For this month, the LGBTQ Manga Book Club will spend some time with a late September release, Sweet Blue Flowers by Takako Shimura. Published by VIZ, it’s now available in paperback or digital format, as of September 19th. It’s an omnibus, like My Brother’s Husband, combining the first and second volumes of the Japanese edition. The story follows Fumi and Akira, both childhood friends who lost contact after one of them moved away. Ten years later, they reunite as they enter high school. They attend different schools but their friendship reignites as they both navigate the new changes in their lives and grow up. Warning: this volume contains incestuous child abuse and sexual harassment of teenagers.
In many ways, 2017 is the year of Code Geass. The first season of the anime television series takes place in 2017 of the fictional Britannian imperial calendar, the real world Gregorian 2017 marks the tenth anniversary of the show, and a compilation film trilogy and the mysterious sequel Lelouch of the Resurrection were announced for 2017. It remains to be seen if the sequel will surface by the end of the year, but for now the series is back in print on DVD and blu-ray as well as streaming via Funimation or Crunchyroll.
To celebrate, Karleen and Malia are looking back on Code Geass together with a series of retrospective discussions. The anime follows Lelouch Lamperouge, a banished prince rebelling against his father’s empire as the masked terrorist “Zero.” Lelouch seeks revenge for negligence in causing his mother’s death as well as his sister’s paralysis and blindness. Granted the magical power of geass by a mystical stranger, Lelouch can make anyone follow his commands. In his way stands Suzaku Kururugi, his long-lost childhood friend who allies with the empire as a mech pilot despite being native to its Japanese colony. There’s also Arthurian allusions, high school hijinks, and of course Pizza Hut product placement. Let’s begin with the heart of the story: Lelouch and Suzaku. Expect major spoilers for the entire series!
For August, the LGBTQ Manga Book Club will be having a change of pace. Our previous three books have been recent manga by LGBTQ authors, but this month we’ll be looking at a classic manga through a lens of current understanding of gender and LGBTQ concepts. It’s Princess Knight (volumes one and two) by Osamu Tezuka! Both volumes are available in English as translated by Maya Rosewood in paperback and digital from Vertical Inc. The manga follows Sapphire, a fifteen year old girl who was accidentally born with a “boy heart” and a “girl heart” given by God and his angels. She lives as a princess in private, but a prince in public to maintain the throne. Of course, be warned the story invokes gender essentialism and heteronormativity.
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.
Thank you to everyone who attended our panel Beyond Yuri!!! on Ice: LGBTQ Anime and Manga at Sakura-con 2017 (or wanted to and didn’t get in)! We didn’t expect so many people and were incredibly grateful for the support. We plan to run this panel again with better structure, hopefully new anime and manga to talk about, and actually time for questions and discussion! For now, here is the gist of what we covered at Sakura-con, including more detail on topics we had to rush through because of time. So even if you attended the panel, you should take a look at our full post:
The title isn’t a knock on Yuri!!! on Ice at all. (We hosted this panel cosplaying Yuri and Victor, after all.) Rather, we want to use its popularity as a springboard to bring attention to other anime and manga that feature LGBTQ themes and issues. To clarify, we mean to cover a variety of manga and anime that portray LGBTQ themes in positive, negative, and mixed ways. This includes some gross stereotypes and tired tropes, given that they can affect what may be seen as LGBTQ representation. (In other words, keep in mind that we’ll be talking about homophobic, transphobic, and gender essentialist content.) Anime or manga that use the words lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer are rare; but we’re working with those that come as close to it as possible. By the way, we won’t be including adaptations of video games, visual novels, and light novels because it would simply get too long. Those mediums have unique histories and formats that require analysis outside the scope of this panel. We’ll be making only a few exceptions as necessary.
Though as a disclaimer, when it comes to our criticism, we don’t mean it as a personal condemnation or attack on anyone who enjoys any work we discuss in a critical manner. Both of us love most of the media that we cover here, even when they’re deeply flawed. Obviously, fans aren’t synonymous with all the problematic ideas a story can contain and perpetuate. We think critical analysis of media is important and even when we love something or think that it’s important, doesn’t mean it’s excused from critique. If everyone can agree on one thing, it’s that media can have great impact, positive and negative, which is worth some discussion at least.
Also, when it comes to most of the Japanese creators we talk, we only know so much about their identities and private lives. Most of those that are openly out as LGBTQ are mangaka, and still, many mangaka who makes LGBTQ content work under aliases and are fairly private about themselves. Between this and the culture and language barriers, we try not to assume too much about the creators themselves. Rather, we can only judge them by the content of their works and how they may resonate or not.
We will also be including LGBTQ history and topics in Japan to give context and see how they connect to anime and manga. The only spoilers we’ll discuss will be relevant to the LGBTQ content. If you were recommended an anime on the basis it has a gay character but it turned out they were actually straight or they die you’d want to know beforehand, right? We’re sorry if we don’t mention your favorite anime and manga, but it’s impossible for us to know and cover everything. We’ve aimed to include a variety of works with major LGBTQ characters and themes, but more importantly manga by LGBTQ creators. We’re also prioritizing those that are legally available in the United States, unless they’re historically important or otherwise significant.
With that in mind, here we go!
I am truly kind of a joke sometimes.
Spoiler warning for the big plot twist of Ghost in the Shell.
Let me state upfront: I am adopted. I was born in China, when the one child policy was still in effect, and then placed in an orphanage when I was still an infant. Months later I was adopted and taken to America. This the context and reason for me writing this piece.
Spoiler Warning: I talk about some specific scenes, characters arcs, and allude to the ending.
It’s been a while… and it’s been quite a year. For now, Malia and Karleen are looking back at their favorite fiction from the past year. Not necessarily the best, but the favorites. In a year like 2016, our comforts and catharsis are all the more important.
Upon graduating college, I read more books for fun for the summer than I had in years. No reading guide helped me, it was a mix of ones I had been interested in for a while and ones that I had picked up randomly. I can’t say I was too adventurous but it was so good just to read again for myself. Though usually I stick with YA for pleasure reading, I’m proud to say I expanded out a bit.
So I decided to cobble up a list of what I had read from June to August, all checked out from the library. There’s of course other things I read over the summer, but mainly incomplete online serials. I waffled between including the little bit of manga I read or not but they were legitimate stories as anything else.
I was planning to having star or fraction ratings but then that would put me in a weird position. How I feel about a piece of media is a messy combination of complicated things: How I felt engaging with it in the moment, how much of an impact it left on me, how genuinely well-crafted I think it is, etc. So I just decided to summarize some feelings and thoughts without explicit spoilers and say if I recommend it or not (to a general audience). This is mostly in the order I read everything.
Originally I followed her for her self-published story, Best Friends Forever, or BFF. Yesterday, she announced its end before its narrative completion. I could touch on many topics related to her announcement but I’d rather talk about the webcomic itself and what it’s meant to me.