The Spring 2019 Manga Guide
Our Dreams At Dusk
What's It About?Tasuku Kaname is gay, closeted and very, very much afraid he has been outed. His classmates have just discovered gay porn on his phone, and with this Tasu fears the end of his school existence. So, Tasu makes the decision to end his life and heads to the town cliffside…only to see a girl jumping off a balcony a few meters away from him. Fearing she has just done the unthinkable, he rushes over to her house, only to find a group of people in the living room, completely unworried and unphased, and the girl herself, just fine, even commenting on Tasu's own suicide attempt.
This girl is the mysterious Someone-san, a rich and extremely bizarre woman who allows Tasu to pour his guts out to her--minus any kind of response or acknowledgment. But, drawn by her and the surprisingly calm atmosphere, Tasu begins to frequent the house and chat with its other strange denizens, some of whom are also LGBT. And with this, Tasu begins a journey of self-discovery and breaking down emotional barriers, as he begins to finally understand himself and realize that, no matter how isolated he may feel in school and in his life, he is never, truly alone.
Is It Worth Reading?
Our Dreams at Dusk combines two seemingly dissimilar genres: coming-of-age drama and magic realism. The two actually collide quite often, but Kamatani's approach is what's really interesting here – her magic realism is more in the style of Sarah Addison Allen (or maybe Laura Esquivel if you squint) than Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and that allows for the fantastical elements to become more for emphasis of emotions than as a fuller piece of the story's world building. It works well, especially when used specifically to show how protagonist Tasuku is experiencing something – moments of realization are variously hallucinatory, beautiful, and painfully difficult, with one of the best being Tasuku's admission to himself that he likes another boy being shown as him shattering into fragments of himself, as if someone threw a stone at a Tasuku mirror.
Since this first volume is primarily about Tasuku trying to come to grips with his own likes and identity, that broken mirror imagery really works, because he's being forced to reckon with who he truly is as opposed to who his peers (and society) want him to be. The volume opens with Tasuku being harassed because his classmates think he's gay, and even just knowing that they believe him to be homosexual – not even taking his own fears of accepting it about himself into account – is enough to make him contemplate killing himself and dreading going back to school. Even if that wasn't the cause for everyone's bullying, it's a very relatable feeling of not wanting to go back someplace where you felt unsafe, and it sets up the dichotomy between Tasuku's school/home life and his time at the “drop in center,” which I assume to be a community center of some kind. (Although there are other LGBTQ+ people who frequent it, it doesn't appear to be exclusively for that one group.) At the center, Tasuku is slowly learning that being gay doesn't make him a freak, and that there are people who will accept him. But, first, of course, he has to accept himself.
There are moments when Kamatani's symbolism feels a bit too on the nose, such as the whole “tearing down walls” thing that comes up twice (and the suggestion that Tasuku starts with just pulling out nails), or the fact that the mysterious person is just known as “Someone,” as if she's just a stand-in for the concept of “someone will be there for you” or “someone will listen,” but on the whole this is a solid introductory volume. As it goes on, the story stands to grow more complex, and I really think it's going to be a series to keep an eye on.
I'm transgender. I'm not out as such, though. Oh sure, I'm out on most corners of the internet. But it's not the same as walking about your day unleaded, showing the world who you are in the mere fact of your existence. Acknowledging the truth of yourself. It feels like…there's a bomb tucked inside the deepest caverns of your heart. And that if you were to ever tell those close to you that deep, dark secret, that bomb would be ripped from your chest and blow. Destroying you. Destroying every facet of the life you've worked so hard to maintain.
In Our Dreams at Dusk, our main character, Tasu, has a similar bomb hidden away. He's gay, and afraid of coming out. And who could blame him, really? Our Dreams at Dusk is extremely frank and uncompromising in depicting the kind of everyday, muted homophobia that perpetuates queer stigmatization and oppression. From students teasing and ostracizing Tasu when they discover gay porn on his phone, calling him a ‘homo’, to people saying of an extremely happy lesbian couple that ‘they feel bad for their parents’, Our Dreams at Dusk understands deeply the subtle, precise and terrible ways queerphobia is ingrained into society, and how even these asides that seem so small and benign to those saying them can drive us even deeper into the closet.
But in spite of this terror, in spite of this awful, quiet hostility, Our Dreams at Dusk understands the beauty and power of showing the world who you truly are. From the deep love Haru and Saki have for each other, to the tears that stream down Tasu's face when he finally admits to himself the feelings he has for one of his peers, there is an understanding that though the world is awful and dark and horrible to us, we will still have these moments. We will still be able to be ourselves.
I want to come out. I want to have these moments. I want to feel these feelings. But that terror still lingers, those doubts, as a shrieking, atonal chorus looping day after day, night after night.
Won't people hate you?
Aren't I lying to myself?
Should I just give up and disappear?
And then my girlfriend calls me Faye. And then I put on my favorite dress. And then I take my hormones and smile so hugely my friends can barely believe I'm the same person.
Our Dreams at Dusk may not be about my specific experience, but in this way, I am Tasu, broken apart when I see others happy in ways I so desperately wish to be. And I am Tasu, with a crowbar in my hands, plying away the nails of the wall that bars me from that happiness. And that's why Our Dreams at Dusk is so valuable. So beautiful.
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