This is the final post from Erica Friedman as a guest blogger this Pride Month. Thank you, Erica!
Part 3 – Queer Manga
In Parts 1 and 2 we discussed two genres of manga: Yaoi, aka Boy’s Love, which has been around since the 1990s in Japan, and the much newer Yuri. In both these genres, it’s not entirely unusual to have stories with queer content, but not queer identity, as the audiences for Yaoi and Yuri were initially presumed to be straight. This has changed quite a bit – audiences now demand more queer identity in their manga. As more creators and readers are now openly identifying as LGBTQ+, the last few years have seen a veritable explosion of what I’m referring to here as “Queer Manga.”
The titles I have chosen for this section are both: 1) by openly LGBTQ+-identifying creators, and 2) include characters, storylines and language that centers or discusses LGBTQ+ experience and identity.
There’s no way this list can be comprehensive, and more great new manga is coming out (no pun intended, but it’s not wrong, either!) every day. US manga companies really get that Pride month is a great time to put out queer manga, so get ready to keep those order lists open.
My Brother’s Husband
by Gengoroh Tagame
Eisner Award Winner! Yaichi is a work-at-home suburban dad in contemporary Tokyo; formerly married to Natsuki, and father to their young daughter, Kana. Their lives suddenly change with the arrival at their doorstep of a hulking, affable Canadian named Mike Flanagan, who declares himself to be the widower of Yaichi’s estranged gay twin, Ryoji. Mike is on a quest to explore Ryoji’s past, and the family reluctantly but dutifully takes him in. What follows is an unprecedented and heartbreaking look at the state of a largely still-closeted Japanese gay culture: how it’s been affected by the West, and how the next generation can change the preconceptions about it and prejudices against it.
This manga ran in a mainstream manga magazine for adult men, and spoke to the men of Japan about their own prejudices. A gentle and hopeful series.
My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness (and sequels)
by Kabi Nagata
Seven Seas Entertainment
Harvey Award winner! My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is an honest and heartfelt look at one young woman’s exploration of her sexuality, mental well-being, and growing up in our modern age. This intimately personal story and highly entertaining single volume depicts not only the artist’s discussion of her sexuality, but also her struggle with depression and an eating disorder.
This blockbuster hit started as a web comic diary, that got people all over the world talking about their mental health. The series is ongoing, and so is Nagata’s life. It’s been a journey both for her and her readers!
Boys Run the Riot
by Keito Gaku
Harvey Award Nominee! A transgender teen named Ryo finds an escape from the expectations and anxieties of his daily life in the world of street fashion. This personal, heartfelt, fictional story from a transgender manga creator made waves in Japan. Kodansha has an all-trans localization staff for this book which was named Best Books for Teens 2021 selection, New York Public Library
Fantastically honest, uncomfortable and inspirational, I recommend this book highly.
Is Love the Answer?
by Uta Isaki
When it comes to love, high schooler Chika wonders if she might be an alien. She’s never fallen for or even had a crush on anyone, and she has no desire for physical intimacy. Her friends tell her that she just “hasn’t met the one yet,” but Chika has doubts… It’s only when Chika enters college and meets peers like herself that she realizes there’s a word for what she feels inside–asexual–and she’s not the only one. After years of wondering if love was the answer, Chika realizes that the answer she long sought may not exist at all–and that that’s perfectly normal.
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Our Dreams At Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare
Seven Seas Entertainment
The Harvey-nominated manga about a broad LGBTQ+ community. Not only is high schooler Tasuku Kaname the new kid in town, he is also terrified that he has been outed as gay. Just as he’s contemplating doing the unthinkable, Tasuku meets a mysterious woman who leads him to a group of people dealing with problems not so different from his own. In this realistic, heartfelt depiction of LGBTQ+ characters from different backgrounds finding their place in the world, a search for inner peace proves to be the most universal experience of all.
This book is simply gorgeous, with a compelling narrative, realistic representation of a diverse queer community and stunning art.
I’m in Love With the Villainess
by inori, illustrated by Aonoshimo
Seven Seas Entertainment
In this critically acclaimed romantic comedy, a reincarnated gamer pursues her villainous lady love at a fantasy girl’s academy!
When corporate worker Rei Ohashi finds herself reborn as the protagonist of her favorite dating sim, it’s the perfect opportunity to do what she’s always wanted—seduce the villainess! Now, armed with her extensive knowledge of the game, and her undying love for Claire, will Rei finally be able to win over the woman of her dreams?
This book surprised and pleased readers with frank discussions of LGBTQ+ identity in a fantasy game setting. Also deals with issues like social inequality and justice, for added relevance.
Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It
Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It is the first English-language anthology of its kind: an in-depth introduction to nine of the most exciting comic artists making work for a gay male audience in Japan. Get to know each of these artists intimately, through candid interviews, photography, context-providing essays, illustrations, and manga.
One of the defining moments, Massive single-handedly changed the landscape for gay manga in English. With tons of extra content, this a must-read for fans of gay comix.
Books About Queer Manga
Maybe you already have read lot of manga and you’re more interested in books about these genres. You’d like to know about their history and how they are changing as they move through time – and outside Japan. Well fan studies are thriving right now and for the non-fiction lovers among you, there’s been some recent writing that should interest you.
Queer Transfigurations: Boys Love Media in Asia
edited by James Welker
University of Hawaii Press
Queer Transfigurations reveals the far-reaching influences of the BL genre, demonstrating that it is truly transnational and transcultural in diverse cultural contexts. It has also helped bring about positive changes in the status of LGBT(Q) people and communities as well as enlighten local understandings of gender and sexuality throughout Asia. In short, Queer Transfigurations shows that, some fifty years after the first BL manga appeared in print, the genre is continuing to reverberate and transform lives.
This book celebrates the fact that Yaoi has become a global phenomenon and the changes within BL as a genre and BL readership as a result.
By Your Side: The First 100 Years of Yuri Anime and Manga
by Erica Friedman
The Untold Story of Lesbian Love in Japanese Animation and Comics. Erica Friedman has been writing and speaking about Yuri anime and manga for 20 years. This book is a collection of her essays, lectures and opinion pieces collected into one volume. By Your Side traces the history of the Yuri genre from early 20th century roots to the present.
I’m really pleased at how this book came out and I hope you’ll enjoy it, as well!
Erica Friedman has written about Yuri for Japanese literary journal Eureka, Animerica magazine, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Dark Horse, and contributed to Forbes, Slate, Huffington Post, Hooded Utilitarian, The Mary Sue, Anime Feminist, Anime Herald and Anime News Network online. She has written news and event reports, interviews Yuri creators and reviews Yuri anime, manga and related media on her blog Okazu since 2002 and is the author of By Your Side: The First 100 Year of Yuri Anime and Manga out from Journey Press.
HEADER IMAGE: Images: Yuricon; Design Elements: Sachi; Font: Euphoragenic