In Japan, the gay & lesbian community isn’t as accepted as other parts of the world. Despite the plethora of entertainment churned out with LGBT-based themes, how real people are treated and presented isn’t exactly in the best light. Yes, there have been strides made here and there, but nonetheless there’s still many a battle for love and acceptance to be fought for these folks. In Yuhki Kamatani’s Our Dreams at Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare, the stigma and struggles with coming out are presented in a very frank and honest light.

Our Dreams at Dusk focuses on Tasuku, a student whose friends chastise for having gay porn on his phone. While quick to deny that he watched it willingly and chocked it to a prank from his older brother, he nevertheless hates himself for having to hide his true self and cower behind a wall of insecurity. While thinking of killing himself, Tasuku sees a woman jumping from a building, only to find that she’s perfectly fine and is just on her average walking routine. That’s where he discovers her Drop-In Center, where people of many backgrounds come in to vent frustrations and tear down buildings for renovations.

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Tasuku starts to confide to the mysterious woman, who goes by the alias Someone-san. Her mantra is to let people talk, but claim not to listen. Yet whatever may come out her mouth might prove to be helpful to their situation. Realizing that the other people at the Drop-In Center have similar dilemmas, he starts coming by to either vent his frustrations or lend some sort of helping hand. The more he opens up to others, the more he opens up to himself.

Perhaps what makes Our Dreams at Dusk interesting is its overall presentation. Most manga and anime depicting gay and lesbian characters often go the caricature route, often amplifying a gay man’s femininity or a lesbian woman’s lust for the same sex. (There are some people in LGBT that are like that, some of whom I’m friends with, but I digress!) What Kamatani does here is present them as what most gay people really are: regular folks. This is greatly evident in the lesbian couple Haru and Saki, who work hard and showcase the love and care they have for one another.

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Even more noble is how they depict the world’s opinion of those who identify as LGBT. They don’t sugarcoat the daily struggles that most folks go through, from being bullied in school to having their own parents practically disowning them. It’s a very rough picture, one that I feel most people in the gay community may find either relatable or — in extreme cases — mirroring their own situations. The one who has it rough the most is Tasuku himself, who can’t even admit his own identity to himself.

One thing that Our Dreams at Dusk does well is showcase what it’s like to come to terms with one’s sexuality. There are moments of denial, bottling up feelings and attempting to cap them, and even the occasional homophobic word tossed around to fit in with the other guys. But when Tasuku’s away from the schoolyard, he begins to hate his own existence. The strongest moment comes when he tells Someone-san what he’s struggling with. “Why should I always have to watch my back?!” Tasuku shouts. “Why am I the one who’s getting turned up inside, dammit?!”

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Kamatani presents the story with full-on heavy emotions, especially when it comes to its art style. Moments of sadness and frustrated are captured with great care on every page, be it Tasuku sobbing over his internal struggles or Saki telling Haru that she’s not yet ready to get married and reveal her true self to the rest of her family. But when a happy moment arrives — or even a situation where a frustration is vented with some destruction — it’s presented with such warmth and anarchic grace.

The first volume of Our Dreams at Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare dives head-on into the process of coming out to one’s self. It’s not always an easy picture to bear witness to, but the pathway to finding one’s true heart is presented with much care & consideration. If you or a friend are struggling with their sexuality, then I cannot recommend Our Dreams at Dusk enough. It might not have all the answers you’re looking for, but it will certainly point you towards the right direction towards hopeful happiness and acceptance in the future.

FINAL GRADE:

Promotional consideration provided by Lianne Sentar of Seven Seas Entertainment

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