Our Dreams At Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare
Tasuku Kaname, after being caught watching gay porn and called a “homo” at school, is moments away from taking his life when he sees a person, Someone-san, leap out a window. When he races to see if they're okay he meets a collective group of individuals at the Drop-in Center who are part of LGBTQ collective and Tasuku starts his journey toward facing who he is, acceptance, and peace.
The most beautiful part of this four volume series, aside from the impressive artwork when depicting emotional states, is it doesn't give you terms set in stone for categories. It recognizes and understands the fluidity and avoids rigid definitions that, while some may feel overjoyed they fit into, could leave others confused when they learn they are not wholly in any category. This series is at once for LGBTQ+ teens and also open to everyone because of shared or similar experiences. Written by Yuhki Kamatani, who is themselves nonbinary, it feels both timely and overdue to have a series that embraces and shines on LGBTQ+, a group commonly overlooked in justice and equality rights in many countries if not outright targeted for violence and hate.
It mixes artistic elements that are fantastical to encapsulate the emotions the characters, particularly Tasuku, experience without diminishing the reality of the moment. You feel that fracture when you're unsure how to respond to microaggressive or anti-LGBTQ attacks. But it's not all pain for these characters because they have found a place to be.
Tasuku Kaname begins his journey not only afraid of who he is and how others see him, but he emits a self-loathing that is sadly common when people are made to feel as though they are a freak or oddity. We see him time and again fall back on hurtful words when he talks about himself - in volume 1 he tells his friends he's not a “homo” because that's “disgusting”, to volume 2 where his assumptions on what equates with being gay are constantly challenged by Misora. Misora, as well as the others, is part of Tasuku's journey and growth but also suffers under Tasuku's initial assumptions, questions and interference. Tasuku, like many, fail to realize there is an entire spectrum of sexuality and gender. Some of us have no gender or don't conform to traditional gender labels.
So Misora dressing as a girl does not mean they are a girl. Misora is the only one who knows who Misora is and Misora is ultimately let down by Tasuku when someone touches Misora in a crowd, Tasuku's response of “it's because you're so cute” blames people wearing girl's clothes and their attractiveness as fault for what is truthfully a violation and assault. His behavior halts Misora's journey, which is never resolved but then journeys aren't meant to always end, particularly life journeys. By the end Tasuku is honest with both himself and Tsubaki, Tasuku's crush, and that honesty in turn helps Tsubaki to begin his own journey of acceptance and peace. No one has found peace for their entire lives but they are at different stages.
Daichi and Saki are two women who love each other, and though Tasuku is initially envious of their relationship he quickly realizes just because people at the center are living carefree there, does not mean they are living carefree in the world. Saki's family does not know that she is in love with a woman and prefers their relationship to remain private, though she does eventually tell her family because she was outed and because she and Daichi are having a wedding.
It's not only about whether or not we are forced to hide, but whether we are forced to share as seen by Utsumi who's high school friend, Oyama, keeps pushing him to discuss and talk about the fact that he “bec[a]me a boy” without ever stopping to question why that's wrong. Do we ask cis-gender people to explain and help us understand why they identify with the gender they were labeled at birth? If a cis-gender woman likes cis-gender men do we ask her to justify her desire for men constantly? This push for us to explain ourselves comes from a place of entitlement and existing as the default. It's assumed that a cis woman liking a cis man is “natural”...but any deviation and suddenly there must be explanations and understanding.
The issue isn't who we are, but the labels and categories society insists we live our lives in. Some men are in fact trans women and wear women's clothes; however, not every person who wears clothing that society deems for the opposite gender is trans. A person can just like the clothes because they're beautiful, because they want to feel cute or dashing or attractive. Nonbinary people wear a variety of clothing and it does not mean they are a man or woman.
The variety of ages and LGBTQ represented here doesn't end with the youth. The elderly man at the center, Tchaiko (a stan of Tchaikovsky), has lived a full life with the love of his life Agawa Seichiro who is dying of cancer. But even here it's not all beauty and openness, as Tchaiko always leaves the hospital when Seichiro's son comes for a visit. There is no relationship or issue that is necessarily fully resolved because people who are not LGBTQ, and those unable to come to terms with who they are, continue to cause harm. But the people at the center: Tasuku, Daichi, Saki, Tchaiko, Misora, Tsubaki and even Someone are all finding moments of peace and acceptance. Understanding is important but it should not be a precursor to being allowed to exist or accepted. We don't always need understanding and acceptance for who we are. Sometimes we just want peace, and that's what this manga explores, a search for inner peace.
Our Dreams at Dusk will glide you through all the emotions, pain, seething rage, love and hope. And that journey does not end with the last lovely page of the manga...it lives on...with us.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B-
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