Story & Art: Yuhki Kamatani
Translation: Jocelyne Allen
Adaptation: Ysabet MacFarlane
Lettering: Kaitlyn Wiley
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
The comics landscape in North America is bigger than ever, catering to the widest array of tastes and genres it ever has through print, digital, mainstream publishing, and independent zines. Part of this incredible renaissance has been a marked uptick in LGBTQ+ content, especially such content by creators who themselves fall somewhere under the broad “queer” umbrella. In some ways, it may seem that manga has always been a little better about this particular arena of representation, as series depicting male/male romantic relationships have been available to North American readers since the late 90s. However, the tropes and trappings of boys’ love are a fetishistic interpretation of homosexuality most frequently created by women for a female audience. So while it was nice to have something, there still wasn’t the representation that a lot of readers really craved.
In the last few years, that has steadily begun to change with autobiographical releases like My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness and The Bride Was a Boy. And once again, publisher Seven Seas Entertainment has pulled through with queer rep, this time with the four-volume fiction series Our Dreams At Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare, the final volume of which hits stores on December 17. From the pen and incredible imagination of x-gender creator Yuhki Kamatani, Our Dreams At Dusk plumbs the complicated depths of gender identity, sexuality, healing, and community through a cast with different backgrounds and concerns.
Tasuku Kaname has recently moved to a new town, and at the outset of the story fears that he has been outed by his classmates as gay. His status as an outsider now doubled, Tasuku considers suicide. But before he is able to jump to his death, he notices a woman a little further away jumping over a railing herself. He quickly runs to her aid, only to discover that she is unharmed. Thus, he meets the mysterious Someone-san, who encourages Tasuku to tell her his problems, but also assures him that she will not listen.
Tasuku follows Someone-san to a drop-in center populated by a group of interesting, odd, and diverse individuals. He is encouraged to participate in the non-profit restoration work helmed by Haruko, a graphic designer and lesbian who helps Tasuku break through both the physical wall of a dilapidated building, as well as the emotional wall standing between his self-acceptance and his happiness. From this point forward, Tasuku frequents the drop-in center where everyone seems to be trying to find their way as queer individuals in a world that largely doesn’t want to acknowledge their existence.
One of the more brilliant aspects of Our Dreams At Dusk is that it is neither a dour, depressing view of sexual and gender diversity, but nor is it a saccharine “everything will be fine” take on the issues at hand, either. There is the acknowledgment of real bias, both within society at large as well as within the hearts and minds of those who frequent the drop-in center. Once he realizes how freeing the acceptance of his own sexuality was, Tasuku attempts to help a younger member of the group, Misora, who was assigned male at birth, but who enjoys wearing girls’ clothes. Misora is uncertain of their gender identity, and Tasuku tries too hard to push them to live their truth to the point where Misora pushes him, and the drop-in center, away.
Utsumi, a trans man, must deal with the well-meaning but largely offensive “support” of an old high school friend. Haruko and her partner Saki want to get married, but Saki is worried about coming out as a lesbian to her parents. Each individual is struggling with their identity in their own way, and each of them must find a solution that works for them. To list them all would do a disservice to the narrative; at only four volumes, this series packs in a great deal of emotion, conflict, and catharsis.
Tying these intense, soul-searching scenes together is Kamatani’s incredible, almost psychedelic, artwork. They utilize visual metaphor to great effect, showing conflict and connection through symbolism relevant to each character and their specific situation. This combination of true-to-life storytelling and exceptional artistic skill make Our Dreams At Dusk a masterpiece of a series that will surely influence, inspire, and uplift readers for many generations to come.