I’ve been seeing this manga floating around Twitter for awhile with some very high recommendations from people who either read it before it came out in North America or from people who got early copies of the manga before it released earlier this week. Well it finally came out on Tuesday and I figured with all the talk around this title, it must be worth trying out. I have to say, everyone was right. Our Dreams at Dusk is a fantastic Boys Love title worth all the hype I’ve seen surrounding it so far. The art and page layouts are visually appealing and often break the mold in multiple places. The story is one of adolescent sexual discovery with some deep emotions and questions being asked about the acceptance of gay and queer people in Japan and the kind of emotional distress and mental illness that can come from having this dissonance between public and private persona and identity. I highly recommend this manga and I really do think I won’t be able to do it justice here in this short of a space, so definitely pick up a copy if it seems up your alley.
Our Dreams at Dusk follows high school boy Tasuku who may just have been outed at school for being gay, one of the worst things that could happen to him. Faced with the jeering of him peers for being a “homo,” Tasuku tries hard to deny everything. But standing on the edge of bridge later that day, he feels his way of life was ended in that moment and contemplates jumping. Before he can do the unthinkable, Tasuku meets a mysterious woman who leads him to a group of people dealing with problems similar to his own. The manga is created by Yuhki Kamatani (creator of Nabari no Ou) and is published in English by Seven Seas.
I think the most eye-catching aspect of this series and the one that really kept me reading the most was the art and panel design. I’m a sucker for a comic that really pushes the envelope when it comes to panel design and conveying the story through art. Kamatani definitely pushes these conventions in this manga, expressing mood and emotions in a unique and visually appealing way. We see a great example of this in chapter two where Tasuku walks into his classroom hoping that he’s escaped the worst of the jeering, but is immediately called out as a “homo” by his classmate. In this two page spread we see Kamatani using a fish-eye effect with her art, creating a disorientating effect for the readers in an effort to convey the shock and emotional upheaval that Tasuku is facing in that moment. The warping continues to get worse on the following pages, with many of the backgrounds and characters within the panels flipping and distorting as Tasuku’s panic worsens. It winds up being a very clear depiction of the kind of emotional turmoil he’s going through without the use of exposition.
Kamatani also has an amazing talent for expressions and using high-contrast values to bring out the most in her character’s reactions and what she’s trying to get across in each scene. Close-ups of Tasuku’s face are always rendered with a lot of detail and shading, making his expressions really pop on the page. But I think we see Kamatani take it to the next level in chapter two again when Tasuku is talking to Someone-san about being outed at school for being gay and almost committing suicide. On those pages, Kamatani combines close-ups of Tasuku’s face and interesting panel design to create this scene of intense emotional anguish. We get right up in Tasuku’s face with shots of just his mouth screaming in frustration or his face running with tears. By focusing on these individual parts of his body instead of the whole, I think we get a much more powerful scene that’s more in-your-face about how he’s feeling and how much this is affecting him in a myriad of ways. On the next page we get an all black panel with them sitting in her room pushed almost into the background surrounded by his falling tears. And in that moment we know Tasuku is looking for support, but Someone-san just gets up and walks away and we get this crushing stark white background with Tasuku reaching out towards the audience while Someone-san walks away. It’s heartbreaking and I think made more powerfully so by this particular design.
Kamatani creates many more powerful scenes of heartbreak and emotion throughout the volume, many of which I don’t have the space to touch on here. All of these scenes though center around Tasuku’s journey of discovering and coming to terms with his identity as a gay man. Brought up in a culture that sees being gay as contrary to the norm and therefore society as a whole, it’s understandable he’d have trouble accepting this side of himself. It would mean possibly losing friends and becoming an outcast in school. As we see in the beginning of the manga, being gay is considered gross and unnatural to most of his male peers, and at this point in his life social standing among peers and in the context of school life is pretty much everything.
Someone-san and the Drop-in Center become a haven for him then, a place to escape the tension at school and receive unconditional acceptance. And possibly meet people like himself. There’s almost an element of magical realism that runs through this place and Someone-san in particular. She’s painted as this mysterious person who just kind of appeared and draws people to her. She keeps to herself, possibly does weird things like jumping out of her window and over railings very high up, and no one seems to know her actual name. As of right now she doesn’t have much in the way of characterisation. We don’t really have a history for her and she doesn’t seem like the kind of person that opens up to people. So far she is a personification of acceptance, someone Tasuku thinks of when times become tough for him as school and he needs someone he can talk to who won’t judge him. I’m really interested to see if we learn more about her in the future or if she stays mysterious for the rest of the series.
Our Dreams at Dusk allows for a lot of open discussion about tough queer topics: the stress of hiding your identity; coming to terms with that identity; the power of having people around you who accept you for who you are; and what it means mentally and emotionally to be “out” as queer. Kamatani explores these ideas in a variety of ways. One of which is a dichotomy between Tasuku and a lesbian woman who has come out and currently lives with her partner. At this point in his life, I think Tasuku has trouble fathoming being out and honest about being gay so he begins to look up to this woman and almost becomes jealous of her life in a way. And I think we see this contrast between her and Tasuku in their levels of happiness and thoughts about life. We can clearly see that she’s happy and open about who she is and how she lives her life pointing to this idea that accepting yourself and your identity will ultimately lead to a better life.
I really hope you all find the time to pick up this manga. It really is worth it. And for those of you who have already read it, let me know in the comments what you thought about it. What was your favorite part? Favorite scene? Drop a comment down below!
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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