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.
Last time on AMV Theater, a series of anime music video recommendation posts, we looked back at my introduction to AMVs and the origin of the art form. This time, we’ll be watching recent AMVs (made in the last decade) of classic anime (over 20 years old). AMVs can be a great introduction to an anime, particularly if it’s an older title. Not all the anime featured in this post are necessarily “obscure,” but finding engaging modern AMVs of them can still be tough. A couple of these are even the same anime I showcased last time, but I warned you my preferences would be obvious.
After two pricey new releases, this month the LGBTQ Manga Book Club is looking at an older title accessible for free: Rica ‘tte Kanji!? by lesbian artist Rica Takashima. The omnibus Tokyo Love is available to read online for free or for purchase in English by ALC Publishing. Although the protagonist shares a name with the mangaka, the manga follows the fictional adventures of a young lesbian who moves to Tokyo and meets her first girlfriend. Be warned it contains brief instances of sexual content, attempted sexual assault, and transmisogyny.
Happy Pride Month! Here is the second installation of the online monthly LGBTQ Manga Book Club: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata! The manga is available in English from Seven Seas Entertainment in paperback or digital as of June 6th. Nagata illustrates how her mental illness, employment struggles, and desperation for affection led to hiring a lesbian escort in this autobiographical manga. Be warned it contains depictions of self-harm, disordered eating, and sexual content.
I only watched a handful of Samurai Jack episodes as a child, but I couldn’t miss its conclusive return on Adult Swim this year. It gave me hope that creative, artistic shows cancelled prematurely could come back to life. (I’ll wait for you forever, Motorcity.) The fifth season finds Jack 50 years later, directionless without his sword–the only weapon that can defeat Aku and restore peace to the world. A pack of Aku-worshipping septuplets come to murder him, though only one named Ashi survives. The early episodes were impressive, but my excitement dimmed after the direction Ashi’s arc took in the eighth episode.
Warning: this post contains spoilers for Samurai Jack season five, Princess Mononoke, and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
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 held this panel again at Kumoricon 2017 in two parts. Thank you to everyone who attended at either convention! Now that it’s been a year since Yuri!!! on Ice aired, this panel has been retired but the transcript will remain. Keep in mind this post lacks the slideshow, delivery, and discussion time of the full panel.
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.
We’ll be covering 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 generally 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 conventions that require analysis outside the scope of this panel.
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 or 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.
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. 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 believe critical analysis of media is important and even when we love something or think that it’s important, that 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 discussion.
Also, it should go without saying this panel comes from a Western perspective to a Western audience. We’ve aimed to incorporate Japanese perspectives and insights and find our common ground as LGBTQ folk and build a bridge between cultures. When it comes to most of the Japanese creators we talk about, we only know so much about their identities and private lives. 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 or may not resonate.
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.