Friday, July 26, 2019

Our Dreams at Dusk volume 2 is painfully insightful (Manga Review)

Shimanami Tasogare 2
Our Dreams at Dusk Vol. 2 - 8/10

With "Our Dreams at Dusk" volume 2 (Seven Seas), we pick up with highschooler Tasuku having come out as gay to some of the folks at the drop-in center. He's also beginning to think about his project for the abandoned home the non-profit he helps with (and runs the drop-in center) is refurbishing. But this volume focuses more on Misora Shuji, a young person at the drop-in center, and how his interactions with Tasuku helps Tasuku begin to broaden his own understandings.

Misora Shuji, who I will use "he/him/his" pronouns for here only because he's struggling with his gender identity and hasn't yet changed his own pronouns (although is probably a trans girl at heart), is a late elementary school (6th grade presumably) child who presents as a girl at the drop-in center.

Shuji lives with his mother, grandmother, and two sisters at home. This revelation leads Tasuku to (stupidly) ask what many in society might ask: "do you like to dress like a girl because you live with girls" which we know to be naive, but that's Tasuku's process of exploration. Our Dreams at Dusk takes the taboo topics (such as stereotypical and naive questions like that) and explores them earnestly and without judgment. People do have thoughts like that, as ill-informed as they might be, so having Tasuku work through it and come out with a richer understanding of gender and sexuality educates the audience without belittling those who have a lot to learn (as we all do).

Furthering this process: Tasuku, not fully understanding what it means for Shuji, pushes him to go out presenting as a female for the first time. They go to the fireworks festival together, but Shuji is groped by someone in the crowd, and is understandably confused and distraught. What does it mean to feel good and right presenting as a woman but then to be molested and made to feel scared because of it? This leads to a significant confrontation between Shuji and Tasuku and to Shuji staying away from the drop-in center and also getting rid of his wigs and female clothing. Tasuku is left haunted by his role in destroying (albeit probably temporarily) Shuji's safe space and positive sense of self when all he wanted to do was help Shuji.

During this time, Tasuku is also starting to talk to his own love interest, the sports hero who is on student council with him. They have a few pleasant interactions and Tasuku admits to himself that he wants to let the other boy know how he feels. However, we also find out that this boy's father is the government liaison with the abandoned house project. This feels a little too contrived and convenient that there is such an intersection between a random boy Tasuku likes and the drop-in center/non-profit. But we'll see how it's handled down the road. One can imagine it leading to some pretty rough confrontations between that boy and his father and perhaps some consequences against the drop-in center itself.

Throughout this volume, there are many parallels being drawn to Tasuku's process of figuring out what he wants to turn his abandoned house project into and his own process of understanding himself and what he wants from his crush. It also goes one step further and links in the process of Tasuku figuring out about his house project with Shuji figuring out his gender identity. There are some things that can't be rushed, and if we push too hard before we're ready, people might push back in unexpected ways (this is actually a paraphrase of some excellent dialogue towards the end of the volume).

The art is quite good, but there is occasional looseness to how faces are rendered, but overall that's really a minor issue. Screentones are used for basic shading, not for effects in the background, so it's a pretty realistically depicted art style that serves the text well. There are some really nice full-page image collages and some repeating visual metaphors (the fish and fishbowl) throughout.

This volume shows that although Tasuku may have admitted to himself, and a few others, that he's gay, it doesn't mean he really knows anything about anything, especially with what other people are going through. Watching him stumble, enthusiastically, in his desire to push Shuji forward only for it to severely hurt Shuji is painful but well written and very realistic. This is true LGBTQ representation: actual people working through the actual complexities of understanding themselves and others and in a society that routinely makes it dangerous to be open and true to oneself. However, despite these intense issues, it never gets brooding or overly dramatic. Everything is handled with fidelity and nuance and balance.

Our Dreams at Dusk volume 2 is a welcome addition to the story that started in volume 1, adds a likely-transgender character to our various gay characters, and explores some complex issues of ally-ship and self-realization. It gets a strong 8/10. I'm definitely going to keep reading this 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.

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