Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Our Dreams at Dusk Volume 1 - an important LGBTQ manga (Manga Review)

Yuhki Kamatani
Normally I give a numeric score as part of my reviews. However, for some things like memoirs and autobiographical graphic novels, it is simply not appropriate for me to "judge" someone's life. While Our Dreams at Dusk Volume 1 (Seven Seas) is a work of fiction, given the importance of accurate depictions and representations of LGBTQ teens in media of all types, I am also disinclined to give a numeric score here out of respect for this important series. I am simply glad that there is a manga addressing this community in a sensitive and realistic fashion, hopeful that it will provide one more mirror for those looking for validation and affirmation as well as serving as one more piece of normalizing the LGBTQ experience.

That being said, had Our Dreams at Dusk vol. 1 been trashy, poorly written, poorly illustrated, problematic, etc... I would have no compunction about tearing into it. So thankfully, I am glad to say that it lived up to its billing as a critical piece of LGBTQ representation and storytelling. Many manga that features LGBTQ characters fall into genres or tropes where the true social ramifications of being queer are not really addressed. Most yuri for instance tends to place no burden or stigma on women in relationships, and yet society clearly still marginalizes them, excludes them, and makes it outright dangerous at times to be out. There seem to be only a few titles that tackle the true complexities experienced by LGBTQ individuals, and Our Dreams at Dusk volume 1 appears to be a solid and needed bit of quality representation.

We meet Tasuku Kaname as students in his school are teasing him and alleging that he is gay. Unwilling to out himself, he denies it. This is the fiercely horrifying position that many LGBTQ individuals who are not out face on a regular basis: a) lie about who they are to prevent ostracization and being forced to come out ahead of schedule which means they are denying their own identity or b) confirm it before they are ready to be out - thus being outed by someone else. Tasuku has that impossible choice to make, and refutes that he is gay.

While contemplating attempting suicide, an all too real outcome of this sort of social and societal stigma and bigotry, Tasuku believes that someone next to him has just done the same by jumping out a window. (If you need help, please call the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255). Worried, he goes in search of her and to let people know what he saw.

He stumbles into a "drop in center" where other guests explain that this mysterious young woman is named "Someone-san" and that's how she goes out for a walk, so she's just fine. Over the course of the volume, he has interactions with the mysterious Someone-san who helps him begin to unpack his feelings (even though she refuses to actually tell him anything, at least he's talking out loud about things) as well as meeting others in the drop-in center, some of whom are also members of the LGBTQ community.

The drop-in center was established by a non-profit that restores crumbling historical homes in the area. Tasuku starts volunteering with this work, meeting a young woman who is married to another young woman. These two women are at different places in their own comfort with being out and their process helps Tasuku also begin to face himself.

In all, this is a volume that accurately depicts many of the confusions, questions, fears, stigmas, and complications that LGBTQ youth face. It also depicts some healthy role models and does so in a story that has some intrigue and mystery. The writing is solid as is the pacing. The art has a nice, clear, crispness to it and there is plenty of detail in the art without being hyper-detailed. From what I can tell in this one volume, it seems like it will live up to what I heard about it (from its original Japanese release) as well as my hopes and expectations for a truly emotionally valid and relevant LGBTQ teen journey.

I would highly recommend you check out this volume and I am very excited for the rest of the series. I think this could be a very important series for many youth (and adults).


National suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255

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