Tasaku has been found out: his classmates spotted gay porn on his phone and now the boys in his class call him a homo. Unprepared for being so suddenly outed, he contemplates taking his life by jumping off a ledge. He hesitates when he sees a woman appear to leap to her death before him, and catches up to where she would have landed only to find an LGBTQ support house. He reluctantly spends time there trying to depressurize from the social cesspool that is his school life, and in the process gets to know some of the other housemates better.

Our Dreams At Dusk pulls off the delicate balancing act of depicting internal and external LGBTQ struggles and emotional development without becoming didactic. Non-binary creator Yuki Kamatani deserves accolades for their careful depiction of all the housemates and their varying approaches to Tasaku’s newfound presence among them. While they function as a support group and safe space for one another, they’re not structured like a group therapy session and act in a much more open-ended manner. When Tasaku wants to sit in the corner and stew, the rest of them give him his space and go about their creative activities. In one striking scene, a quieter old gentleman in the group who loves classical music plays a record for Tasaku, which transports him through wavy effects.

Readers may recognize the antagonism of Tasaku’s classmates and the arguments they make about their so-called friend whom they also label “homo.” Much like A Silent Voice, Our Dreams At Dusk nails that feeling of being caught between personal expectations and others’ judgment. Tantamount to Tasaku’s frustration is the feeling that everyone else is weighing their own perceptions of what “homo” behavior is on his shoulders, as well as how he should explain himself. Characters experience multiple no-win rhetorical arguments in their daily life, such as “Whoever says it’s discrimination is the one who is discriminating” and excusing homophobia as an “old school” mindset. Kamatani’s detailed backgrounds transform into stark, isolating voids when societal pressures mount against the cast’s sense of self. Tasaku doesn’t want to be outed, and he doesn’t want to sit in a circle and talk out his feelings—so he doesn’t! This manga has greater ambitions than that.

The other main plot in this volume involves a lesbian member of the group, Haru, who freely tells people about her girlfriend Saki, even though Saki would rather they keep their relationship 100% private. Their dynamic is a tension of personal preference, with both of them motivated by their feelings toward each other. One of the book’s more powerful visual metaphors is a structure that the group house’s owner wants torn down and rebuilt as the members see fit. Haru tearing down a wall stands in for her getting up the nerve to express her true feelings to Saki. Tasaku has a similar moment, but removes a single nail before feeling the personal progress it represents.

This leaves the one element of the story that feels a little confusing, though maybe it clears up in later volumes, and maybe some readers won’t mind this at all. The lady who seemingly jumped to her doom is the same person who owns the group house’s property: “Someone-san.” The other housemates describe her as a mysterious figure who only raises more questions the more she is observed. Is she a ghost? A myth brought to life? In a story that is otherwise brimming with sensitive depictions of realistic circumstances, Someone-san represents (so far) a paranormal element that could use a little more context.

Our Dreams At Dusk is a must-have for your manga collection. The artwork is largely realistic and without a shred of fanservice—Tasaku crushes on a boy, but nobody’s ripping off anyone’s shirt. We never see what was on his phone that outed him. Shelve this alongside My Brother’s Husband and Princess Jellyfish for maximum impact. A description of the second volume indicates that gender identity will also be explored. Under Kamatani’s careful pen, these issues and characters are brought to life with a special tenderness that will fill readers’ hearts to bursting.

Our Dreams At Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare, vol. 1
By Yuhki Kamatani
ISBN: 9781642750607
Seven Seas, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: 13+

Browse for more like this title
Character Traits: Japanese Lesbian, Gay
Creator Highlights: Own Voices, LGBTQIA+ Creator

  • Thomas

    | He/Him Teen Services Librarian, Richland Library

    Features Writer

    Thomas is a teen services librarian at Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina. While studying for his MLIS at the University of South Carolina, he won an award from Thomas Cooper Library for his curation of the works of “God of Manga” Osamu Tezuka. He has spoken about manga, graphic novels, teen programming, and podcasting at NashiCon, DragonCon, ColaCon, New York Comic Con, and American Library Association conferences. He has been on on YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels For Teens selection committee, written articles for Public Libraries, The Hub, Book Riot, and Library Trends, and reviews for School Library Journal and Kirkus.

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