Presenting the LGBTQ Manga Book Club

Presenting the LGBTQ Manga Book Club

After the positive response to our Beyond Yuri on Ice: LGBTQ Anime and Manga panel and blog post, we wanted to engage with those anime and manga on a new level. It’s one thing to hear about a work of fiction in an overview of many, and another to experience it yourself. To encourage that we’re starting a monthly LGBTQ Manga Book Club! We say manga book club, but it will occasionally include anime. Discussion will take place in WordPress comments as well as a Goodreads group. Goodreads is a social network based around books, such as sharing what you read and writing reviews. The book club group has a forum for discussion and a reference “bookshelf” of manga with LGBTQ themes.

Whether manga or anime, the monthly media will be on the shorter side. May’s manga is only one book: the first volume of My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame! Available in English as of yesterday in hardcover or digital! The English version combines the first and second volumes of the Japanese edition. The manga is seen from the point of view a straight Japanese man named Yaichi, who learns not only is his twin brother dead but he was married to a white Canadian man for ten years. Mike, the husband, moves in with Yaichi and his daughter Kana. Yaichi must confront his prejudice in a story of family, discrimination, identity, and cultural difference. Be warned this includes depiction of heterosexism/homophobia, slurs, and death of family members.

Background Information

Gengoroh Tagame is the most prolific gay mangaka. He was born in 1964 and began his art career at 18 years old by submitting under pen names to various magazines. At 30 years old he became a full time artist of gay erotica with the magazine G-men, but he’s also a scholar of Japanese historical gay art. He is openly gay and lives with his long-term partner. In the past few years his work has been published in English in the US, such as The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame that collects various stories. Most of his work (Standing Ovations, Endless Game, Gunji, Fisherman’s Lodge, Contracts of the Fall available in English) features themes of BDSM. Our book club choice is his first manga for all ages, but please only look up his other work if you are an adult.

My Brother’s Husband came about from Tagame wanting to write an ongoing manga about gay social issues for a straight audience. It took years for his idea to be picked up by Monthly Action, a manga magazine founded in 2013 that covers a variety of genres and demographics. To give you an idea, Monthly Action also serialized the Eisner-nominated Orange and is currently publishing Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. My Brother’s Husband began serialization in 2014 and has been collected into three volumes in Japan. Now it’s being translated to English by Anne Ishii, who also edited the anthology Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It Tagame was a part of.

Further Reading (expect NSFW images)

Discussion Questions

  1. What are your overall thoughts on the book? How did it make you feel?
  2. Are the characters believable? How do you feel about Yaichi, Mike, and Kana and their motivations? How do differences in orientation and culture influence their interactions?
  3. What chapter or moment stood out to you?
  4. Are you familiar with Tagame’s other work? How does reading this compare?
  5. Tagame created this manga for a straight audience. How does it read from your point of view, straight or not?
  6. What observations does Tagame make about heterosexism/homophobia in Japan?
  7. How does this manga compare to Western fiction you know about gay issues?
  8. What are your predictions or hopes for future volumes?
  9. Any other thoughts?
  10. Any discussion questions you have for fellow book club members?

You may answer as many or as few questions as you like. Feel free to leave your comments on this post and/or the Goodreads group! For June the LGBTQ Manga Book Club will start discussing My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata, but discussion will indefinitely remain open for My Brother’s Husband volume one.

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3 thoughts on “Presenting the LGBTQ Manga Book Club

  1. 1. All the book club guides I read in prep for organizing this said to avoid the words “like” and “dislike” but hey I liked it. The social issues aren’t new to me, but they’re presented in a personal and touching way.

    2. The characters are believable to me. The way Tagame panels the contrast between what Yaichi wants to say side-by-side with what actually happens explains his character in a way only comics can.

    3. The ending when Yaichi imagines Kana announcing her marriage to a woman stood out to me. Even though Yaichi has improved his outlook on gay people in general, he may not be able to accept his own daughter being gay. I look forward to Tagame exploring this more.

    Also Tagame had me going and I thought Natsuki was dead until she appeared. I hope to see her again.

    4. You can tell Tagame draws erotica from how detailed he draws men like Yaichi and Mike, especially their bathing scenes. It’s kinda funny but I think it’s educational in a way, by giving a straight reader an idea of the aesthetic of “gay manga.”

    5. The manga hits on social issues I’m already familiar with, but it’s always new to someone.

    6. This isn’t really specific to Japan but I appreciate how the contrast between Yaichi’s reservations and Kana’s acceptance shows how prejudice grows in people as they age. Prejudice isn’t “natural,” but social.

    8. I wonder if Yaichi’s identity crisis with Ryuji’s shadow/silhouette will lead to him questioning his own sexuality… It would be an interesting turn on the “straight” character for a straight audience to identify with.

    9. I hope the publication of this manga will lead to more manga by LGBTQ creators in the US. c: Gimme Shimanami Tasogare.

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  2. 1. I had a really good time! I didn’t know exactly what to expect with this manga except that it would go over issues with being a gay person in Japan. I also knew it got a lot of good reviews in Japan (I actually saw the first volume displayed on bestseller shelves when I was there) so I’m very happy to finally read it. It’s very charming and fun for also tackling serious issues. It is very 101 in a sense but that’s fine. Tagame’s intent and scope is very clear and I think it works well.

    2. Yes! They feel like real characters with personality and not just vehicles for issues and morality lectures, which is nice. I love their relationships with each other, they feel very rich and genuine. They’re the backbone of this story really. I also like the cross-cultural mixing here. It fits in with the theme of learning about and accepting others that are different from you.

    3. There’s a lot of really good and interesting scenes in this volume but I honestly got very emotional at the reveal of Kazuya being a closeted gay boy who just wanted to find someone else who he could relate to. It’s very straightforward and, beyond the reveal of Kazuya’s motivations, doesn’t hold any surprises, but those kind of moments are a weak spot for me.

    4. Haha, yes and no. I haven’t taken the time to read his other works but I have looked through some of it, and you can definitely see it shine through here even though it’s much more family friendly. His attention to detail with regards to male physicality is probably the most noticeable similarity.

    5. Well, like I said it’s very 101 which is fine. It just means personally, I’m not getting a lot of new educational information in terms of how to understand and behave around gay people. However, it’s a good story and with a sweet premise, which is worth recommending regardless. It is definitely thoughtful writing for approaching these issues in a way that straight people can empathize with. Yaichi isn’t so homophobic that he’s a Big Bad Homophobe coming around to being okay. His reactions are more self-aware and moderate while still problematic, which is refreshing to read.

    6. This isn’t uniquely Japanese but there is a lot of emphasis on social interactions and how people see you (which is very important in Japanese society). It really bleeds into the story in other ways, such as Yaichi being embarrassed about his job. I always like that as a theme in LGBTQ works just because it really pinpoints the struggles of being LGBTQ not as an inherent struggle but formed from society’s expectations and judgments.

    7. This is much more lighthearted than a lot of other Western fiction on similar issues I think. My immediate first thought was Glee, which contained some similar goals but approached them with melodrama and angst.

    8. I’m not sure besides expanding on what’s already been there. I imagine there will be more exploration of Ryoji, as a husband and as a brother. I want to know what his personality was like! Maybe Tagame will dig more into Yaichi and Mike’s grief as well?

    9. I’m just so happy for how nice this story is and that it’s getting good attention right now.

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