Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Our Dreams at Dusk volume 3 explores the painful complexity of identity (Manga Review)

Two teen boys, one looking out, one looking away, stand on a bridge
Our Dreams at Dusk vol. 3 - 9/10

Wow. This was the most challenging and difficult volume in the series so far, but in some ways the most direct about its feelings. Our Dreams at Dusk vol. 3 (Seven Seas) picks up with Tasuku's crush, Tsubaki, spending more and more time helping out with Cat Clutter leading to significant conflict.

While Tasuku and Tsubaki spend more time at Cat Clutter, Tsubaki also starts associating with Tasuku more frequently both in and out of school. This leads Tasuku to begin questioning whether there could ever be something more between them.

However, several times, in several situations, it becomes clear that Tsubaki is struggling with his own identity and lashes out at the LGBTQ+ community as a result. We are left watching as Tasuku gets hurt again and again, but also concerned that Tsubaki might be gay/bi and in denial, punishing himself and those around him in the process of his struggle.

In parallel to this story, an old "friend" of Utsumi's (the head of Cat Clutter), shows up with her young daughter. This woman and Utsumi apparently went to high-school together. She is loud, dominating the space, and repeatedly struggling with referring to people in the LGBTQ+ community even though she proclaims herself some sort of ally. During this, she "outs" Utsumi as a transgender man. Something we, and Tasuku, weren't aware of to this point.

Not only does she "out" Utsumi, but she uses an old nickname from school to refer to him, and even invites him out with all their female friends from school, referring to him as one of the girls. He seemingly takes this all in stride, shrugging it off, but ultimately cracks and lets Tasuku see the pain she has caused him.

At the same time, her daughter spends more and more time at the center, and appears as though she has some inner identity work going on too. I suspect we'll see more of her in the next volume.

Sadly, we don't get any real resolution on Tasuku and Misora (the young gender non-conforming person from the first two volumes) and their fight and Misora's subsequent absence from Cat Clutter. I believe the series is only four volumes, so resolving this and other threads seems almost impossible for the final volume, but we'll see. I hope they don't leave Misora's story unresolved. I'd like to see them back and confronting Tasuku again. Someone-san is also largely absent in volume 3, other than a brief moment with Tsubaki. Will they be given a greater role in the conclusion?

The directness with which Utsumi experiences his pain at being reminded of his former life, the love and hurt Tasuku feels around Tsubaki, and Tsubaki's homophobic anger mixed with his simultaneous embrace of Tasuku all made this an incredibly powerful and profound volume. It was also a painful volume that cuts close to home for me, and I imagine would do the same for many others in the community. Go in expecting triggers, but triggers that are representative of the real micro and macro aggressions LGBTQ+ people face every day navigating their own identities and in the social world.

The art continues to be excellent with strong draftsmanship, with a detailed but slightly sketchy quality. Great writing, important and heartbreaking topics, and quality art make this a remarkable volume in an already important series. I'm excited and worried to see how it concludes, but this was the strongest volume yet - 9/10.


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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