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The Spring 2022 Manga Guide
To Strip the Flesh

What's It About? 

In a moving collection of six short stories, To Strip the Flesh finds Chiaki setting out to remake himself in his own image and discovers more than just personal freedom with his transition—he finds understanding from the people who matter most.

To Strip the Flesh has story and art by Oto Tōda and English translation by Emily Balistrieri. Viz will release the manga in June.

Is It Worth Reading?

Rebecca Silverman


I can only evaluate To Strip the Flesh's titular story from the outside because I'm cisgender. But from where I'm sitting, it's a very powerful piece – Chiaki has known he's a boy from a very early age, but his parents' refusal (or inability, which is a very different thing) to accept that has tormented him, especially his mother's dying words exhorting him to “grow up and be a beautiful bride.” Chiaki's lucky enough to have a good friend named Takato who helps him to navigate the early understanding of who he is, and one of my favorite elements of the piece is that Chiaki does seek medical help in rectifying his situation – and his doctor is excellent. This isn't a passively angry story; it's one about trying to work through a situation that you're afraid no one will understand, and in that it can be very relatable, no matter who you are or how you identify. It's also visceral: at one point Chiaki has a dream where his father, who butchers his own game, cuts off his breasts and removes his uterus. The scene isn't gross, but it's an on-point illustration of how Chiaki feels about his body, and how much he wishes his father could accept it and be a partner to him in being who he really is.

There are other stories in the collection, but To Strip the Flesh is undoubtedly the strongest. All of them deal with the need to be understood and to find a human connection, though, and the skill with which this theme is explored via different plotlines is impressive. The oddball David in Love, about a figurine of the David who falls in love with the girl who receives him as a souvenir of her dad's trip to Italy, is like Toy Story but creepier, while Hot Watermelon takes us back to the parent/child dynamic of the title piece, albeit in a way that uses body horror to force understanding between the mother and the son. There's a sweet piece about ghosts cheering on their favorite idol group as well, two-page shorts that are on the sillier side, and a very good conversation between the creator of this book and another who writes about his experiences as a gay man.

This certainly comes with a few content warnings, one of which is for realistic scenes of butchering game, but it's an excellent exploration of interpersonal relationships and a solid short story collection in general. Highly recommended.

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