Our Dreams at Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare, Vol. 3

By Yuhki Kamatani. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Hibana. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jocelyne Allen. Adapted by Ysabet MacFarlane.

“You have to learn to let it go.” A sentence that has been uttered by a lot of people over the years. Sometimes it’s correct. But sometimes it’s also sending the wrong message, and repressing things is not the answer. The third volume of Our Dreams at Dusk has two parallel narratives, and neither of them involve Misora, who after the events of the last book does not appear at all. Instead, we see Tasuku feeling guilty but also returning to work on the house project with the rest of the Cat Clutter folks. Unfortunately, Tsubaki is there as well, and is giving Tasuku some very mixed signals (which, as becomes clear later on, are mixed in his own mindset as well.) Meanwhile, an old classmate of Utsumi’s shows up and tries to be as well-meaning as possibly, in all the negative senses of the word. It’s upsetting everyone else, so why it Utsumi letting her continue to try to be “helpful”? Can can Tasuku move forward after seeing how Utsumi deals with things?

Tasuku’s narrative is fraught with highs and lows. Tsubaki is working with him, and being nice, and seeming close and friendly. But he’s also using some homophobic slurs when describing the group to others. A very telling point comes when he and Tasuku are out at the local dockyards, which Tasuku briefly imagines as a date till Tsubaki invites two girls from the volleyball team to come along as well. As they have a meal, Tsubaki once again uses a slur to describe the group, only to be stopped short, not by Tasuku, but by one of the two girls, whose friend’s older sister is married to a trans man. Once Tsubaki realizes his words upset people he knows, he apologizes. Tsubaki himself is upset at his own feelings about Tasuku, leading to a confrontation at the end where Tasuku wants Tsubaki, the man he likes, not to hurt other people. It’s very powerful.

Then there’s Utsumi, who has been one of the pillars of strength that Tasuku has been leaning on throughout the manga. Reuniting with Shoko, whose attempts to be sympathetic, understanding, and accepting grate on absolutely everyone around her. But Utsumi is dealing with it with a smile and some kind words… till on a bike ride with Tasuku one day the repressed fury all comes out at once. Being consistently misgendered constantly is NOT something to accept with a shrug, and when Utsumi goes to a lunch with the other girls from that class, he finds that he can’t do this anymore. Shoko’s “you aren’t like other homosexuals” again reminds us that it’s much harder for some people to deal with this when it;s someone they know well, rather than the nebulous other. (I also loved that Shoko’s daughter keeps going to see the Cat Clutter people, even after her mother stops.

We have one more volume to go, and I suspect that it’s going to be dealing with Tchaiko’s past and the wedding. I’m going to miss this series with its stunning visuals and excellent LGTBQ cast.

Our Dreams at Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare, Vol. 2

By Yuhki Kamatani. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hibana. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jocelyne Allen. Adapted by Ysabet MacFarlane.

It was always a possibility, of course. We’ve seen that sort of thing in countless other titles. The new character comes along to an already existing group and is able to magically help all of them with their problems. And indeed, we saw Tasuku last time introduced to the drop-in center, and the bulk of this second volume revolves around Misora, the kid from last time who was rude and dismissive of Tasuku, and is on the cusp of puberty and also having gender identity issues. It would make perfect sense to see Tasuku help drag Misora out of their shell and help them come to firm realizations. Indeed, we start to see something like that. But life is just not that simple, and Misora’s issues are deep-rooted and not easily solved. And so we end with more lashing out, and more slurs used to hurt, and more art as metaphor with Tasuku’s world literally collapsing around him.

Both people on the cover are Misora, who dresses as a girl at the drop-in center but would never do anything like that at home. Their relationship with Tasuku is extremely bitter and confrontational, and Misora takes delight at times in not only correcting Tasuku’s misconceptions but also hammering on Tasuku’s wounds. At the same time, of course, Misora is also guardedly opening up to Tasuku and feeling him out, ready to lash out in pain and fury at the slightest sign of pity or confusion. But at least Tasuku has defined himself, even if he can’t admit it to the man he loves. Misora is not sure at all what they are – a boy, a girl, or what have you. And they also know that puberty is soon going to make this much, much harder. Meanwhile, Tasuku’s story is hardly over, as he’s spotted at the drop-in center, and outed to his crush… who may already have an inkling about things anyway.

The plot of this volume is very good, but it’s the journey that’s even better. There are no wasted pages, and the frustration burns off the pages as Misora spews more and more slurs at Tasuku – there’s lots of them in this book, all meant to push Tasuku away and also other him to a degree. There’s also more terrific art – I’d mentioned the collapsing building metaphor earlier that serves as the climax, but there’s also little moments like Tasuku taking a wave that Tsubaki gives to him and consuming it at stars, or Misora shown in the water of a glass that Tasuku drops, about to shatter to the floor. Little moments like these help to move the reader along, and the character moments – which can be agonizing – help to slow things down. (I also want to know more about Tchaikovsky guy, and hope we see him next time.)

If you’d been on the fence about reading this series (and I can’t imagine too many who were), pick it up. It’s a painful journey, but also amazing to read.

Our Dreams at Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare, Vol. 1

By Yuhki Kamatani. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hibana. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jocelyne Allen. Adapted by Ysabet MacFarlane.

I had heard a great deal of buzz about this title when it was licensed and before, but hadn’t really experienced it beyond people on Tumblr posting pictures of some of the stunning artistic concepts that form part of its story. Having now read the first volume, I remain deeply impressed with the art, but also drawn in by the story and characters. Our Dreams at Dusk gives us a look at LGBT people in Japan and their attempts to deal with these feelings that society – and their own family and peers – tell them is shameful. At its heard is a community founded by the very mysterious “Someone-san”, whose name we don’t know but who has brought together people who need to be able to confess their feelings to, well, someone. It can’t keep being bottled up and repressed. As we see in this first volume, some are more successful than others. And just because you “come out” doesn’t mean your problems are over.

Tasuku is our protagonist, who is high school kid who we fist meet when he’s debating whether he should leap to his death from a high wall. Flashbacks show that someone at high school grabbed his phone and found his browser history, and now are asking if he’s into “gay porn”. He denies it, using a slur he detests, but the truth is that he is gay, though he hasn’t – and feels he cannot – tell anyone or his life will be over. Just the thought of having to return to school the next day drives him to the brink. Before he can do anything, though, he sees a person leap out of a window much higher than where he is. Rushing to the building they were in, he doesn’t find the jumper, but his blurting out that “someone fell” leads him to Someone-san and the group there. Over the course of the book, he opens up to some of them, clashes with others, and continues to go to school, where his crush is on the volleyball team.

Of course, the ensemble cast is important as well. We meet an older man who seems to love Tchaikovsky, a tween-ish child who seems to dislike Tasuku on sight, the friendly and hard-working Utsumi, and Haruko and Saki, a lesbian couple who are still having some issues – Haruko has come out to her family and friends, and dealt with the fallout, while Saki still hasn’t said anything to her family. We also see that the group is not a perfect, all-loving conclave – Saki trying to drag Tasuku into her argument with Haruko shatters the mood a bit. And there is, as I noted, the art, which for the most part is elegant and expressive, but every once in a while shows us a two-page spread of artistic abandon trying to show the torment and desires in the main characters’ hearts. It’d be worth reading the series just for that – but we’re fortunate yo have much more to it.

There’s certainly more to this story, which recently ended in Japan at its fourth volume. I suspect the second one will deal with the kid who clearly does not like Tasuku at all. In the meantime, believe the hype – this is definitely worth your time and money.