまなみ誰そ彼) Tasuku gets to see what self-loathing looks like from the outside. One of the people who visits the consulting room is a young kid still in elementary school. Misora visits to change into female clothes and life. But Misora never seems particularly happy and is clearly struggling with what puberty is doing to her.  And, she has an ugly tendency to lash out whenever she feels that Tasuku gets too close.

Tasuku is starting think about his own feelings more honestly, and has now realized that he has a crush on an attractive classmate, Kiku-kun. Misora is not at all kind about the bits of information Tasuku shares. And every time Tasuku feels as if he’s gotten a little closer to Misora, she attacks him with a vitriol with which  – we can see  – she means to scar herself. The volume ends on a particularly harsh note, with Misora attacking Tasuku in public in front of the guy he likes at a festival. 

Tasuku retreats to to the unfinished shelter, to lay the shards of his emotions next to the broken beams of the building. The strong visual imaging this series gives to Tasuku’s emotions are just stellar.

Meanwhile, we are led to believe that Tasuku’s secret is out to a classmate we don’t know whether we can trust or not.

It’s an uncomfortable ending to an uncomfortable volume filled with the damage self-loathing does to one’s self and others, without a moral of the story to pretty it up. I’m compelled to read it nonetheless and am very interested to see where it leads.

Ratings: 

Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters- 8 
LGBTQ – 10
Service – 0

Overall – 9

The mysterious Dareka-san functions as a kind of guardian angel but, as a result, I really don’t want to know anything about her. I feel as if we’re going to learn it anyway. ^_^

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LGBTQ: Steven Universe, Season 6

September 8th, 2017

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In Season 1 of Steven Universe we met and learned about the Crystal Gems, friendly alien invaders from space. In Season 2 we began to really understand their history. Season 3 deepened our understanding of all the series’ characters and Season 4 brought the first major plots to fruition…and expanded our cast. In Season 5, Steven and we begin to understand that Rose Quartz was not necessarily the beacon of Good that she had been held up to be. As we learn about her flaws, Rose becomes exponentially more interesting.

In Season 6, we begin, at last to put all the pieces we’ve been given into some kind of picture. And the picture we’re getting is nothing like the one we expected.

We’re introduced to Blue Diamond in person. With the chance to directly compare her and Yellow Diamond, we start to get a little bit of a picture of an imperious royal class that understands little and cares not at all about the beings it rules. We spend a lot of time in space this season since, realistically, having neutralized The Cluster, any further contact with the Diamonds would have to be in space or on Homeworld, or Earth would be at risk. Space it is, then.

Several really significant things happened this season – Greg was introduced to just how vast the story in which his son is embroiled actually is. Steven is now very visibly showing signs of super strength, and becoming more confident with his powers. We visit Homeworld and learn that in a strictly defined hierarchy, there’s still an outcast underclass. Amethyst meets her family and finds that she’s just one of the gems after all.  I learned about Holly Blue Agate , a stone I had never heard of before. (Fairly remarkable, as I’ve been collecting semi-precious stones for decades…) and Lars…well…no,that’s a spoiler, I will not spoil.

We get to see that both Yellow and Blue Diamond have genuine affection for Pink Diamond (and I can’t help but wonder what White Diamond, who has never once been mentioned, but whose symbol we’ve repeatedly seen, is like.) In fact, during “What’s the Use of Feeling Blue,” we get the distinct feeling that Yellow Diamond surprises herself when she speaks of missing Pink Diamond.

But once again, the climax of the series is unexpected in ways that we couldn’t even have predicted. Once again we learn that the truth isn’t what we we were told it is, and it isn’t what others think it is, either. So…what is it? The fan theories are flying, thick and fast. ^_^

The last significant thing that happened is that my wife is hooked. Hah. ^_^ Now I can obsess and she’s totally into it. Gotcha. Hee Hee. Hee.

Art – 8
Story- 10
Characters – 10
Service – 1 on principle
Queerness – 7 Fluorite is a lovely nod to polyamory.

Overall – 10

Can’t wait for Season 7. Seriously.

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Event Report: Flamecon 2017

September 3rd, 2017

In the ancient days of anime fandom, it was a given that your very first time at a con was the best. It was all exciting and new, and being unable to differentiate between our own enthusiasm and others’, we remember it as being the most amazeballs thing. After that, we find ourselves going back, not liking the new anime, not caring about the cosplay as much, nothing in the DR is new, blah blah blah….

In direct reversal of that trend, I can’t help but notice that the cons I’ve been to this year are actually getting better. Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF) has a reputation for “this year is the best year ever” and I’m pleased to say that Flamecon seems to be headed in that direction, as well. Under the guidance of Geeks Out, this third year of Flamecon was the smoothest, most pleasant and fun so far. The volunteers were all wearing fetching little capes, which I though just perfect!

As I entered, I was given a special variant cover issue of Your Pal Archie #1, drawn by Dan Parent and written by Ty Templeton, that included Flamie, the Flamecon mascot on the cover. It’s all still very Archie inside, so sadly, not Betty and Veronica realizing they would make a great couple – which is literally the only thing that would get me interested in an Archie comic. ^_^ 

The dealer’s room is well laid out, with enough room for people to comfortably get to both sides of the aisle. 

I began my day talking to Cat and Erica from Margins Publishing, who were promoting Dates 2: Anthology of Queer Historical Fiction which I and many others supported on Kickstarter.  I asked them if any of the stories were continuations from the first Dates Anthology, Cat said that a few of the illustration pieces were following on from stories in the first collection, but that what they really tried to do was give people a little more space to develop characters and stories in this volume. 

I was able to meet Yamino, an artist I was introduced to by Ted the Awesome some years ago on Twitter. I had a lovely conversation with June Kim, who is an incredibly talented artist and creator of Tokyopop’s manga 12 Days. She’s working on food comics these day that look super fun and tasty. Take a look on her site for some examples.

Northwest Press was repped by owner Zan Christensen, who always has a bunch of exciting new projects on the stove. I enjoyed working with him for Absolute Power!: Tales of Queer Villainy and hope to work with him again. He and I agreed that for a hotel full of queer folks, the drama level at Flamecon was very chill.  I ran into a pile of fanart by Janet Sung for Yu Yu Hakusho, with much love for Kuwabara, which made me happy. 

Also in the DR was Justin Hall, editor of No Straight Lines, , co-chair of Queers & Comics 2017 and a great cartoonist in his own right. He was doing a booming business. I picked up a decidedly Utena-esque sticker from Kate Leth and a comic called Gamer Girl & Vixen about two young costumed criminal working out who they are and what they want to do. I was finally able to meet Megan Rose Gedris, and we spoke about Spectacle, her upcoming project about a circus, coming next year from Oni Press.

Magdalene Visaggio, one of the creators of Kim & Kim: This High-Flying Glamorous Rock Star Life, was at the show. She and her team are working on selling the book and it’s sequel as pamphlet comics as well as GNs. 

The highlight of my foray through the DR was getting to shake the hand of Tee Franklin, the powerhouse behind the upcoming Bingo Love.  I am not joking when I tell you that this is going to be THE book of 2018. It’s  already gotten a ton of press and ran an incredibly successful kickstarter…because the world needs and wants this book. I strongly recommend you pre-order it.  Tee is a talented woman and I’m pleased to have shaken her hand.

I presented one panel at Flamecon this year, Discovering New Yuri, which included so many of the amazing books and anime and cartoons and comics we have available. The room was full and the crowd was fantastic. Those of you who know my panels know that I strongly suggest people not ask me an opinion on a specific series, and I give prizes for good questions. It always works to get thoughtful, interesting and fun questions. Included in the presentation are several video clips, including the full Kase-san animation clip, Kimi ni Hikari. Listening to the reactions of the queer and queer-friendly audiences at Yurithon and Flamecn while watching this was fun for me. It has some amusing moments, but I know that people are laughing at themselves and that moment when they felt that, as much as they are that it’s just goofy. ^_^

 

 

For Flamecon I added in Do It for Her/Him from Steven Universe and it became a full-on sing-along, which thrilled me to no end. All in all a very satisfying panel, made even more so by being approached by some folks from Yen Press who were happy to see that the recommendations included their work.  

I was able to connect with two dear friends, Kerry and Jude, who had come down for the con, and we had a lovely time at lunch chatting about our various bits of research and writing and conning.  It was a lovely way to wrap up another lovely Flamecon!

If you are in, near or willing to travel to Brooklyn, New York next year, I wholeheartedly recommend Flamecon as a uniquely queer comic con, with lots of fantastic, queer-friendly cosplay.

 

As I was wrapping this all up I had the most extraordinary thought. Every single con I have attended in 2017 to date has been overtly queer-friendly or queer-focused. Queers & Comics, TCAF, Yurithon and Flamecon. What an extraordinary year 2017 has been for LGBTQ comic creators, publishers and readers. A blessing on all our heads, may we continue to flourish.

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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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