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by Rebecca Silverman,

Seaside Stranger: Harukaze no Étranger

GN 3

Seaside Stranger: Harukaze no Étranger GN 3
Shun and Mio are put on the spot when Fumi, Shun's younger brother, walks in on them having sex. Fumi's not sure what's going on and it freaks him out, and Mio's terrified that he's ruined the relationship he's been building with his boyfriend's brother. Shun takes this opportunity to continue to hope that his family will accept him for who he is, but it's also a marker for him of how far he still may have to go.

When last we saw Shun and Mio, they were caught in flagrante delicto by Fumi, Shun's younger brother. We rejoin them now at that same moment, and while Fumi runs off immediately, Mio is just as quickly wracked with guilt and fear. Certainly it's not the best way for Fumi to figure out that Shun and Mio are a couple, but Mio's terrified reaction is perhaps more than is strictly warranted; it feels as if there's more at play here than just being worried that a child has been traumatized. Mio's fears seem to be borne out when he finds Fumi in the kitchen desperately trying to get his mom to make his lunch faster so that he can, presumably, get out of the house without having to face either of the people he walked in on the night before. Mio has a meltdown when he realizes this, and that's interesting to compare to Shun's reaction to the whole thing: he calmly tells Fumi that you can't just barge into someone's room without knocking, and when Fumi shrieks, “Don't touch me!” he simply responds with a placid, “What, you hate me now?”

That Shun follows this statement up by thinking, “Well, I guess that makes sense” explains the difference in their approaches to handling the situation. Mio, as a person who hasn't experienced the homophobia that Shun has, is panicked that he's about to lose a member of the family he's beginning to think of as his own. But Shun has been here before; while he may not have been overtly expecting Fumi's reaction, he's also not shocked by it, because in his mind that's also how his father reacted to him coming out. In his experience, Fumi's fear and disgust is natural and normal, and if anything he feels a little let down by the fact that he didn't see it coming. After all, this kind of homophobic reaction is why he left Hokkaido in the first place. It's sad, but not surprising.

For Mio, on the other hand, it's his first real experience with something Shun's talked about but which hadn't been part of his own life before. He intellectually knew that it happened and that Shun had lived through it, but somehow he never imagined it happening to him. In part this may also just be a marker of how much younger Mio is, and it could also be less that he's worried about Fumi walking in on two guys having sex and more just an elementary schooler walking in on sex in general. But mostly he's feeling the fear that he did when he lost his mother – that he's at risk of losing the family he's coming to care for as his own – and as someone who previously has been alone with no family at all, that's an alarming thought. Fumi's rejection hits him hard, and even when things get more-or-less sorted out, he can't stop being afraid that the real problem was being sexually active in a family home in the first place.

It's these complicated emotional storylines that make this series so engaging and help it to stand out from the crowd. While there's no shortage of LGBTQIA+ manga (and specifically BL manga) that has child characters, very few of them tackle the idea of coming out to children who are old enough to have preconceived notions about homosexuality (the other title I can think of off the top of my head is My Brother’s Husband). Seaside Stranger: Harukaze no Étranger looks to handle the conversation on several levels: Shun officially coming out to his little brother, Mio dealing with homophobia, and Fumi trying to figure out what it all means and if he ought to be upset in the first place. As it turns out, a lot of Fumi's issue is similar to what Mio initially thought, as well as linked to Mio's own emotional trauma. When Sakurako facilitates a discussion between the brothers and Mio, Mio's first question isn't “why were you doing that if you're both guys,” but rather, “Why were you eating his pee-pee?” This indicates that mostly he just was confused by what he saw happening, and while he does go on to ask why Mio came to Hokkaido with Shun, the bigger issue is just that he saw his first sexual act. Shun simply explains it as something he does because he's in love with Mio, putting it in the simplest terms possible without any other judgements or explanations.

Naturally things don't quite end there, but Shun's approach to discussing it with Fumi, who is just floored by the idea that boys can like boys and it's not weird, is measured and calm, and the whole scene is handled without histrionics, which I very much appreciate. He gives Fumi enough to think about without overexplaining, and that allows the readers to think about the conversation calmly, too. The point isn't Shun and Mio coming out, it's that this is just one more piece of being part of a family – learning about and hopefully accepting who the people you love are. Later Shun and Mio have a similarly-themed conversation when Shun reveals that penetrative sex isn't really his preference, which sends Mio into a tailspin that feels not unlike Fumi's – his assumptions are being upended and he doesn't quite understand. But everyone has to think about this new information and come to their own conclusions in a way that allows everybody to be happy.

If there's one true strength of the series, that's it: the characters all get the time to process information that they may not understand or like, allowing them to grow. Will they always become better people? Not necessarily; Shun's dad is a case in point. But the emotional honesty and attention to detail is why this should be the one BL series you give a chance to win you over.

Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B

+ Shun's measured explanation to Fumi is well-done, good emotional notes from all of the characters. We can really see Fumi and Mio processing things.
Art remains a bit messy, would have been good to see a bit more from Shun and Fumi's mom.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Kanna Kii
Licensed by: Seven Seas Entertainment

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Seaside Stranger: Harukaze no Étranger (manga)

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