The gang returns for another manga review podcast, this time focusing on single-volume titles! Dee, Vrai, and Caitlin share faves and flops.
Date Recorded: Sunday 3rd March 2019
Hosts: Dee, Vrai, Caitlin
0:01:41 Fast Pitch: Jackass
0:08:42 Two to Mango (Side A): Claudine
0:14:08 License Rescue 911: Heart of Thomas
0:21:30 Group Hug (Side A): The Bride was a Boy
0:27:50 Hit Me with Your Best Sell: All My Darling Daughters
0:33:54 Oh No, It’s Complicated!: Not Simple
0:43:48 ManGRRRR Corner: MW
0:49:17 Two to Mango (Side B): In Clothes Called Fat
0:57:32 Group Hug (Side B): Go For It, Nakamura!
VRAI: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Vrai, an editor and contributor at Anime Feminist. You can find my work by going to my pinned Tweet on Twitter, @writervrai, or you can find the other podcast I cohost, @trashpod.
And with me today are two other AniFem staff members, Dee and Caitlin.
CAITLIN: Hi, I’m Caitlin. I’m a writer and editor for Anime Feminist, as well as a reviewer for The Daily Dot. I have my own blog, I Have a Heroine Problem, which is coming up on a year without an update.
DEE: I was gonna throw in a little sad trombone but I don’t have a Foley sound effect board. I really should get one so that I can throw in a little “womp womp.”
And I’m Dee. I’m the managing editor at Anime Feminist. I also run the anime blog, The Josei Next Door, and you can find me on Twitter, @joseinextdoor.
VRAI: And this is the second outing of our manga cast. The last one, you may recall, we did around Halloween, and folks seemed to really like it, so we’re taking a second shot at it. Our plan kind of loosely is to structure these—because there’s so much manga in the world—so, our plan is to loosely structure these around a basic theme, and then cluster together maybe eight or ten titles that we can talk about in brief.
DEE: It’s a variety hour.
VRAI: Yeah, exactly. It’s as though Dee cleverly named it and I stomped all over it. So, as always, in the second time that we’ve done this, we open these with the manga Fast Pitch, which is where we kind of give you a brief snapshot—four to five minutes to warm you up and get into things—where somebody brings in a title that they want you to know about real quick. And, in this case, Caitlin, you’re on deck.
DEE: We make our own sound effects here.
CAITLIN: [flatly] Woo. All right. Well, now you caught me not paying attention until you said my name and now I feel like a real jackass, which is good, ’cause the manga I’m here to tell you about is Jackass!
Jackass is a BL series—not series. A BL one-shot manga by Scarlet Beriko, the first of hers to come to the US—
DEE: Hey, did we specify in the intro that our theme of this Manga Variety Hour is one-shots?
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] No, I don’t think we did!
VRAI: Oh, God, no! [crosstalk; through laughter] I just said there were themes!
DEE: We just mentioned that each episode is themed. Try to figure out what the theme is!
VRAI: It’s a game!
DEE: It’s a game now. Oh Lord. Okay, folks at home. We clearly have our shit together on this podcast, and our theme this time around is “One-Shot Wonders.” Which means we’re doing one-shot volumes of manga, for you folks at home.
CAITLIN: I feel like Griffin McElroy, in those episodes where he’s just sitting there going, “Yeah, this intro is terrible.”
CAITLIN: We did it bad this time, guys.
DEE: And then we promise to cut it out and we don’t actually cut it out.
VRAI: This will be reproduced in full.
DEE: Yes, naturally.
VRAI: I say as I rapidly start typing author and publisher information into the chat.
CAITLIN: Well, it’s good that we all feel like jackasses now.
DEE: [Laughs] We’ve still got our segue.
VRAI: We do!
CAITLIN: So, yes. Jackass is a one-shot by Scarlet Beriko. The manga features Keisuke Hara, who is a hardworking young man whose parents aren’t around, living with his older sister and his childhood friend, Masayuki Shinoda, who’s a wealthy young womanizer.
One day, Keisuke accidentally puts on his sister’s tights because of plot reasons… [Laughs] Forced plot reasons, let’s be real. And discovers that Masayuki has a major fetish for nice legs wearing stockings. And things kind of go wild from there. Masayuki claims that he really only wants to get a chance to love up on Keisuke’s legs, but then Keisuke starts realizing he has troublesome feelings, helped along by his gay friend.
It is, overall, a really sweet BL title. It’s not just that sweet. It’s that combination of sweet and sexy that can be really hard to achieve. I love a lot of BL titles that are really sweet, but the sweet ones tend to be less graphic. Jackass is pretty graphic. It’s got dicks.
VRAI: Not cones of light? Real dicks?
CAITLIN: Not cones… Well, they have little, teeny, tiny skinny bars over—
VRAI: [Laughs] I love the dick bars.
CAITLIN: But you can see pretty much everything. But that’s not… I’m not reading it just for the dicks.
Uh, Keisuke and Masayuki are sort of like, generally, “I never knew I was gay until this happened,” but there’s not a whole ton of angst about it and Masayuki’s mostly just like, “Yeah, I just like nice legs.”
It is… There are some question marks about consent, but there is no, “I’m gonna force myself on you and then you’re gonna like it.” More like walking up to your friend and then jacking them off with your foot and he’s just like, “Oh, well, this is happening? Okay.” [Cracks up]
I’m not doing a really good job selling this.
VRAI: I feel like I get what you mean though. I’ve heard good things about Jackass before in terms of—let’s be real, BL is graded on a curve, unfortunately.
CAITLIN: Yes. Yes.
VRAI: So there’s a lot of, like, if it’s one of those, “Oh, in the heat of the moment, but, really, they were into it,” as opposed to holding someone down while they go, “No, no, no,” but then reconsider it later… [quietly] which happens way too much.
CAITLIN: Yes. That is really mostly what it comes down to, is there’s not necessarily explicit consent all the time, but everyone is generally having a good time. Everyone’s having fun. There is an actual, out gay character. On the back cover, he is wearing a shirt that says, “I have a big dick.”
CAITLIN: That communicates a lot about who he is as a character. Unfortunately, he is also in the dreaded teacher/student romance.
VRAI: When will we be free?
CAITLIN: [Groans] I know! They’re not the main characters, at least.
DEE: [wincing] Are they in college, at least? Is it just unethical?
CAITLIN: High school.
CAITLIN: High school seniors.
DEE: [disappointed] Ooookay, well…
CAITLIN: They are high-school seniors who are on track to graduate and go to college.
Dialogue is really snappy. The characters are a lot of fun and fun to spend time with. The art is beautiful. No yaoi hands here. Everyone’s proportionate.
VRAI: A miracle.
CAITLIN: And it’s a very sweet, fun time. And it’s great for people who want to read about boys kissing boys and then also boys having sex with boys who don’t want to deal with a lot of the typical yaoi bullshit.
Yeah, no, Jackass! Go for it if you have any interest in reading about consensual gay sex. [Through laughter] And Keisuke’s legs really are very nice. Masayuki is a smart man.
VRAI: Is it one that actually has a physical release? ‘Cause I feel like a lot of BL either does very small made-to-order print runs, or it’s entirely digital these days.
CAITLIN: Oh, yeah. No, I was right. It is Viz’s Sublime line, so it is a really, really nice volume. About standard quality for what Viz puts out. I’m pretty sure it’s still available. It’s garnered a lot of positive press.
VRAI: So if you’re looking for hornier BL and don’t want to wind up smack-dab in the middle of a rape scene, it seems like a good one for you.
But I think it is time for us to dance from stockings and high heels on into the Two to Mango segment, which is where two of the people on the podcast have read a series, and they do a quick deep-dive on it. In this case, we went with Claudine, by Ryoko Ikeda, who is more famous for Rose of Versailles, which we will definitely see in print someday. For real. Thanks, Udon.
VRAI: Thankfully, in the meantime, this short story was released by Seven Seas, who does a really nice job with releases and picking up diverse titles. Thank God. This was released in 1978, and it gives me feelings. I was… I read it purely for historical reasons.
This is the story of Claude. “Claudine” is his given name at birth. Who is… He’s an AFAB trans man, and it’s sort of the story of his life as related by a psychologist, and of course, it’s tragic because it’s the ‘70s.
So, I initially read it for historical completionist reasons, ’cause I can count the number of trans men in manga on one hand, and was surprised by how much I really, really liked it. It displays a respectfulness for Claude’s character that I am hard up to find even in a lot of present-day manga.
It does end in suicide, though. Just as a heads-up. That’s one of those things that I don’t tend to consider, “Oh, this needs a spoiler warning.” It’s just a straight-up content warning. “Ah, how tragic is it that the world could not accept this person just trying to live his life,” kind of story.
VRAI: The art is gorgeous. It’s Ikeda, one of the Magnificent 49-ers, and it’s got an incredible amount of pathos. There is… I think I screenshotted it on my Twitter, and I’ll try to find it and link it maybe when the transcript for this comes out, where there’s a page out saying, “No, you are clearly a man born in the wrong body.”
And, again, manga is much more likely to lean on the narrative that these are tomboyish women, or that they will kind of come out and realize that they had secret feminine or motherly instincts all along, so it kind of hit me right in the feels in a way that I wasn’t expecting.
Yeah, so that’s where I’m at with that. It was real good. I might have teared up a little bit.
DEE: Yeah, I did too. The early parts have very much the kind of melodramatic vibe to them that a lot of… I’m somewhat familiar with Ikeda’s work, mostly through anime. Because, you know, nothing of hers has been out in manga form until Claudine in English. And I bought it largely because I was like, “Oh, hell yes, we need more Ryoko Ikeda in English. I’m 100% preordering this, no questions asked about what the material is.”
And then, yeah. I found it very affecting. It is a difficult read, again, ’cause it starts off feeling kind of… Not standard, exactly, but it’s got a very melodramatic, love-triangle type vibe to it, in a way that’s reminiscent of a lot of heterosexual shoujo-type stories from that period. But, in this case, one of the characters is a trans man.
So, it starts off in that vein, and then really digs into… In a way that I was very surprised to see in a 1978 manga… It holds up well the way it handles the trans issues, like you were saying, Vrai.
I think that really surprised me at how… It hits hard. It’s a tough read. I remember you told me you hadn’t read it yet, and I was like, “Oh, it’s a rough one at points, so just take care.” Because I think it does hit on some of the more realistic issues as far as some of the scenes where Claude is misgendered are—with Ryoko Ikeda’s typical dramatic flair—but it really captures the emotional hurt of that feeling.
So, yeah. I was impressed by it in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I’m kind of content-warning it for folks, like you said, as far as reading it as a modern reader… If you’re not looking for it in terms of… If you go in knowing the time period and how it’s going to end, I think it’s a very valuable read, but obviously not everyone wants to read that, which is totally fair.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s not… It’s one of those stories where literally everything that happens to Claude is bad? Even the brief moments of happiness are the precursor to something even more tragic happening. But it held on to me with the dignity that his character maintains throughout.
DEE: Yeah, absolutely.
VRAI: Even when these grand… People are throwing themselves on divans and there are rose petals and it’s very tragic.
But, yeah. I think if you know what you are getting into and are okay with that… Emotionally, you’re in a place where you’re up for that, it’s really good. And absolutely we should be supporting Seven Seas’ attempts to bring more classic shoujo manga over.
DEE: Yes, for sure.
VRAI: Which doesn’t happen that often. And there’s a reason for that. Perhaps it’s because—[flatly] oh no, I hear the sirens of my rage—
DEE: [Mimics siren]
VRAI: License Rescue 911! This is the portion of the show where I will try not to be too aggressively angry at Fantagraphics’ business model. So, the License Rescue 911 is for Heart of Thomas, by Moto Hagio. Originally released by Fantagraphics in 2013, it went out of print over Christmas this last year, end of the year 2018.
Fantagraphics is basically a bespoke, boutique manga publisher and comic publisher. They do a lot of classic collections of Western comics, and they’ve kind of carved out a little niche for themselves doing essentially older shoujo works, specifically Hagio’s.
And they did that aborted run of Wandering Son, where they made these truly beautiful collections, [becoming progressively more annoyed] but nobody bought them because they were hardcovers and it’s like a 15-volume series and the readers who needed to get that manga, specifically young, trans readers, are, you know… trans folks are three times more likely to be unemployed or to face issues with discrimination at work or homelessness, and maybe they can’t afford to buy fifteen $20 hardcover novels that never come out digitally or in paperback, Fantagraphics.
They make me very angry.
DEE: Yeah, it’s a terrible business model. I hate it, too.
VRAI: Yeah, they’ve just… I actually own Heart of Thomas. It’s quite a beautiful volume. Rachel Thorn, who is a translator, wrote some amazing essays beforehand. They are quite good, but they’re incredibly inaccessible; and now this one, for instance, is out of print, and they do not pursue digital releases of their titles even after print runs run out, so now it’s just kind of not a thing anymore, and I hate that.
CAITLIN: I’m really lucky. My library actually carries a lot of Fantagraphics books.
DEE: Yeah, that’s how I was able to read the bits of Wandering Son that made it stateside was through my library. Because otherwise I kept looking at the volumes and going, “I just can’t do 20 bucks a volume. Sorry, guys!”
VRAI: Yeah. For a really long-running series. And The Poe Clan is coming out this summer and I will be buying that, because of course I will, but it’s gonna be 50 bucks for one volume, which is not the whole series.
DEE: Ooh, that is… That’s miserable. Yeah, I remember when Wandering Son was… when they were talking about how it was gonna die, I remember seeing some folks criticizing readership. Basically saying, “You say you want these titles and then you don’t buy them and so that’s why they go out of print.”
And I was like, “No, it’s your shitty business model.” Because I think Seven Seas and other companies have proven that these titles can do well if you make them accessible to your readership, which is not going to be people with shittons of money to spend on hardcover books.
Anyway! We haven’t talked about Heart of Thomas yet. We spent a lot of time complaining about a business model.
VRAI: No, ’cause I feel like I just wanna get that out there, ’cause Fantagraphics might show up again if we keep doing these long enough.
But, yeah, Heart of Thomas really bums me out. Absolutely if you can get it from your library, please do, because it is maybe one of my favorite classic shoujos. It’s got tragic dead gays in it, but it’s unusual in that a lot of stories from this era that are BL—or what was called “shounen ai” at the time—end with a suicide. This story begins with suicide, and spends the rest of the story dealing with the aftermath of that, and characters learning how to live, which I find really interesting.
So, we open at a boys’ boarding school in Germany, because a lot of these stories take place there as a way to kind of exoticize these stories and that’s how they got published. A young man named Juli or Yuli, receives a letter where a young man named Thomas has confessed his feelings, and that very morning, his body is discovered washing up from the river. And so he’s dead. Nobody knows why except for Yuli, who is living with, “Oh God, I killed this boy who I never had a relationship with. He confessed to me once and I brushed him off and he’s dead now. How do I live with that?”
And then, at the same time, Yuli’s new roommate shows up, a boy named Oskar who looks just like Thomas, except Thomas was this very sweet, accommodating young man, and Oskar has the same face, but is very brash and straightforward and is really annoyed that everybody is comparing him to this dead kid he never knew. And so he kind of ends up in Yuli’s orbit and wondering what the heck this kid’s deal is.
And it deals with, you know, growing up, and with religion, and with surviving sexual assault, and shame. And it is dark, but surprisingly nuanced, for the era of the material and kind of the other contemporaneous stuff going on, in a way that I find really impressive.
And it has… Again, this is one of those “for the era” things… a really hopeful ending. And a really kind ending to Yuli, in a way that I like and gives me the heart feels. I don’t know. It’s yet another one that I ended up reading out of, “Oh, well, it’s Hagio. And I got to do it, ’cause this is the famous one.” Aside from Kaze to Ki no Uta, which—still asking, Seven Seas. Where is it?
VRAI: But… And it ended up being, “Oh God, oh God. I have to lay down. I’m having feelings about these children.”
DEE: Aw. Yeah, this one I’ve always wanted to read and just, as far as accessibility, never really an opportunity to do so. So…
DEE: Good to know it’s great! Be nice if somebody would license-rescue it! But maybe I’ll check and see if my library will carry it.
VRAI: Yep. Yep. It’s really, really sad. If only… I get doing bespoke print runs where you get the collectors, but then maybe, once that goes under, you consider doing digital? Other than just deciding not to do it because you’ve decided not to do it? As nearly as I’ve heard. It’s very annoying.
And, Caitlin, you mentioned that you had read Heart of Thomas as well?
VRAI: It’s good.
CAITLIN: It is! It’s a really, really good series. It’s definitely a really strong introduction to a lot of people to Moto Hagio’s work, I think. It’s relatively accessible and really beautiful. Accessible but challenging, in the way that a lot of her work is challenging. And yeah. I think they’re really good samples for what she has to offer.
VRAI: Yeah, you can still get Otherworld Barbara. That is, for the moment, still in print… which, I liked, but it felt less cohesive a story than Heart of Thomas, which is just a very complete story.
Yeah, somebody? Anybody? Seven Seas? Maybe?
DEE: We do not know how licensing works. We’re just going to shout things at companies until it happens. We’re pretty sure that’s how it works, right?
CAITLIN: I mean, y’all just tell us to go to their surveys.
VRAI: Yeah, Seven Seas has been so good about licensing cool things and making themselves accessible to reader suggestions that now I’m starting to get hopes about them, which is dangerous.
All of this is extremely depressing, and I think what this calls for is a Group Hug.
DEE: I concur, especially after talking about two kind of rough queer titles, we can pivot into a much happier one.
VRAI: Yes, this is of course the segment where everybody on the podcast has read the series in question, and we are once again looking at a Seven Seas title. The Bride was a Boy, released by Chii, which is a very thin little autobiographical sort of essay-slash-4-koma-style manga about the author’s coming out as a trans woman and her process of transitioning and marrying her husband. It’s decidedly an educational manga, and it’s nice.
DEE: Yeah, it’s adorable. I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came out. Obviously the art was really cute. But, yeah, it’s just a really sweet story. Again, autobiographical story. And the educational bits, I think, are, to me, anyway, are well-done, especially in terms of giving folks in the US an idea of what queer activism [in Japan]—especially trans activism, trans rights—look like. But the author also touches on the fact that, you know, same-sex marriage is illegal, and the difficulties that can cause.
And overall it’s a very hopeful, sweet, optimistic title, because Chii’s journey is relatively free of complications, which is nice to see, I think. I think it’s nice for folks to have those stories. But it also doesn’t completely sweep under the rug the fact that there are some issues, and the author will say… I remember one ending with, “Just let gay people get married already!” And I’m like, “Yeah, exactly.”
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] That’s right.
VRAI: Yeah, and Husband-kun, as she calls her husband, is very shy and adorable.
CAITLIN: Oh, what a sweet guy. What a sweet guy.
DEE: Yeah, and I love how supportive her family is. And I know when it came out there was a little bit of social media criticism about how it was too… People were complaining about how nice it was, basically. “Oh, nobody’s situation is actually gonna be this positive.” And I’m like, “Well, maybe?” Hers was! She wrote this autobiographical story, and, I mean, hers was.
And that’s nice. It’s good to see that not everyone’s coming-out story is full of tragedy and drama. I think that’s really good to have those narratives out there as well.
VRAI: Yeah and, obviously, you could see even in the manga, she had the money to be able to go to… She chose to surgically transition, and she had the money to go to Thailand and stay in a really good hospital where they took excellent care of her and weren’t horrible to her, and obviously those are privileged things that a lot of folks can’t access. But, also, sometimes it’s just nice to have a story where it goes okay.
VRAI: The one thing I found kind of interesting—I do the Links post for the site, so I end up reading a lot of news specifically about queer issues in Japan—is that Chii… There’s a tiny little essay in there where she talks about not really liking the term “sexual minorities,” which is, as near as I can tell, that’s actually the more-embraced term among Japan’s queer community. So, that was kind of interesting.
DEE: Yeah, I think… And one thing I think Chii does a good job of in the series, in the little educational segments, is a lot of the time she’ll kind of preface the ending with, “There’s still some debate about this,” or, “I can’t speak for everyone. This is just my opinion.” “It’s very individualized” kind of thing. And I think that’s often the case.
CAITLIN: Right. ‘Cause I feel like there’s a temptation among cis readers or people who are just learning to take one person’s word and take it as gospel, and it’s like, “Well, my friend said this, so this is how it must be for everyone.”
And she is very careful to contextualize everything and say, you know, “This is my opinion. This is not necessarily something everyone agrees on. There’s a lot of debate about this.” It is very 101, but the 101 is… While she’s doing it, she’s very clear about what is still ambiguous, where there is room for discussion and when it’s like, “No, this is what it is.”
VRAI: Yeah, and if you’ve been… There are so many bad faith arguments on Twitter who are like, “Gay and trans people—queer people don’t exist in Japan! That’s not a thing! That’s a Western invention!” What?
And if you are definitely one of the people who’s like, “Well, obviously that isn’t true,” but you don’t know where to start in terms of beginning to learn about those issues, I feel like this is a really good starting place to begin to find terms that you can look up, and that kind of stuff.
CAITLIN: It’s nice to have a resource like that on hand.
VRAI: And it’s pretty recent. Obviously with issues that are this much in the public eye, it is already beginning to be a little outdated. Obviously, marriage equality… Those lawsuits were recently brought on Valentine’s Day. But a lot of it is still quite contemporaneous and useful.
DEE: Yeah, it was published in 2016, I believe? So, again, it’s a pretty recent series. So, it’s a good one to throw at folks, I think.
VRAI: Yeah. So, I think… And, again, it’s Seven Seas, so it’s a little over $10, but it’s a nice package.
DEE: There’s quite a few pretty color pages at the beginning. It’s a good-looking little volume, so I’d recommend it for sure.
VRAI: I like their releases.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I love Seven Seas. They put a lot of effort into their releases and also I love how they’re bringing over a lot of web manga, ’cause that creates a lot of room for different perspectives outside of sort of the mainstream manga magazines and what the editors are saying. The super-capitalist editors say, “This is what will sell so this is what you’re gonna write!”
VRAI: Yeah. Yeah, that’s true.
All right, well, I have been talking a lot this podcast, and honestly, my throat is getting a little tired. So I think I’m going to turn it over to somebody else. Caitlin, you have read a manga that nobody else on the team today has. And so it is time for you to hit me with your best sell.
DEE: [Mimics “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” guitar riff]
[faux-annoyed] I can’t believe you didn’t sing it!
CAITLIN: I’ve been yelling at you guys to read All My Darling Daughters forever. So, I don’t know why I’m still the only one who’s read it.
DEE: I’ve heard you bring up the title. I’ve never gotten an actual pitch other than, “Hey, you should check this out.” So, Caitlin. Hit us. Hit us with that best sell.
CAITLIN: The time is now. All right, so, All My Darling Daughters is a one-shot of connected short stories by Fumi Yoshinaga. It’s hard to sum up other than saying it’s about women’s lives. It’s about women in times of transition, women dealing with sort of expectations of them.
The first story is about a 30-year-old woman named Yukiko. She’s working full-time and living with her mom, who recently had a cancer scare. And one day her mom brings over this 27-year-old actor-slash-host and says, “I got married!” And Yukiko sort of… She’s lived alone with her mother since she was a young girl, since her father died when she was 12, and now she has to deal with changes to that pattern.
So, that’s sort of the first story, and it sets the tone for the rest of the book. And then the other stories are about people in Yukiko’s life. And they’re… The next story is the weakest story. It’s about a… [exasperated] Once again, we keep doing this. It’s about a college professor whose student one day storms into his office and threatens to… starts taking off her shirt and says that she’ll scream if he doesn’t let her give him a blowjob.
DEE: Oh Lord.
CAITLIN: And… [Sighs] I know! And it’s sort of about his growing bond with her and her self-esteem issues. This woman has never had anyone treat her kindly in her life, and the moment he starts treating her kindly, she says he’s too good for her and stops coming.
Her friend from college is an architect, and people keep pressuring her to get married, and so she’s going to all these omiais but she doesn’t know if she’s capable of really falling in love because she wants to treat all people equally.
Her mother, who has this terrible self-perception, who’s convinced that she’s ugly even though she’s beautiful, because her mother was afraid of her becoming too vain, and made fun of her looks for her entire childhood.
All these different women, dealing with their self-perceptions as well as their perceptions of the world around them and what the world expects out of them, and their… Fumi Yoshinaga is a wonderful character writer, so they’re all, even in these short stories, very fully human characters. Beautifully drawn.
Specifically feminist outlook, too. Because there’s one story about two of Yukiko’s friends from middle school and sort of how they grew up and it starts off with the three of them talking, and one of them’s like, “I don’t see why when a woman’s a lawyer we call her a ‘female lawyer’ but when a man’s a lawyer it’s just a ‘lawyer.'” And how the world batters them, and it batters them with these expectations and with reality.
It’s not pessimistic either. It’s just really… It’s realistic but it’s also very hopeful. Yukiko is the closest thing to a main character. I adore her. She’s beautiful but she’s not traditionally beautiful. She’s got really wide shoulders and kind of a resting bitch face.
CAITLIN: She’s lazy and a slob. There’s one part where she’s complaining about not being able to wander around naked anymore because now there’s this man living in her house. Then she moves in with her boyfriend and they get married and she’s back to just walking around naked. And he’s like, “Can you just put a towel on?”
CAITLIN: And I’m like, “Relatable!”
So, yeah. It’s a series that really everyone who has an interest in what we do at Anime Feminist should check out, ’cause it is so relevant to the world that we live in. Even though the series is 17 years old now, there’s still so much that’s resonant today. And it really does have just women’s stories, without any fantastical dressing or anything like that.
VRAI: I haven’t read this particular series. I keep meaning to pick it up. But I have read a fair amount of Yoshinaga’s work. And she’s definitely always worth reading. Sometimes she frustrates me, but her work is always interesting. And, like you said, she’s really good at character portraits, and these very little down-to-earth moments.
DEE: I added it to my wishlist five minutes ago, so…
VRAI: Someday we’ll talk about What Did You Eat Yesterday? on this podcast, and I will joy and despair in equal measure.
CAITLIN: I will join you.
DEE: We could do an entire episode on food manga probably.
CAITLIN: We should do an episode on food manga.
VRAI: Coming someday.
DEE: I’ll have to read a few more, but that’s maybe a themed category we can do at some point as well.
VRAI: Yes. Good.
DEE: So, you hit me with a good sell there, Caitlin. Clearly.
VRAI: Yeah, well done. I will seek out my library tomorrow.
CAITLIN: Yay, I did it. And let me know in the comments if you decide to read it based on this!
VRAI: Please. Caitlin just wants to talk about All My Darling Daughters with someone!
CAITLIN: I do!
DEE: With somebody. So you gotta help her out there.
CAITLIN: I do! I keep trying to write an article about it, but it just turns into gushing.
VRAI: Well, going from Fumi Yoshinaga’s excellent portrayals of complicated people, I think it’s time to introduce our new segment, which we’re trying out for the first time in this podcast—which is what “new” means—Oh No, It’s Complicated!
DEE: [Ominous] Bum-bum-bum!
Not nuance, Vrai! Anything but nuance!
VRAI: [Faux-distressed] No, we’re just supposed to be able to tell you if it checks the box! The Feminism box!
DEE: [Sarcastically, cracking up] There’s a stamp! We give out a stamp, and that’s all we do!
Anyway. So, this is the category where we talk about stuff that has a combination of good and bad, or difficult things, and we go from there.
VRAI: Yes. And it seemed like the perfect title to talk about for this first outing was Natsume Ono’s Not Simple, which is released by Viz Media. As far as I know, it is still in print.
DEE: It’s at least digital, because that’s how I got it. I stared at that one on bookshelves for I guess the better part of a decade, ’cause it’s been out for a while, and I kept going, “I should check that out. I should check that out.” I never did, until three weeks ago before we were doing this podcast.
VRAI: I get at least half of the manga I read from the library. It’s the only way I can afford it, so…
DEE: No, that’s fair.
VRAI: This is… Natsume Ono is sometimes hit-or-miss for me. House of Five Leaves is one of my favorite things ever. I couldn’t really vibe with Acca 13. She has a very detached style, which is—thank God, in the case of this manga.
DEE: Yeah. She… I’ve been reading quite a bit of her stuff recently. I kind of want to read everything she’s written, ’cause I find her very interesting, and I also think a career spotlight of her would be pretty great.
VRAI: That’s good.
DEE: She really likes to deal with subjects that would normally be portrayed as extremely dramatic and intense—like a political coup, in the case of Acca, or a crime organization in Edo, Japan, in the case of House of Five Leaves. She likes to take those… sort of almost melodrama fodder, and write them more like slice-of-lifes.
And it’s fascinating in a way that I think is gonna be really hit-or-miss for pretty much everyone. It’s one that’s kind of a tough-to-pitch… You’re either gonna like the tone or you’re not. You’re gonna find it really distancing.
And in the case of Not Simple, she sort of applies that tone to… God, how would you describe it, Vrai? “Every Lifetime movie ever made,” maybe?
VRAI: I believe…
DEE: Not a Lifetime movie, exactly.
VRAI: I would call it… God, what is his name? “Ian’s No Good, Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Life.”
DEE: Yeah, it’s almost kind of tragedy porn? And it’s a lot of the elements that you see in a lot of after-school special, over-the-top melodrama-type things as far as there’s…
VRAI: Yeah. It is a story that begins at the ending, where we meet this man named Ian and he is homeless and he meets a woman briefly, they have a missed connection, and then he dies, and there is another man named Jim who we learn was going to write his life story and was probably in love with him, and he commits suicide.
DEE: Well, here’s the thing, though.
VRAI: Or does he?
DEE: We’re told those things happen. We don’t know if he dies. And we don’t know if Jim commits suicide. We don’t actually see either of those things happen.
VRAI: That’s true.
DEE: So, the story kind of leaves a door open at the end, which I am gonna wedge my foot in that door and kick it open, is what I’m gonna do there.
VRAI: I’m gonna subscribe to your fanfiction.
DEE: Yeah! [Laughs] It is… And part of that is kind of Ono’s style: a lot of the really intense stuff tends to happen offscreen and you deal more with the aftermath or the conversations around it as the characters try to work through it. Which, again, I find it fascinating that that’s how she does her stories.
And this one is… This one should be insufferable, but I think I kind of liked it even though it’s got a bunch of sort of issues with it. Do you know what I mean, Vrai?
VRAI: Yeah, yeah. Definitely. I definitely walked away from it being like, “I should hate this. All of the plot points are stupid and contrived. But I really think I liked it, maybe?”
‘Cause Ian has… We flash back and we sort of follow Ian from childhood to the point where the manga begins. And he had an alcoholic mother and a sister who he loves but who is constantly ripped out of his life, and his travels and travails and losses in life, and it’s just… Oh, God. You said “Lifetime movie,” and the more I mull on it, the more that seems very correct.
DEE: And then there’s all these kind of sordid, soap opera elements, like his sister might be his mom, and there’s a whole side plot about child prostitution that’s very difficult.
And I do really like that he befriends a couple of gay guys when he gets in New York. Their interactions and relationship on the side is a very nice breath of fresh air. Ono does not… Okay, now I have to think. When was this written?
VRAI: I think it was 2010 but I’m on the Wikipedia page, and I…
DEE: Nope, it’s quite a bit earlier than that. It was 2004, 2005. And the story takes place partly in Australia, partly in England, and partly in America, and does not… It doesn’t balk from… The characters have to deal with homophobia. One of them does not speak to his family because they basically disapproved when he came out.
VRAI: Yeah, that’s the biographer.
DEE: The other one has a better… Yeah, the biographer. Their other friend who… I liked their other friend, who just kind of couch surfs. Rick? Yeah. He’s kind of implied to be Jim’s boyfriend. Kind of. Again, a lot of stuff happens offscreen in this, or through subtleties and implication. He kind of just shows up and is just sort of the one nice guy whose situation isn’t terribly complicated. He sort of ran away from home, but they want him to come back. So, it’s hard to tell exactly what his deal is.
But overall, I think it handles those elements of the story… I was worried that was gonna devolve into a lot of, “Oh, the tragedy of being gay!” And it never really did.
VRAI: Yeah, even the, “Oh no, I’m in love with the man who’s presumed straight” is so lightly touched on that I didn’t hate it. And I always hate that.
DEE: Yeah, it’s… Again, it’s… How did you describe it in our group chat, Vrai? “Those 500 yards of distance are the reason that this works.”
VRAI: Is the only reason it’s tolerable, yeah.
DEE: Yeah. And it’s such a weird one… Again, this is why this is in the “Oh No, It’s Complicated!” It’s one where I would be very hesitant to pitch it to people. I think it’s worth reading, but it is just such a strange series where if I try to describe it to you, you’re gonna go, “That sounds like shit.” [Laughs] It kind of does.
VRAI: Yeah, we’ve described most of the plot points, but it doesn’t matter because it’s so much about all these little conversations between characters.
DEE: Yeah, and the way it tells the story almost in reverse allows it to… You begin with the tragedy before you really get to know anybody, and they end on this moment of hope, where Ian has the connection with this older woman who you had heard about in the first little bit.
And so it… I dunno. It’s the sense of… I get the sense that Ono is intentionally trying to tackle these big, melodramatic stories and try to find the human thread or connection beneath them. And I think that’s really fascinating, even if I’m sort of hesitant to outright recommend the title to people.
VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah. I don’t always like the results of what she attempts, but I always think it’s interesting. I still need to read Ristorante Paradiso, which is her as well.
DEE: Yeah, I haven’t read that one, but I’ve watched the anime, and it’s quite well-done. So, I would recommend it to you. It is the most… It’s… I did an article about it. It’s a tremendously good age-gap romance, and those are impossible to do well. And it does it really well.
VRAI: Yeah. I feel like, because she picks such difficult topics and does them with such restraint, when she works, she works like Gangbusters, and it’s the best thing.
DEE: Yeah, and Not Simple, I don’t know if it was… It had to have been one of her somewhat earlier works. I don’t know how long Ono’s been in the business. I think it was her first title that made it stateside.
VRAI: Yeah, well, House of Five Leaves got made into an anime in 2010, so I feel like a lot of her work was there in the 2000s.
DEE: Yeah, Not Simple was her second title after La Quinta Camera, which I’ve read. It’s cute. So, yeah. It’s an earlier work and I think that she refines that style and does a better job in her later stories of removing the really melodramatic sort of cliche tropes…
So, she’s still playing with the concept of, “I’m gonna take this big drama story and do this different thing with it.” But she takes out the stuff that will really make you roll your eyes, which I think she hadn’t quite figured out how to do with Not Simple, because, again, there’s a lot. And it’s just one thing after another for poor Ian. As you said: Ian and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Life.
But it’s somehow not relentless and exhausting, because she does kind of find these little glimpses of hope or kindness in the middle of it. So, yeah… She’s an interesting writer, and Not Simple is an interesting early outing for her, I would say.
VRAI: Yeah. So, I think if… It might be one where… Try one of her other series first, maybe one of the ones we’ve listed. Three or four. And if you like those, give this a try. I don’t think this is a good first intro to her as a mangaka.
DEE: Yeah, I think that’s probably fair.
VRAI: Yeah, so… From something we are ambivalent-to-positive on, now is the second part of the podcast [cracking up] where I get really mad at something. I swear next time it’ll be somebody else!
DEE: Go, Vrai, Go!
VRAI: This is our ManGRRRR Corner, where somebody rips apart their open chest with feelings of anger about something they read that sucked a lot. And I did another thing where I was reading something for historical completion, and I read Osamu Tezuka’s MW, which is, I believe, still currently available from Vertical. Once again, I got it from a library. Thank God I didn’t pay money for this.
So, MW is one of Tezuka, the father of manga, as he is sometimes called… [Mumbling] Whether or not that’s correct, we can debate all day. It’s not the point. [Normally] And it was published from 1976 to 1978. You may recall that as around the time that Claudine was coming out. Kaze to Ki no Uta, which I mentioned, was also being published. It is two years before Heart of Thomas, the surprisingly positive manga. And then there’s this piece of shit.
VRAI: I have heard people refer to this as an inspiration [for] Monster. The Urasawa manga Monster, which I can see, but only in the loosest of terms, that it is about a man who feels responsible for creating a monster, and that kind of symbiotic relationship. So, okay, but Monster‘s way better than this.
So, MW is about a man, Michio Yuki, who is a banker by day but, in secret, he is actually the most depraved sort of person. He’s a criminal, he’s a rapist, he’s a murderer. He has gay sex. [Flatly] Horrifying.
DEE: [Sarcastically] Oh, no!
VRAI: He fucks his dog.
DEE: Oh, God.
CAITLIN: [Quietly upset] No, don’t fuck your dog.
VRAI: Uh-huh. Welcome to Hell! I live in it!
DEE: [cracking up] Caitlin!
VRAI: And every time he does some kind of horrible thing, he will come to this little church in the middle of nowhere and come to confession, with a man specifically named Father Garai.
But, wait. At first, it seems to be a normal confession, but then they end up in bed together, and you think, “Oh, what is the relationship between these two men?” And it turns out that this priest feels responsible for this man who he knew as a child, and he feels like, “I have to save him or I have to destroy him.”
And the dog-fucking and all that shit gets introduced later, so the first couple chapters of the manga are almost like, “All right, this is an Evil Gay thing, but also, I like Hannibal, so I’m kind of in it for this whole really dysfunctional connection thing going on. All right, Tazuka. Let’s see what you’ve got.”
And it turns out what he’s got is nothing. Because when Tezuka is on, he is really, really on, but he’s also so prolific that it feels like there were a lot of series that just kind of petered off into nothing. And in this case, not only is the ending incredibly unsatisfying, it just gets into this nastier and nastier spiral where Yuki’s character is…
[It’s] almost like Tezuka is pushing himself to build on his own shock value, so by halfway through, we’ve gotten to the dog fucking, and it’s sure something; and it eventually turns out that the reason Father Garai feels responsible is that when he was a kid, when he was an adolescent, he met this ten-year-old kid, who was Yuki, this innocent kid, who was the survivor of an accident, and sexually assaulted him.
So, in fact, he raped him into gay, and then he became a horrible, sociopathic murderer, and so that’s why all of this kicked off. And then it ends with the priest dying, and they seem to both go down in flames together, but no, no. No, no, the horrible man had a twin that we never heard of before now, and the nice twin was the one who died, and the horrible murder rapist has escaped to murder-rape another day. The end.
I hated it. I hated it. It’s really ugly. I mean, I know ‘70s manga didn’t have as much dynamic panel stuff going on in the shounen/seinen sphere, but it’s not even as good-looking as Devilman. [Insistently] I hated it. [Laughs] It was so bad!
DEE: Extremely glad I’ve never read that Tezuka.
CAITLIN: Me, too.
DEE: I’ve only read his shoujo, which is a weird thing to say, but…
CAITLIN: I don’t know if I’ve ever actually read any Tezuka.
DEE: I will steer far, far away from MW, that’s for sure.
VRAI: Which, again, it was a dark and problematic premise, but one that I feel like could have been interesting, and I think shows itself far more interesting in Monster, where Urasawa even lifted the sort of weird, sexual dynamics, except that he split them into twins. Which was a decision. Boy, that age-gap romance was bad.
But, yeah. This is not good. Even as a historical read. Tezuka’s done a lot more interesting things. Go watch Dororo. It’s a better use of your time.
DEE: I mean, I’ve read Princess Knight and, again, it’s definitely dated, but it does some pretty interesting things for the ‘50s, for sure. So, yeah, there’s better Tezuka out there. Absolutely.
VRAI: Absolutely. Yeah. So, that was a regret. Sometimes we have those.
But, let’s get away from that. I think it’s time to talk about other things. Actually what we’re doing is we’re heading right back into the complicated category, but we’re calling it: another Two to Mango.
Caitlin, you have not gotten a chance to dance yet, and I don’t think that’s fair.
CAITLIN: Oh, no, it’s okay.
DEE: [Fake-angrily] You don’t have a choice, Caitlin. You have to mango! You have to mango!
CAITLIN: I don’t like mangoes!
DEE: Listen! If my friends can’t dance, then they’re no friends of mine.
CAITLIN: I don’t like mangoes. They have too much sugar. I’m trying to stay away from sugar and get in shape.
VRAI: More for me.
DEE: [Whispers] Play the game, Harding!
CAITLIN: I want to be at what I perceive as a healthy weight, much like in the manga, In Clothes Called Fat.
I shouldn’t say that. That’s not good.
VRAI: [Cracking up] It’s a bumpy landing there, chief.
CAITLIN: You shouldn’t do anything like In Clothes Called Fat. And any weight can be healthy.
VRAI: Yay! We did it. We’re here.
DEE: That was quite the segue.
VRAI: Yes! We are discussing…
DEE: You contorted and spun on that dance floor, but you got there.
VRAI: You made it!
Yes! In Clothes Called Fat by Moyoco Anno, released by Vertical, again. We’re still with Vertical. It is… I have also read this series. It is interesting. Caitlin, do you wanna go first on this one?
CAITLIN: Uhh… maybe?
In Clothes Called Fat is a ‘90s josei manga about an office lady called Noko, who is fat. And she has a long-time boyfriend. She expects that they’re going to get married. She gets bullied at the office because of her weight, and also, her boyfriend is cheating on her, and is really only with her because she is weak. And so to resolve that weakness and the bullying, she decides that she is going to go to a spa that will help her lose weight.
And, boy. There are two kinds of josei manga, with a lot of gradation between. But you have the sort of rom-com, “My goal is to get married,” relatable lives. And then there is the sort of challenging, kind of dark ones. Do you think that’s a fair assessment?
VRAI: Yeah, I definitely…
CAITLIN: Most of them exist within that continuum?
VRAI: Yeah, at least the ones that I’ve read.
DEE: I think it’s… I would say that’s true of the ones that have made it out in English, which is a relatively small sample size. But I think that a lot of the josei we get are either these really difficult dramas—which I’m pretty sure In Clothes Called Fat is one of those—or more of a Higashimura-style rom-com.
VRAI: I definitely, as I was reading, inevitably drew a lot of mental comparisons with Kyoko Okazaki’s Helter-Skelter, which I don’t want to talk too much about, ’cause I want to give it its own spotlight someday in the future, because I love it…
CAITLIN: I also have not read that one.
VRAI: I love it so much. And I feel like… In Clothes Called Fat is really interesting, which is one of those damning phrases, but I mean it sincerely.
As I was reading it, it reminded me of a lot of books in English that I read as a teenager, where it captures the anger and the frustration of being a fat person in a fatphobic society, and the ways that that can lead to self-loathing and self-harm. And I feel like it is really on-point and very true in capturing that anger, but it doesn’t really have a solution for it. And at a certain point in my life, that was enough—just to feel seen in that anger.
And I don’t know much about josei manga, aside of what we’ve gotten in English, which, like you said, Dee, is relatively little. So maybe that’s where it’s at, is that just to feel seen for fat readers is revolutionary. But for me, as an English reader, where the conversation is very, very slowly moving on from that, it left me kind of frustrated at the end that it’s kind of a miserable story.
CAITLIN: Yes. It is a miserable story. It’s definitely… It also has the issue where it uses fatness as a metaphor for sort of her being weak and passive.
VRAI: Right. There’s this whole thing about how her spirit is thin. Oh, my God.
CAITLIN: Right. And so it’s definitely problematic. It’s a 20-year-old story coming from a society that is even more fatphobic than ours.
CAITLIN: I wasn’t… When I was living in Japan, I wasn’t even remotely fat, and I couldn’t find clothes that fit me.
VRAI: Yeah, it is definitely the first time in a long time where I’ve read a manga and came smack up against that wall of, “Oh, this is not for me.” In a way that it’s… But it might be really powerful to somebody else.
So, it left me with these kind of defunct feelings about it. I can have all the feelings I want, but it’s old and it doesn’t matter because the people who need to see this might need it. I don’t know.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, it’s definitely a very, very challenging series. Well, not series. A very challenging story. ‘Cause it works a lot with metaphor for problems that are both metaphorical and literal for people, so that kind of runs into issues.
But, at the same time, it’s still humanizing to her, and the way people treat her when she’s fat is still very genuine and awful. And when a person is treated like crap by a society, whether it is because of their body size or any other reason, they do become more susceptible to abuse, and they do become more susceptible to people who pay attention to them but ultimately treat them like crap, which is the case with Noko’s boyfriend. He’s a shitty dude.
VRAI: Oh, I hate him.
CAITLIN: He’s a shitty, shitty dude, and he only stays with her because she’s so fawning of him. But she’s fawning of him because he acts like he loves her when no one else will because she’s fat; because she’s marginalized by her size. So, it works on a couple of levels, and it’s tricky.
VRAI: I feel like… It’s of a different degree and a different conversation, obviously, but in a way, it is not dissimilar from Claudine, where it’s like, “This is a snapshot of something humanizing that’s still working within these constraints of how it thinks it has to end.”
VRAI: So, it’s definitely one where you have got to be in a very particular mindset, and be safe if you’re going to read it. But there is value there, I think.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and it is potentially very triggering.
VRAI: [Insistently] Oh my God, yeah.
CAITLIN: I do wanna put that out there. It has eating disorders and fatphobia and just people being terrible in general. So, yeah. No. Read with caution.
VRAI: Yeah. But, yeah, I am glad we get a lot of… I am glad we are getting these kinds of josei. They are overwhelmingly the kind I like to read, even if I’m glad that the fluffy stuff is out there also.
CAITLIN: Yes. I 100% agree. I like the fluffy stuff in some degree, too.
VRAI: I’d like to see more of Anno’s… Her more recent stuff brought over. It’d be interesting.
CAITLIN: Yes. Absolutely.
VRAI: But I do think that after all of that rough talk, it is time to come down on something adorable that we can all agree is healing to the soul. So, let’s have one final group hug.
DEE: Group Hug: Side B! Hooray!
CAITLIN: Yay, I love hugs!
DEE: I get to join the conversation again.
VRAI: Yay! And we are going to talk about a series that was actually spotlighted not too long ago on the website.
DEE: Well, as of recording this. Who knows when this podcast is gonna actually go live to our listeners.
VRAI: “Not long ago” could mean anything.
DEE: That’s true.
VRAI: “Within the year.”
DEE: Time is an illusion.
VRAI: Yes, as we are recording, it was last week. But who knows.
Syundei’s Go For It, Nakamura! Once again brought to us by Seven Seas.
DEE: Thanks, Seven Seas. I like the fluffy queer manga they’re bringing over. They’re very nice.
VRAI: Yes! And I’m very… They’re bringing over a horror BL manga by the same author this year, and I’m so excited! Put it in my face!
DEE: Oh, did that get licensed? That’ll be fun.
DEE: So, yeah. Go For It, Nakamura! For folks at home, it is the story of an awkward high-school boy who has a raging crush on his classmate. The main character is Nakamura, obviously, and the classmate is Hirosei.
It’s sort of a series of loosely-connected, kind of episodic little rom-com tales about Nakamura trying to get closer to Hirosei, and then thinking he ruined everything, but Hirosei either didn’t even realize that he was trying to do something with him, or ends up liking him… they end up getting a little closer by the end of the bit.
And it… I don’t wanna talk too much about the ending. It ends in a cute place. I will say, it is a cute series all the way through.
VRAI: Yeah. It is not a romance, I feel like we should say. Nakamura’s goal is to start by making friends.
DEE: Yeah. It has a rom-com vibe to it, in terms of Nakamura clearly has a huge crush on Hirosei, but the goal isn’t, “I’mma hop in bed with him!” It’s like… It’s very… To me, it has a very similar vibe to a lot of shoujo, where it’s like, “Oh, I like him so much! I just wanna spend time with him!” kind of thing.
DEE: Which is very cute.
CAITLIN: It’s sort of the opposite of Jackass. Like I was talking about. Jackass is a sexy BL with a lot of fucking.
CAITLIN: And Nakamura is a cute, sweet little BL with just a friendship… that turns to love?
DEE: Which is great for me. I’m not a huge fan of erotica, just in general, which means I have a slightly easier time finding other romance titles I like, and a much harder time finding BL titles I like. Just based on what has been brought over stateside. But, yeah.
I jumped on Nakamura when it came out, and it’s just super cute and fun. I like how it… I think it does a good job of showing Nakamura as a clumsy teen, without veering into the realm of creepy. You know?
DEE: Like, he definitely has some moments where it’s like, “You are treading into some unhealthy territory.” But it comes across, I think, more as a teenager fumbling with feelings, which is often messy. And there’s a very light touch to it.
CAITLIN: Yeah, he has that one fantasy about the octopus with Hirosei.
DEE: Well, and he asks the girl in class who draws manga to draw manga of him and Hirosei together.
CAITLIN: I mean, fantasies are fantasies. And he clearly sees Hirosei as a person, so I’m not too fussed about it. The doujinshi’s a little much. That’s a little far. But it is a very teenage thing to do.
DEE: Friend fiction.
VRAI: Yeah, there is a certain Tina Belcher-ness about Nakamura.
DEE: There really is, now that I say it.
VRAI: It’s good. And I really like how the story… ‘Cause you know, a lot of manga that are about the feeling of falling in love… The crush is kind of secondary, to a point. But Hirosei is a nice balance of… He’s a nice boy, but also he has character traits. He feels like a rounded person.
DEE: Yeah, and I think the volume— “Series”? It’s a one-shot. —The manga does a good job of gradually revealing who Hirosei is to both you and Nakamura, who only… He doesn’t really know him at the start of the series. He’s this kid in his class who he likes, and then as they get to have more one-on-one interactions, we get a better feel for who he is and why Nakamura likes him, and you’re like, “Oh, no, yeah. This is cute. I ship it.”
VRAI: I would totally read another volume of the story if Syundei decided to continue it, but also, it is a nice, contained story as it is. And I love the art. I think it was Marion who was the first one to describe as “Rumiko Takahashi if her gender politics didn’t suck.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. I mean, I definitely think a lot of people have made that observation. I definitely noticed that. It is lovely retro art. I love Rumiko Takahashi’s art, and Syundei’s is a sort of modern interpretation of it.
And, yeah. I mean, I would read the heck out of a sequel, ’cause I want to see that Nakamura and Hirosei kiss.
VRAI: They might hold hands at an aquarium. Aww.
CAITLIN: I know!
DEE: They would definitely be in an aquarium.
CAITLIN: Watching the octopus, because Nakamura loves octopus.Octopi.
DEE: Octopi. He does.
CAITLIN: Octopi? Octopode?
DEE: Octopi. You were right.
CAITLIN: Technically “octopode.” That’s the real Greek one.
VRAI: It’s just nice and very healing and a very quick, easy read. And it’s good to see, as just a normalizing force. ‘Cause don’t… I like some porn-y titles now and again, but it is good to see just all-ages stuff that’s accessible, to break that conception of, “Ah, well all BL is porn, you know.”
DEE: Well, and I think it’s also nice to have titles that you would feel more comfortable throwing at a younger readership, right? I wouldn’t have any problem throwing Nakamura at somebody… I’d say middle school, probably. I’d be okay. Upper middle school. 7th, 8th grade?
VRAI: Yeah. 12, even, I think. And even then, the octopus fantasy is the only thing pushing it away from a 10-year-old.
DEE: Exactly. It’s just the fact that Nakamura does have… The series doesn’t present him as asexual. He is… I’m trying to think. Saying “homosexual” anymore sounds—I feel— conservatives have…
VRAI: He’s horny. He’s a horny teen.
DEE: Conservatives have ruined that word. Thank you. He’s horny. He’s definitely a horny teen. So, the fact that it is dealing with some of that sort of burgeoning sexuality, I think, is the only reason I wouldn’t pitch it at a younger audience. And, again, it depends on the parents and all that stuff.
But most BL I would have a hard time throwing at a younger reader. Especially a middle school boy who’s realizing he’s gay.
CAITLIN: Oh, they’ll go out and find it themselves.
DEE: Oh, they will.
CAITLIN: They’ll go out and find it themselves. Don’t get me wrong.
DEE: But it’s nice to have titles like these that you can be like, “Yeah, read this. It’s cute and it’ll show you that your own awkward crushing feelings are normal and fine and are just as silly as anyone else’s awkward crushing feelings.”
CAITLIN: And sort of contributing to that is it’s very casual about Nakamura being gay.
CAITLIN: He is… People say, “Oh, he’s a normal teenager who happens to be gay.” And it’s like, “No. Being gay is one of his defining traits in the manga.” But there’s no angst about… He knows he’s gay from the start.
CAITLIN: There’s no… He wakes up. He sees Hirosei. He’s like, “[Gasps] What is this feeling? No! He’s another boy! I’m only supposed to feel this way about girls!”
There’s none of that. He’s gay. He knows it. He is comfortable with that. He has dealt with recognizing that in himself.
And I feel like there’s not a lot of gay media that’s that casual about it, where it’s like being gay doesn’t have to be a huge, angsty thing. It’s just, you know, you can know that you’re gay and be cool with it and move on with your life and have crushes like a normal teenager.
VRAI: He does have that moment of, “Wait, am I bi?” Because he meets a girl who looks like Hirosei, but the manga doesn’t really do anything with it?
DEE: Yeah, I guess that’s true. I guess we shouldn’t erase the potential bisexuality of Nakamura there. So, Nakamura could be bi.
VRAI: It’s true. He is a nice, queer boy.
DEE: He is a nice, queer boy. Yeah. Honestly, I’d kind of forgotten that chapter exists.
VRAI: It’s a total non-thing. It’s basically a fakeout.
DEE: Otherwise I would have mentioned it. Yeah.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I mean, it’s kinda ambiguous, because she’s Hirosei’s sister? Or is it Hirosei in a wig? Can’t remember.
VRAI: It’s such a nothing I’ve forgotten.
DEE: Anyway. Again, just… I am glad you pointed that out, because I know that can be an issue of—you know, bisexual erasure is a problem, so it’s good to note it and mention it.
DEE: But he’s very here for Hirosei.
VRAI: Extremely. Oh, yeah, it’s… It’s nice. It is a nice manga, if you want something nice.
All right, well, that is a full spread of manga for you to think about: from things to glare at hatefully from a distance and never read; to complicated stories to judge whether or not you’re up for it; to, “Yes, please pick this up tomorrow.” And give Seven Seas money for it. They’re doing good.
As always, we’d love to hear from you folks in the comments about future themes that you would like to hear of, or if you’ve read this series or that series and you have your own opinions on it, or if some of our discussion inspired you to pick something up. We love that kind of stuff.
CAITLIN: Come talk to me about All My Darling Daughters!
And, I think that about wraps us up for this particular manga variety hour. Thank you so much for joining us, AniFam listeners.
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We appreciate you all so much, and until next time, read a good manga today.