After recently moving to Onomichi, Hiroshima, high school student Tasuku Kaname is thrown into despair at the possibility that he may have been outed for being gay. Convinced his life is over, his despair turns into shock when he sees a woman jump out of a window of a nearby house. Tasuku races to the house in a panic only to discover that it's a public meeting lounge owned by the woman he saw before. Tasuku comes face to face with the woman as she walks past him unharmed, but not before she implies that she had been watching him from afar. Confused, Tasuku follows her up to the top of a steep hill where she offers to briefly listen to what's on his mind. Although Tasuku doesn't go into too much detail, he later accepts her invitation to come to the lounge to meet others with similar troubles.
So, I started this manga today (5/23/18) because I saw it updated and thought “Why not I’ve been meaning to read this for a while,” not realizing that it was the final chapter updating. Now I’m writing this review in tears because I read the manga in one sitting.
A brief summary of what I enjoyed because I’m going to get long and personal after: Shimanami Tasogare is beautifully written with art that is gorgeous. The story is emotional, drawing you in, making you question how Tasuku will come to terms with his sexuality, showing personal issues LGBTQ people face, and leaves you in wonder
about who Anonymous is. I recommend it to everyone, no matter their sexual or gender orientation, to read this manga.
Now a more personal and longer take on the manga:
What got me interested was that it was a story about a gay teenager who tries to kill himself after almost being outed. As someone who is herself a closeted queer person (bisexual) who has a history of suicidal tendencies, I myself know what it is like to go through these feelings and events. Very rarely am I able to see what myself and other LGBTQ people go through, especially in manga form, so the plot interested me greatly. As I read it, I saw a lot of connections between the LGBTQ experience, especially when it comes to the community made through it. I loved reading and seeing how the different people vented their issues with their own sexualities, whether it be destruction, screaming, or keeping it silent inside.
One of the parts I loved the most about the manga was seeing the community portrayed in such a positive light. The story revolves around the queer community and the choices Tasuku makes after becoming a part of it and learning more about what it means to be LGBTQ. From my own personal experience and research, it was so important and heartwarming to me to see him find this community as it does (both in the real-life community and in the story) become another family. This manga is extremely important as it shows the positive of the community, as well as internal struggles they have (such as not understand each other sometimes), but still shows how the community acts as a family and cares for each other. I want to get more into this by mentioning actual scenes but as to not spoil anymore if it I will leave it there.
Moving on (kind of) from the story, the other major part I loved about this manga was the art. Incredibly beautiful (several times I just stopped reading because Tasuku’s eyes were drawn so beautifully I just had to stare at them), the art was so well done and used to its full effect, helping the story and represent what these characters were going through internally. One of the best examples of this (that is early enough in the story that I’m not spoiling much) was at the end of chapter 3 when Tasuku realizes what he is feeling towards a classmate. The scene shows Tasuku breaking apart like glass, with the glass reflecting in classmate. In that moment he also says “No one look at me,” and I cried for a good long while after this part, because as mentioned before, I’ve been where he has been. I’ve seen multiple depictions of what it feels like to be in the closet and realize who and what you are feeling, and that was the first time I’ve seen someone get it so dead on to what I felt, both the breaking and not wanting people to see.
Shimanami Tasogare is an amazing manga that captures a great look at what it means to be LGBTQ, and it’s a manga I would recommend anyone read no matter their sexual or gender orientation.
I’ve said in past reviews that the general societal conservatism of Japan makes it a fool’s errand to seek out good LGBT representation in media. Well, this manga proved me wonderfully wrong.
Shimanami Tasogare is a slice of life drama, but interestingly enough, the first chapter is framed almost as a mystery with some supernatural elements. These elements quickly fade once our protagonist, a gay high schooler who’s deathly afraid of being outed, discovers a tucked-away community of LGBT people. They come in all walks of life, from an middle schooler questioning their gender identity to an elderly gay couple. This should be a generally
happy manga, a story of self-acceptance even with some bumps along the road, but the initial framing renders it permanently bittersweet. By presenting the Cat Clowder organization with an air of supernatural mystery as previously mentioned, the mangaka establishes it as escapism rather than realism. If I’m reading the subtext right, this is meant to depict how LGBT communities can be so hard to find that one might as well just treat them as a fantasy, which is pretty depressing. This feeds back into the plot, with our main character desiring love and validation but being too scared of himself and society to pursue his true self.
When I say that Shimanami Tasogare’s organization is an LGBT community, I really mean all of it. Going into this manga blind, I expected it to be about gay men and maybe women. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Cat Clowder included all sorts of LGBT people, including bisexuals and trans people. There’s even a discussion about asexuality later on, which I never thought I’d see in any media.
Since this is quickly becoming my defining flourish, it’s time for some trans character analysis (In this paragraph I’ll go into some spoilers for the second volume). For once, this manga fares really well with its transgender representation! There’s a trans man who’s not explored too much but I’m glad is there, and a closeted trans girl in middle school who much of the second volume focuses on. Junior high is a terrible time no matter what, and trying to sort through your gender issues then may actually make things worse. This character is scared of going through male puberty, but doesn’t quite have the agency or security to come out as a trans girl. She talks to the main character at large about these anxieties and feels pained every time she has to gender herself or make a conscious choice about identity presentation. Near the end of her arc she finally musters up the courage to present as female and wear a yukata during a festival. This ultimately doesn’t go too well, and a few panic attacks later she flees and stops coming to the lounge for a while, and by extension stops dressing as a girl. All the characters end up concluding that they simply pushed her too fast and that now wasn’t the right time, but that she’d come back and figure herself out sometime later. This may sound like a depressing conclusion, but it’s a devastatingly accurate one, at least for me. When I was in high school, I started questioning my gender identity for the first time, but the lack of resources and self-agency made me give up and repress all those thoughts. It took until the relative freedom of college for me to finally come to terms with myself and start transitioning. Shuuji’s arc may not have been cleanly resolved in canon, but just like me, one day she’ll be able to come to terms with herself.
There’s an interesting dynamic at play with Cat Clowder being a demolition and construction organization. I read it as a metaphor for reconstructing personal identity, which is a sweet touch. In addition to character development and drama, there’s usually some big project to move the plot forwards as well, not to mention characters having to juggle their school and work lives as well.
I haven’t talked about Anonymous at all, the mysterious patron of this whole community, who funds their projects and gives them safe spaces to exist. There’s not too much to say about her, other than that I think she’s a nice role model to look up to. If I had time and money on my hands, I too hope that I would act as the maintainer of a big space for all my friends to hang out in if they’re having trouble.
Overall, even across cultural bridges, Shimanami Tasogare’s characters and their anxieties are extremely relatable, and it’s one of the most accurate depictions of LGBT identity in a country and medium that so often distort it. If you’re queer or think you might be, this is a must-read, and it’s a validating journey. Even if you’re not, it’s still a moving character drama and I cannot recommend it enough. We need many more stories like this.
Across the internet, I see a lot of LGBTQ+ anime fans desperately crying out for well-written representation. I'm here to point the big blinking neon sign to this beautiful gem of a manga.
To start, Shimanami Tasogare is a very real, raw telling of what it's like to be queer in Japan. It's authored by Yuhki Kamatani, a *nonbinary* mangaka-- which is incredible in of itself-- who is well-known for some of their previous work, particularly Nabari no Ou (which even itself had just a tad of nice representation). This beautiful piece is by and for the LGBTQ+ community, but I also highly recommend those outside
of the community give it a read for a lot of reasons, especially if you have LGBTQ+ friends, family, or loved ones, or even just someone you know, OR if you consider yourself a fan of the yaoi and/or yuri genres, not because of content, but to give you a bit of insight as to how to act respectfully to real life LGBTQ+ people and to put into perspective the way they *really* treat the community in Japan.
For those of us in the community, it gives a no-holds-barred, viscerally relatable experience. No matter where you stand in the big rainbow, you'll feel a sense of closeness with the people of Anonymous' Lounge. Fair warning, some of the content will probably make you uncomfortable-- they don't hold anything back when it comes to the realism of the homophobia and transphobia some of the characters experience. Nonetheless, you'll find this manga to be the emotional rollercoaster of feelings that you've always wanted, and I guarantee you'll be waiting (im)patiently for the next of the (unfortunately rather slow) updates.
If you're not a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I would still wholeheartedly recommend that you read this, just to do a little bit of learning on how to be more respectful to anyone you may know in the community. I know that especially younger anime fans have an unsettling fetishistic view towards LGBTQ+ people, likely because of yaoi and yuri manga (which, most of the time, are actually harmful to Japanese LGBTQ+ people because it portrays them in a played-up sexual, fetish-y manner). Read this to see the realities of what happens. It also makes a point to showcase how the little things people say and do that don't seem like transgressions can genuinely upset people. I'd particularly like to point to the ramen shop scene and Shouko's interactions with Utsumi for this one. I'm not trying to imply anything mean, but I do think it's good for anyone who would consider themselves an ally to check out for a very realistic walk in the shoes of someone who experiences this on a daily basis.
Kamatani's art is gorgeous, inspiring, and intricately detailed with symbolism and deep meaning. There's so many beautiful pages in this manga that I've lost track. You'll be completely entranced by the beautiful, frame-for-frame recreation of the city of Onomichi, a port city right at the start of the famous Shimanami Kaido, as well as the effort put in by them to discuss the city's issues with vacant, run-down houses making up a very large portion of their buildings. After reading through once or twice-- and yes, I can guarantee you that you'll read it more than once-- you'll probably wanna join Cat Clowder's restoration team too, no matter how adverse you are to physical work.
Overall, this is probably my #1 highest recommended manga of all time. I have very few complaints about it, but because of how utterly beautiful it is I can't even complain about the pretty much once-a-year releases of 3-5 new chapters. It's well worth the wait, even if I'm old and gray by the time it's concluded. Whoever you are out there, I definitely would like to see you reading this manga. Trust me.
This is something unique. It's really hard to find something like this, precisely because there are hardly any mangas which deal with homosexuality in a realistic way. To be honest, this is the only one I found.
Because, as you know, being gay is not as simple as it is on yuri/yaoi mangas.
This is about how it feels being gay in the society, about how hard is the process of self-acceptance, about how hard is open with your parents and your friends, especially when your sexuality is not "normal". Also includes issues like bullying and homophobia.
The art is good, the characters are
so realistic and humanized.
Althought there are only five chapters out, they are completely worthwhile. You should read it, you won't find something like this manga.
(I'm sorry if something I wrote was wrong, english isn't my native language)