Saturday, May 7, 2022

Our Teachers are Dating Volume 4 (manga review)

Two adult women teachers holding hands, one has her other arm around the other, in front of a school on a clear day with flower petals floating in the air around them
    Somewhat unexpectedly, Our Teachers are Dating Volume 4 (Seven Seas) came shrink wrapped. I just assumed it was some weird Amazon warehouse thing. Well, for what is mostly a sweet, simple comedy/romance, it turns out the final chapter of this final volume was about as steamy as it gets. I was surprised there wasn't an explicit content warning on it actually, but the shrink wrap now makes sense. More on that to come.
    Our Teachers are Dating is a very light rom-com about two women teachers at a school who fall in love, date, and in this final volume, get married. It's a simple story. There is really no drama, no character growth, it's just meant as a feel-good story, I guess. I would honestly say that it's below average. Nice but nothing special.
    This final volume had the two women telling their families that they were planning on marrying which at least provided some interesting dynamics, especially when one family does not take it well to start. But honestly, there isn't much to say about this volume or series. Do you want to read a simple rom-com about two lesbians teachers falling in love? Do you not want to have to think while you read it because there is no depth? Then you're in luck.
    So let's instead talk about the final chapter in this final volume. Maybe I had forgotten stuff in the first three volumes (I'll have to go back and check), but I was not expecting a full-on graphic lesbian sex scene that lasts an entire chapter. But you know what, although I don't need this in manga form, it was actually one of the most honest depictions of lesbian sex in manga I've probably ever seen. 
    I won't get too graphic, but it had a tone of authenticity to it. Further, it managed to be explicit without being exploitative (although just barely). Sure it was a bit overt (although I wonder how much of that is the subliminal influence on the mangaka where she replicated visual styles from the more male-dominated graphic sex scenes in an unconscious way - I do wonder how a woman writing or drawing about sex, having never been exposed to how men have historically represented sex in media/art would choose to depict it? What would be different if they weren't having to fight through the unconscious bias and exposure to male visions of sex acts?) Anyway, as graphic as it was, and as somewhat disjointed from the tone of the rest of the volume, it wasn't an awful depiction of lesbian intimacy by any means.
       Should you read this volume? We'll if you've read the first three, might as well. If you haven't read this series the question is how desperate are you for adult yuri/lesbian romance in a manga? It's light, it's simple, it's what it is. 

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Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Eclair Bleue, Eclair Rouge, and Eclair Orange (manga reviews)

Two teen manga girls sharing a bike
    During the period where I took a hiatus from blogging, I also had to decrease my manga purchases, and so as a result after reading the first two volumes of the Eclair series (Elcair and Eclair Blanc) I didn't purchase the final three (Rouge, Bleue, and Orange) [published by Yen Press]. I'm finally beginning to chip away at my backlog and given the nature of these volumes, it made sense to just talk about all three at once. And frankly, there isn't much to say.
    Do you like middling, repetitious, and tropy yuri stories that are way too brief, relatively simplistic, and often have an unresolved tone to the ending? Well then you're in luck, cause that's about all you get with these three. And BTW, if it wasn't clear, I'm not a super huge fan of this series.
    Let's start with the format. Each story is very short, shorter than your average chapter of a serialized manga. It's interesting to me, because while I don't enjoy reading short stories (literary fiction short stories), I have found that I do enjoy writing them. So with that growing understanding of what I like about my own writing of short stories, it has made me even more suspect of the one-off stories in manga. And frankly, these don't have much to say. A great short-story provides amazing depth on the characters, time, and setting without ever spending any time on it. The writing hints, implies, or at least provides fertilizer for the mind to imagine all that came before and all that will follow. You'll find very little writing on that level here. Further, a great short story manages to either really give meaningful insight into a character, situation, or event or actually transform (even if minutely) the character in the space of the short story. Again, you'll find very little of that in these stories.
Two adult women in a relationship laying fully clothed next to each other staring into each others eyes
    Which brings us to the repetitious and tropy qualities. Many (most?) of the stories in these three volumes are school-girl yuri. Fine, whatever. Believe me, as a lesbian manga fan hungry for representation and a lover of sweet romance, it's not that I'm against the school-girl genre. Hell, Maria-sama Ga Miteru (Marimite) is my all-time favorite anime. But you won't find any of that classiness or emotional depth here. I also love Sweet Blue Flowers (in both anime and manga form), Kase-san (ditto), Bloom Into You (ditto), and even Sakura Trick (fight me, the anime is amazing as long as you ignore the horny camera operator). So it's not the genre that's the problem. It's the execution. How many brief stories of two girls getting together after one thought it was only one-sided can there be? There is rarely anything interesting being said in the process of that. Oh sure, there are some cute moments. But not enough to call it anything other than middling. 
    And, because it's a review on yuristargirl.com, you knew this was coming...YOU CANNOT JUSTIFY HAVING AN ADULT AND A CHILD IN A ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP!!!! There are stories of teachers and students (the worst trope of them all - yes, I work in education and am very protective of those accusations - and as a lesbian in education even more concerned with the rise in attacks on queer folk accusing us of gm00ming. - I won't even type the word because it's use in homophobic attacks diminishes the true trauma and horrors that victims of child abuse have faced). In addition to child/teacher, there are also stories of random adults and children. NOT OKAY (Looking at you Canno).
Two teens in formal dresses with strings of pearls looking with sultry eyes at each other, one touches her lips
    Also, there was at least one with elementary students that heavily implied more than just childhood crushes, but actual romantic (sexual?) attraction that felt very uncomfortable to me. It was as if the author was taking adult feelings and putting them on children in a way that was not only inauthentic, but also gross.
    Was there anything above middling or awful? A couple things. Of course the best ones happened to be from our more established mangaka such as Nakatani Nio. Sadly Canno continues the chapters on the unemployed woman and the high-school girl that just is uncomfortable on so many levels. 
    One of the more interesting stories is a science fiction piece. Although it is rough from a characterization standpoint, and morally, I don't think one of the characters would have been okay with what the other did at the end, at least it was dramatically different than all the others in the five volumes. Even if it wasn't actually good - sometimes different is enough. And, thankfully, sprinkled throughout the volumes are some actual adult relationships (you know, adults with other adults). We don't really get any josei style or tone, these are firmly more "yuri" in tone (I use quotes there not to denote the genre as a whole, but more to talk about the tropy, light-romance-comedy style that is dominating yuri recently). But at least they are stories about adult relationships and I'll take what I can get.
    Should you read these? Meh? Hard to recommend. If there weren't any creepy elementary romance or adult/child romances, then I would probably say they're a fine light read. But those pieces do exist, and the rest are of such mostly middling to worse quality, that it's hard to justify you spending your money on them. 

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Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Even Though We're Adults Volume 4 (manga review)

A young adult woman with shoulder length medium brown hair, stares at the reader by looking over her left shoulder while her body faces to the left.
    I'm going to say it...so far I like "Even Though We're Adults" by Takako Shimura. I'll get to why in a moment. But Volume 4 continues the series about a married female school teacher who (emotionally) falls for another woman she meets, and is forced to confront new feelings as well as old problems in her marriage to a man.
    For a quick summary of volume 4, keep reading. If you don't want SPOILERS, then proceed to the wrap-up/discussion below. 

SPOILERS
In summary, with volume 4, Ayano just can't keep away from Akari. She sees her living across the street now, runs into her at a local event, and just generally can't quit her. It ultimately culminates in her decision to move out of her home and return to her parents house while she sorts things out. Her mother-in-law prompts Ayano's husband to keep reaching out even with Ayano gone. But even after she moves out, Ayano keeps running into Akari who also decided to move away to try and give Ayano space. 
    
SPOILERS OVER
   
 So I started by saying that I like this series. And it needs to be discussed because Takako Shimura, for all the plaudits she receives, also gets a fair amount of criticism, particularly of her two prior big series "Sweet Blue Flowers" and "Wandering Son." For both of those series, a lot of the criticism has centered around whether or not Shimura-sensei is part of the LGBTQ+ community, and whether she should be telling these stories. It's also looked at what people view as unrealistic and somewhat naïve forms of representation in both series (and how both criticisms might intersect).
    I'm here to argue against those criticisms and my argument will also support why I like this new series so far. As a trans lesbian myself, I am not blind to what could be perceived as particularly problematic aspects to both prior series (particularly "Wandering Son") and yet I can say that both are profoundly important to me, but also that what others view as flaws, I actually see as important qualities in her work. And namely, that her stories are messy, her characters are messy, that these series don't fit into neat narratives about what the LGBTQ+ community wants as representation. 
    That messy-ness, that lack of perfect representation, is exactly what makes these interesting to me. They aren't predictable. In both the prior series we don't get the perfect happily-ever-after. Although "Sweet Blue Flowers" ending could be seen as a happy ending, it isn't for certain what their future holds in the long-run, or exactly what they are committing to. Also, the central love stories in "Wandering Son" don't come to the easy fruition they might have with other authors, to say nothing of the impact of puberty on our main characters. 
    But further, the individual characters in her stories are all imperfect people. They are complex, they don't fit into tropes or stock characterizations. Look at Akira ("Sweet Blue Flowers"), who could be the simple, happy-go-lucky, spunky character in a lesser mangaka's hands. But instead she takes risks (theater and moving schools), she is possibly aromatic/asexual, she pushes back multiple times on Fumi (our main character), she learns from her experiences and makes tough choices, etc... 
    Or take Ikumi (also "Sweet Blue Flowers"), one of my favorite characters, who is oft criticized as not being a "real" lesbian in this yuri work. She is viewed as someone infatuated with a girl, but who ultimately choses to marry her childhood male friend. But that's such a simple reading on her. She is passionate, she is complex, she makes mistakes, maybe she's bi?, maybe she's pan?, maybe she doesn't even really love Ko the way he loves her and she choses a different path for adult life and marriage than the fairy tale of passionate love that we expect in works of fiction. Or maybe she really was just infatuated with Sugimoto and not really in love with her, and really does fall in love with Ko. That's okay too!
    And what about Yoshino ("Wandering Son"), are they (and I'm using they/them pronouns for a variety of reasons) actually transgender or non-binary? Are they processing through other feelings instead and it's not really a gender thing? In any other story, they and Suichi would absolutely get together and be a couple in the end, a trans girl and a trans boy - what a perfect story to tell. But that's not happening here, we don't get perfect stories from Shimura-sensei. Yoshino is not necessarily even going to continue on the gender path that they start with as the series began. That has been one of many criticisms of this series, that this is a person who starts out clearly seeming to be a transgender boy but then doesn't fulfill our expectations of what representation of a transgender boy should be. We don't know where Yoshino's journey will go, but it doesn't seem to be the same, somewhat linear path of Suichi. 
    And I could go on and on and on about all the characters in both those series who are also equally complex and equally fail to fit into what we "want" in simple storytelling (Like how Makoto isn't attractive - cause not all trans women have to be super gorgeous you know!). But here's my point: These aren't stock characters, or stock stories with a direct path from initial angst to final love. 
    The "lead" in both series, Fumi ("Sweet Blue Flowers")and Suichi ("Wandering Son"), are actually the most straight-forward and predictable characters in these series if we look at their arcs. Fumi is clearly and simply a lesbian and is a beautiful representation that has been meaningful to me. Suichi is clearly a transgender woman, and equally important representation to me. But they are like the "straight men" in a comedy movie, they are who the funny people need to make the jokes land. But in these cases, they are the straight-forward LGBTQ+ representation that the love interests and side characters play off against to show just how messy real people in the real world are. 
    And that's why I like/love both series, and that's why I like "Even Though We're Adults." The series are messy. That's the word I keep using, and that's the word that keeps sticking in my mind. The characters aren't perfect, you can't always root for them, they don't always live up to what we "want." They are imperfect, fallible, and that to me is more rewarding as a reader than anything. 
    In many ways, Akari, is our straight-forward character in "Even Though We're Adults." She's the out lesbian, and she's fairly under-developed compared to the clearly LGBTQ+ characters Fumi and Suichi in the other series. Instead, it's Ayano, our seemingly straight married woman, who is now wrestling with feelings for a woman, as well as longstanding unrelated issues in her marriage, that is center stage and the lead in this series. A character that would be secondary, or the love-interest in the other series, is now our lead character here. Our messy character is our "heroine" and yet, it's hard to know what we want for her at the end, just as much as it's hard for her to know what she wants too. 
    And that's what has me excited by this series. It's hard to imagine it wrapping up in a nice little bow. I can think of so many wonderfully melancholy (that's not really the word I'm looking for, but I've been drawing a blank this whole time) endings that could come from this series. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Ayano divorced but also not with Akari at the end. I like that I don't know where Shimura-sensei's stories are going, I like that I can't predict what the characters will discover about themselves. That takes her works from being the straight-forward shoujo/josei/yuri to (dare I say it) literature! So I will most definitely keep reading "Even Though We're Adults." It hasn't gripped me quite as much as her prior series, and yet, Shimura-sensei is doing the messy thing again, and that's worth seeing through.

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Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Daytime Shooting Star volume 9 (manga review)

A high school girl and boy look uncomfortable standing net to each other, but make sideways glances at the other indicating that they are actually romantically interested in each other
     This will be a short and sweet one. "Daytime Shooting Star" volume 9 (Shojo Beat) finally turns the tide from uncomfortable (immoral perhaps) almost relationship between a male teacher and a high-school student to being a more typical high-school romance between two high schoolers. 
    See my past reviews of this series to see why I was so skeeved out by it, but I had heard from others that the series would resolve in a much better way than it started. And at approximately the 2/3rds point, I see the light at the end of the tunnel.
    SPOILERS AHEAD:
    Summary, Suzume moves to live with her uncle, bumps into a cute guy who turns out to be her homeroom teacher and her uncle's friend. They fall for each other, and the ADULT just barely avoids starting an actual romantic relationship with her. Gross. Anyway, along the way, Suzume meets Mamura, a high-school boy who confesses to her, but while she's drawn to him as a friend, she is so stuck on her teacher, that she turns Mamura down. In volume 9, following on the promise of volume 8, Suzume and Mamura actually takes some steps forward as a potential couple, while Suzume continues trying to move on from her teacher. 
    END SPOILERS
    So thankfully, this series seems to be turning the corner and heading into more acceptable high-school romance territory. I'm going to stick it out to the end and I'll let you know. 
    As for the art, it really is above average. While it isn't quite up to the level of my favorites (I'm a sucker for 90s shoujo style, think Hana Kimi, Ouran High School Host Club, Clover by Clamp, etc... as well as mangaka's such as Io Sakisaka and Natsuki Takaya amongst others) it is certainly better than most of what's out there now which tends to have too cartoony and cutesy a style and less realistic. The art here bends towards realism without quite embracing the overly lanky and exaggerated shoujo style of the past that I love. I do love that the style of the faces is unique to this mangaka and I am quite drawn (pun?) to that face style. Even if the overall art isn't quite as beautiful as Io Sakisaka's art, it still is a plus for the series. (also, it does make pretty good use of screen tones which so many modern shoujo series seem to skimp on! >_<  And I LOVE screentones!!!!!)
    Should you read it? If you haven't started the series, maybe wait until I finish it to see if it's worth it. But if you have started and were as bothered by the initial adult/student relationship dynamic as I was, then things are going in a better direction and so it's probably worth seeing through to the end.

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Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

My Wandering Warrior Existence (Manga review)

    
This is an impossibly hard review to write. What is the proper balance between writing an honest personal review of a work of art, respecting both the person and the effort they took at creating the work, and any attempt to critique a work that is also a memoir and not pure fiction? Those are easy questions to answer when the reviewer unequivocally enjoys the work. However, it can feel icky when the reviewer doesn't enjoy the memoir as much. I don't ever want to judge another person. But should I comment on the craft behind telling the story? 
    Today, the memoir in question is "My Wandering Warrior Existence" by Nagata Kabi (Seven Seas), the fifth memoir manga in her series that began with her seminal, brilliant, heart-breaking, affecting manga "My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness."
    Essentially, "My Wandering Warrior Existence" suffers in relation to the extraordinary "My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness." In fact, I've felt that each volume since that first one has been one of diminishing returns. That doesn't mean they haven't been good, or powerful, but with each one maybe a little bit less so. Maybe it's that the freshness and uniqueness of "My Lesbian Experience" simply couldn't be recreated now that it was in the world - after all it was so unlike anything before it, but all her works after invariably must contain reflections of it. Or maybe it really is that the subsequent volumes simply aren't quite as excellent. But for whatever reason, "My Wandering Warrior Existence" feels like the slightest of the five volumes so far. 
    It is, of course, quite good actually. Her rough art has amazing charms. And her writing about herself is brutally honest. But on the whole, "My Wandering Warrior Existence" isn't necessarily as memorable or profound as the prior works. And yet of course, every reader is bound to connect with different things differently, so maybe for some, this will be your favorite so far. However, it began to feel less important to me as her story shifts from some of the more desperate, dark, and harrowing places in the previous volumes. This volume mostly focuses on Kabi's attempts to begin dating, or thinks about beginning to date, and for the most part doesn't mine the levels of desperation, illness, and pain of the prior volumes that gave them their gravitas and import as literature. 
    That being said, there is one very complex and personal thing that Kabi brings up in this volume. I won't spoil it, but it could also be quite tough for some readers and she does provide a trigger warning and the page numbers to skip through. Purely as a reader, I felt it quite difficult how Kabi reveals this truly horrific and major personal information but then also moves on from it very quickly and never returns to it. This is her truth and her life and her processing laid bare before us, so maybe this is really what it felt like to her and she was able to just move on. But at the same time, I wished she had either explored the implications of this in her life more thoroughly and what the healing process was like (or wasn't like)...or maybe hadn't brought it up at all. In some ways, this event could be seen as making everything in the prior four volumes make sense. And Kabi starts to talk about it with that level of significance but just as suddenly as this revelation is made, she moves on saying maybe it really isn't the cause of all her challenges after all. Huh? 
    I certainly don't expect anyone to expose themselves so openly and personally if they don't want to, but then why bring it up at all just to deny that it has any role in the larger life story she's telling through this manga series? I suspect because it does have a bigger role than she is ready to explore publicly right now (or maybe even admit to herself). 
    As a reader though it left me feeling badly. An analog for the feelings that this approach evoked in me might be similar to when your partner says they cheated on you years ago but felt horrible keeping the secret - they unburden themselves at your expense (BTW this has never actually happened to me, my [very few] ex's are all good people). Like, what are you supposed to do with this information now? You were happy a minute ago, thinking everything is fine. But after sharing, they get to feel better (no more guilt) and now you feel worse. I know that that is not at all a fair comparison to make. Kabi has no need to justify how much or what she does with anything she reveals in her work. But it was my honest emotional reaction to how this event is handled so briefly in this work, for better or worse. It left me feeling burdened with its enormity with no recourse.
    Other than this brief section, which occurs roughly halfway through the volume over the course of a couple pages, there are episodes about wedding photos, dating apps, grandchildren, and a lot of research about relationships. These are fine, occasionally humorous, sometimes a bit didactic, but often feeling more like filler. Which makes the volume feel like filler, i.e. just not up to par with some of the prior volumes. But let's say hypothetically there were to be a few more stunning volumes after this one, then if one were to read all of them together, the stories here might work in that larger arc. But as a self-contained volume about her thoughts on dating, it just didn't quite come together as cohesively (or as importantly) as the prior volumes.
    Is it good? Should you buy it? Did you like her other stuff and want to keep supporting her as a creator? It was okay and I will certainly keep buying new volumes from her as they come out. As I said in the beginning, I feel very icky trying to write a review of a memoir, because that is that person's life. And who am I to judge another person's life? But as a reviewer, I can look at the art of putting that story on the page, and in this case, "My Wandering Warrior Existence" didn't work as well for me as her prior volumes. The explosive freshness of "My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness" may simply not be a fair comparison for any other works by her. Yet it exists and can't be ignored. 

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Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Daytime Shooting Star volumes 7 and 8 (manga review)

    I think the last time I wrote about "Daytime Shooting Star," I swore off finishing the series even though people told me that it ended better than it began. Well, I'm a completist and it was killing me to only have part of the series on my bookshelf, so I'm back to reading it. In this quick review, I touch on volumes 7 and 8.

Two manga covers, each depicting the faces of two teens

    Quick synopsis: Suzume moves from the country to Tokyo to live with her uncle when her parents go overseas (or something that parents seem to do in manga a lot). In Tokyo she meets a friend of her uncle's who just happens to be a teacher in her school. She falls for him. The question is whether he will fall for her, and whether anything will happen.
    And so if you've been reading this blog for any length of time you know that it is that premise which really really pisses me off. Adults should not have anything to do romantically with children ever. Especially educators. And the frequent depiction of "May/December" relationships between adults and high-schoolers in manga is deeply upsetting to me because it appears to normalize something that shouldn't be normalized. 
    Adults should, if they become aware of some infatuation from a child, either 1) ignore it, 2) make clear that nothing can happen ever, 3) stop all interactions with the child, or 4) some combination of all three. That's where "After the Rain," although it starts by veering into not good territory, actually handles those three points quite well and we see how the adult guides the teen back to a better place and away from the adult. 
    Thankfully, although it isn't done with the elegance of "After the Rain", volume 7 of "Daytime Shooting Star" does finally show the teacher taking some responsibility for the path he is going on and perhaps trying to make it right. I don't want to give anything away, so I won't go into details, but it's a start to maybe some repair work in this series. 
    Volume 8 goes a bit further as it reintroduces the teen boy character, Mamura as a potential love interest of Suzume. What somewhat bothered me is how the author conveniently has Suzume's friend Yuyuka fall for someone else after she seemingly had her eyes only on Mamura. While this clears the path for Suzume and Mamura to eventually get together (which of course would be healthier for her), it felt too convenient and easy to just brush aside Yuyuka and her story arc. 
    I think back to one of my favorite series, "Ao Haru Ride," and how Futaba and Yuri must work through their mutual crush on the same boy and how it affects their relationship. That was so well written. I am doubting we'll get that level of depth of writing in "Daytime Shooting Star." But at least maybe we can see Suzume realize she's better off with a fellow teen her age. 
    What I'm a bit worried about is that the teacher still admits to the uncle that he loves Suzume. So although he appears to end things in Volume 7, why isn't he questioning himself as to why he got so emotionally (and almost romantically) involved with a child? Sounds like he needs some serious therapy. I doubt we'll get that level of depth in the writing either.
    On the art side, I really do like the overall style. It's somewhere between the older shoujo style I love, and the newer more cartoony style. The facial expressions are great, and when it wants to, the art can be really well done. It's on the "plus" side for art quality.
    Should you keep reading this? Who knows. I will because I want to see where it goes and because I hate having partial series on my shelf. That being said, although maybe it has taken a turn for the better, I don't see it handling the rest of the story with any more depth, nuance, or maturity than it handled the first half. So I still think this will end up as a so-so series.

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Gender Queer is a phenomenal graphic novel (quick review)

Book cover for Gender Queer which depicts a young adult looking at their reflection in a lake of themselves as a child.
    Gender Queer, by Maia Kobabe, is a phenomenal, touching, and elegantly written graphic novel about a gender non-conforming/non-binary person who is also asexual. It is rare enough to get solid representation of and by someone in the non-binary community, but perhaps even more important is the exploration of asexuality and the intertwining dysphoria that accompanies both aspects of the author's experience.
    It covers roughly the first 25 or so years of the author's life, as E [note: E uses Spivak Pronouns] goes from a carefree early life to increasing pressure by the outside world to conform to (and confirm Eir) social gender norms. In addition, the treatment of menstruation, gynecological visits, body dysphoria, and so much more is laid bare for non-binary/asexual readers looking for an image of themselves in media, and for those looking to better understand non-binary and/or asexual experiences.
    One of the things about this graphic novel that was most impactful to me was the somewhat dispassionate (and I mean that as a compliment) style of both the writing and art. There is nothing performative, nothing trying to make some grand point, nothing overly emotional in the presentation. This is almost a journalistic memoir in it's clear, simple retelling of various experiences in Eir life. Rather than undermine the value and insight of the memoir, that style serves to make the actual insight more profound because it is not presented through any intense layers of emotion that might distract or detract for some readers. I found it to be incredibly moving, insightful, and beautiful and the style of both art and writing served it extremely well.
    Many of you may have heard or come across Gender Queer in that conservative media has been bashing it as pornography. It is not. There are some moments where sexual acts are depicted, but they serve as points for unpacking internal experiences, sensations, feelings, and understandings of self. They most definitely are not depicted pornographically or for any eroticism or titillation . Like I said in the paragraph before, the whole thing has a slightly dispassionate, journalistic quality, further emphasizing that this is not porn. 
    Worryingly, even the New York State Education Department came out against this book recently in a disappointing way when the pulled a twitter post from the state librarian championing this book and its personal meaning to her and her child. [Tweet posted below this review for posterity because it has been removed from twitter]. Lauren Moore is the head of all libraries in the state, not just school libraries, but public libraries, research libraries, state university libraries, and was absolutely correct to give this graphic novel a personal shoutout because it is most definitely appropriate to adult, teen, and maybe even some younger readers. It is so disappointing that the government can't even respect freedom from censorship and the LGBTQ+ community in what is supposed to be a liberal state. (And for those who know me, I am risking my job over this post because NYSED was not pleased with me when I wrote to them directly with my concern over their response and statement, but that's a story for another day).
    So although this review is coming out well after the graphic novel was published, I wanted to respond to the March 2022 dust up with New York State and give this graphic novel another bit of positive press. It is a truly beautifully written, drawn, and observed memoir about two underrepresented and frequently misunderstood aspects of the LGBTQ+ continuum. I highly recommend it.
Tweet from Lauren Moore stateing "I chose "Gender Queer: a Memoir" by Maia Kobabe. I'm grateful for books that let my kid know they're not alone."
What a beautiful statement that should have been entirely non-controversial.

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Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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