Pride Month is over, which means it’s an excellent time to keep the queerness going by checking out the LGBT+ releases Seven Seas has brought out recently. Oh, and some other good stuff too, I suppose!
The Bride Was A Boy
The Bride Was a Boy is an autobiographical standalone manga, which tells the story of Chii, a trans woman who gradually transitions, falls in love, and gets married. Jameson Hampton put out a thoughtful full review of it, and after reading the book myself, I totally agree with everything he said. The Bride Was a Boy is a cute, positive, but thoughtful explanation of both what it’s like to be trans and the concept of transness itself. It’s a book I would give to family or friends as an introduction to the T of LGBT+, not just for its simple but thorough explanations, but also the humanizing measure it brings. Chii is a real person, experiencing real feelings and ultimately joy over her life as a trans person.
My Solo Exchange Diary, Vol. 1
A followup to the honest and self-reflective My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, Nagata Kabi returns for the quasi-sequel, My Solo Exchange Diary. This book focuses a little less on her now-established lesbianism to focus on other unresolved themes from her first book: her depression, her relationship with her family, and her desire for independence. It also covers her reaction to her newfound fame and the writing of the book itself. All of this is told in a scratchy, doodly style that makes great use of background lines and the monochrome purple palette to enhance the mood of the work.
While anyone can enjoy this book, I feel like it will be especially striking for people who have dealt with some of the issues Nagata has. I have depression, and the chapter where she talks about being cold (a symptom of depression) hit me hard. A lot of people talk about how seeing themselves in a book has a profound impact on them, but I think that idea doesn’t really make sense until you’ve actually seen someone else explaining on a page that thing you always thought was your little secret, your quirk. Putting herself so honestly and openly on the page allows you to connect and empathize with her character and with her. And I think and hope it will also ultimately lead to the satisfying relationship she’s looking for.
Ryoko Ikeda is an influential shoujo mangaka, but few of her works are known to English-speakers besides The Rose of Versailles, a story about Marie Antoinette which features an Utena-like AFAB knight named Oscar. Claudine, originally published in 1978 and now in English for the first time, is also set in France, focusing on the titular Claudine, a trans man struggling with society and looking for love. It’s particularly notable for being one of the earliest manga published featuring a transgender protagonist.
Seeing Ikeda’s art, it’s not hard to see the influence she had on the shoujo style: the long hair and heavy eyelashes, the use of roses and sparkles, and the gentle, flowing style even during moments of action or tension all speak to classic shoujo like that of the later artists CLAMP and Yumi Tamura. There’s also a bit of Tezuka-esque cartoonishness in the wide eyes and round faces that speaks to the styles of the 1960s and 1970s.
Claudine’s story, unfortunately, is not a happy one. While there are moments of happiness and affirmation, ultimately the standalone book ends in tragedy. Trans readers may want to exercise caution when reading, both for the tragic ending and the use of she/her pronouns to refer to Claudine. This seemed an unusual choice, particularly coming from Seven Seas who I’ve found to be very LGBT+ affirming, so I spoke to the current translator, Jocelyne Allen, about it. Allen made the decision to use she/her pronouns based on the original Japanese text, which also used feminine language (彼女, “kanojo”) to refer to Claudine. For a work published in 2018, I don’t know that I would’ve liked the choice, but remember that Claudine was originally published in 1978, in Japan, a country and time that didn’t have the social awareness and language that we do now. Choosing to preserve the original imperfect language of Claudine and keeping the integrity of this historical work as it was, I think, is a good choice.
Hungry For You: Endo Yasuko Stalks the Night, Vol. 1
Three girls have gone missing near Yomai High School. Shizue accidentally stumbles across a possible suspect: Endo Yasuko, who is definitely a crazed killer and probably not a vampire. Endo finds Shizue to her tastes, so she makes Shizue a deal: Endo will feed Shizue, if Shizue “feeds” her.
It’s promoted as yuri, but the girl/girl in Hungry For You is played more for fanservice/laughs rather than any sapphic attraction. That said, I do get a kick out of putting queer subtext in a story about vampires. The story and art are both serviceable. I’m rather fond of Shizue’s plain-jane four-eyes design, and all four of the major girls are visually distinct from each other. Much of the humor comes from dancing around the “is she or isn’t she” vampire-ness, though there’s a bit of ecchi. (What is it with Endo and needing a lot of her own panties?) The pair of them bouncing off Shizue’s academic rival Agawa and Texan vampire hunter Ashlynn is a great dynamic that’s perhaps not deep or complex, but just plain enjoyable. Those who like the tropes of this book are going to have a lot of fun.
How to Treat Magical Beasts: Mine and Master’s Medical Journal, Vol. 1
Set in an early Industrial Revolution period, when science is starting to advance and magic is starting to fade, How to Treat Magical Beasts follows the story of one of the last magic users in the world, apprenticed to a non-magical veterinarian. Ziska, who can still see and interact with the supernatural, does her best to save these creatures when they’re sick or injured.
This book is an exploration both through tidbits of lore and tidbits of science, applying one to the other to make sense of a mingled world. This blurring of the science/magic lines is a fun twist, putting them together rather than at odds like many in the genre tend to do. And like the worldbuilding plays off each other, the curious, kindhearted Ziska and her brusque but dependable master serve as good foils to each other, both in knowledge and personality. All of this is set in a soft but solid art style reminiscent of Ancient Magus Bride, keeping the reading light even when it dips into topics of life and death.
For My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat A Demon Lord, Vol. 1
Chirolu (Writer), Hota (Artist)
While out on an ordinary extermination quest, Dale, a young adventurer, finds an abandoned demon girl in the woods and immediately decides to adopt her as his daughter. The girl Latina quickly adapts to new life with Dale, his landlady and her husband, and the grizzled members of the bar they run.
If you were looking for heartwarming found family cuteness, here you go. The first volume of this series raises a few questions as to why Latina is out in the woods, but focuses more on bringing her into her new family and life and giving her happy times. As such, it’s perfect for some light reading when you want to be reminded that people can be good sometimes. The only thing that puts me off is Dale’s possessiveness toward being Latina’s guardian. There’s an unfortunate trend of manga and light novels in Japan right now in which an elementary school-aged little girl with an older man will be the subject of “tee hee the girl is his wife” “jokes.” Thankfully, the translation has made a point of emphasizing the parent/child relationship, at least for now.
Crisis Girls, Vol. 1
Every district has one of those areas that just seems to attract trouble: crime, fires, earthquakes, and giant murderous penguins. In order to keep the body count and collateral damage down, the government has assigned girls with unique abilities (like, say, necromancy) to defend the ordinary citizenry and keep costs down. In Crisis City, that girl is Kaede.
Okabe, you’re talking to a necromancer, do you think she cares if it’s not alive?
This series feels a lot like a shoujo One-Punch Man in terms of setup, comedy, and over-the-top violence. It focuses a little less on snarking off all the tropes, though, and focuses more on the character of an immature but well-meaning necromancer who tries her hardest for all the kids out there who think they’re alone. And the relationship between her and her “looks like a scary serial killer but is actually quite domestic” guardian Okabe is adorable. All of the character designs (even Okabe’s) are just too cute, and the art itself definitely leans into the story’s ridiculousness and exaggerations. It’s definitely a balance between cute, comedy, and “wait she just beheaded some penguins on the page.”
Himouto! Umaru-chan, Vol. 1
Himouto! Umaru-chan is a comedy slice of life starring Umaru, a perfect-looking girl in public, who reverts to a lazy otaku at home, a concept known as a himono. (Himouto is a portmanteau of himono and imouto, “little sister.”) It’s a setup not unlike Kare Kano or Switch Girl, but Himouto! Umaru-chan differs in that it’s told largely from the point of view of her ordinary and long-suffering brother. Unfortunately, I think that’s a difference that doesn’t do this story any favors.
Honestly, I’m a bit mad at this one. Of course, I’m not going to like everything that crosses my path, but often that’s simply because it’s tropes or genres I don’t enjoy. But I loved Kare Kano and Switch Girl. I think both the author (who labels himself as an unpopular boy in high school) and the narrator character didn’t understand what causes the huge shift between the on-mode and off-mode of a himono: that social and interpersonal skills require study and hard work just as much as history and science. Taihei, the older brother, ignores this in favor of constantly criticizing his sister as lazy and selfish, ignoring the fact she’s also come from a hard day at her “job.” But at the same time, I can’t take Umaru’s side; she is a sickeningly manipulative girl with the vast majority of her interactions with her brother being wheedling, emotional ploys, or just focused on her wants without any regard for the other person in the relationship. And the “ha ha, isn’t this woman being so deceptive and selfish!” crux of much of the humor feels rather misogynist at its core. I’d rather see the himono concept left to the shoujo genre.
But wait, that’s not all! A metric butt-ton of things came out recently, so here’s what else you can check out:
The Ancient Magus’ Bride Official Guide Book Merkmal by Kore Yamazaki: This supplemental book to the popular manga series includes an encyclopedia of the Ancient Magus Bride world and unreleased sketches and storyboards.
Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 2 by Ryo Shirakome (Writer) and Takaya-ki (Artist): Hajime’s next quest-giver on his road to greatness is a scantily-clad bunny girl with a giant hammer. Nothing about this surprises me.
Captain Harlock: The Classic Collection, Vol. 1 by Leiji Matsumoto: You saw the reboot. Now read the original war pitting Tadashi Daiba and Harlock’s crew against the Mazon.
Captive Hearts of Oz, Vol. 4 by Ryo Maruya (Writer) and Mamenosuke Fujimaru (Artist): A Wizard of Oz retelling from the author of the Alice in the Country of… series.
A Certain Scientific Railgun, Vol. 13 by Kazuma Kamachi (Writer) and Motoi Fuyukawa (Artist): Misaka and her railgun go hunting down a cyborg which may have become human.
Clockwork Planet, Vol. 2 by Yuu Kamiya (Writer), Tsubaki Himana (Writer), and Shino (Artist): The second volume of this light novel has the Chobits I mean Clockwork crew investigating a mysterious message.
Devilman: The Classic Collection, Vol. 1 by Go Nagai: A hardcover release of the 1970s classic, in which literal Satan stuffs the soul of an actual devil inside his best friend for, uh, saving the world. If you thought having an actual devil being the good guy was bad, wait til you meet the actual bad guys.
Devilman Grimoire Vol. 3 by Go Nagai (Writer), Rui Takatou (Artist): Humans everywhere are succumbing to demonic possession. And then there’s Akira Fudo, possessed by the strongest of their warriors, who fights for humanity’s sake. Which makes him a target for increasingly strong and evil demons coming to exterminate him for treason….
Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!, Vol. 1 by FUNA (Writer) and Itsuki Akata (Artist): The light novel that inspired the manga, featuring once again a girl who only wants to be mediocre and a reincarnation that is decidedly not.
DNA Doesn’t Tell Us, Vol. 2 by Mintarou: The second and final volume of this series about animal girls has the domesticated girls in an unexpected meeting with the wild animal girls.
The Dungeon of Black Company, Vol. 1 by Youhei Yasumura: On Earth, Kinji was a greedy, backstabbing asshole of a man. He’s “punished” by being sent to another world where he’s almost immediately in debt, and proceeds to do the exact same greedy backstabbing to get ahead. Oh, and look for sexy women. Wow, this one is not for me.
Freezing, Vol. 21-22 by Dall-Young Lim (Writer) and Kwang-Hyun Kim (Artist): Kazuya has uncovered the existence of legendary warriors, which has opened up a whole host of problems because they’re supposed to be, you know, secret. But he’s got a personal reason to investigate…
Getter Robo Devolution, Vol. 1 by Ken Ishikawa (Writer), Eiichi Shimizu (Writer), and Tomohiro Shimoguchi (Artist): Reboots of classic series have gotten popular lately, huh? Giant robot action in an updated art style.
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, Vol. 6 by Ao Jyumonji (Writer) and Eiri Shirai (Artist): The isekai’d gang has found yet another realm that seems lucrative…but when the armies show up, they’d like to leave, please.
High-Rise Invasion, Vol. 1-2 by Tsuina Miura (Writer) and Takahiro Oba (Artist): In the bizarre land of skyscrapers, there are two ways out: through the masked murderous wandering the floors… or down.
How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord, Vol. 1 by Yukiya Murasaki (Writer) and Naoto Fukuda (Artist): This isekai features an ordinary loser guy who gets summoned to another world–and ends up inside the demon lord’s body. Which also comes with some busty female slaves, because of course it does.
Juana and the Dragonewt’s Seven Kingdoms, Vol. 2 by Kiyohisa Tanaka: Separated from Nid, Juana must figure out how to escape the clutches of the dinosaur circus. And, uh, Nid, honey, why are you in the ocean?
Lord Marksman and Vanadis, Vol. 7 by Tsukasa Kawaguchi (Writer) and Nobuhiko Yanai (Artist): The final stand of Tigre against the invading forces, by himself, because that’s how all the best final books work.
Magical Girl Site, Vol. 6 by Kentaro Sato: Aya’s bastard brother isn’t dead yet? And he’s STILL got the mind-control panties? KILL HIM NOW.
Magika Swordsman and Summoner, Vol. 9 by Mitsuki Mihara (Writer) and MonRin (Artist): It wouldn’t be a shounen series involving fighting without a tournament!
Masamune-kun’s Revenge, Vol. 8 by Takeoka Hazuki (Writer) and Tiv (Artist): Masamune’s desire for revenge starts to waver as he considers the possibility that Aki might’ve had a reason for rejecting his childhood advances.
Merman in My Tub, Vol. 7 by Itokichi: It’s like The Odd Couple if Oscar Madison was half-fish. Now go ask your parents what The Odd Couple is.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Vol. 6 by coolkyousinnjya: The final volume of the original maid-dragon series has Kobayashi herself put inside a maid costume.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: Kanna’s Daily Life, Vol. 2 by coolkyousinnjya (Writer) and Mitsuhiro Kimura (Artist): Cuteness abounds in the continuing 4koma tales of the elementary-school dragon.
Mononoke Sharing, Vol. 2 by coolkyousinnjya: Busy month for coolkyousinnjya! The girls sort of, uh, blew up their house in the last volume–will they be able to find a new place to live together? Or is one explosion one too many for Yata?
My Monster Secret, Vol. 11 by Eiji Masuda: The final volume of the worst secret keepers ever puts the gang in the final year of their high school lives.
New Game!, Vol. 2 by Shoutarou Tokunou: A 4koma series following the daily shenanigans of a fresh-faced game developer.
Not Lives, Vol. 9 by Wataru Karasuma: The final volume of this MMO gone wrong series puts Mikami against the final boss… and if he wins, he gets to face the extra-difficult bonus boss. I hope there’s a save point in between the two.
NTR – Netsuzou Trap, Vol. 5 by Kodama Naoko: Who cares about entrance exams when you could be “practicing” makeout sessions with the girl you totally don’t have feelings for?
Saint Seiya: Saintia Sho, Vol. 2 by Masami Kurumada (Writer) and Chimaki Kuori (Artist): Shoko’s training as the new Saintia of Equuleus begins.
Satan’s Secretary, Vol. 1 by Kamotsu Kamonabe: The Demon Lord needs someone to manage the minutae of conquering the world. The secretary he hired for the job might hate humanity even more than he does. Relatable.
Toradora!, Vol. 1 by Yuyuko Takemiya (Writer) and Yasu (Artist): The original light novel the Seven Seas-released manga is based on. Boy crushes on girl, boy tries to get close to girl, boy unwittingly crosses her tsundere toradere best friend.
True Tenchi Muyo!, by Yousuke Kuroda (Writer) and Masaki Kajishima (Writer): A light novel based on the OVA, instead of the other way around, this fills in the backstory of Ayeka and Sasami’s father, Juraian royalty and general bad-ass.
Yokai Rental Shop, Vol. 3 by Shin Mashiba: Karasu finally meets his long-lost father! Who is a yokai and also kind of a dick, so this probably won’t go well. Meanwhile, Hiiragi is still happy to commit patricide if given a chance.
And Ghost Ship, Seven Seas’ “mature manga” imprint had quite a few releases recently:
To Love Ru, Vol. 7-8 by Saki Hasemi (Writer) and Kentaro Yabuki (Artist): Rito meets Momo, Lala’s sister, who sets in motion the polygamist plot of To Love Ru Darkness.
To Love Ru Darkness, Vol. 5 By Saki Hasemi (Writer) and Kentaro Yabuki (Artist): Momo’s plans to marry Rito are interfered with by her own fan club. Which is probably the best plot twist I’ve seen from this series, honestly.
Yokai Girls, Vol. 3 by Kazuki Funatsu: Yatsuki’s attempts to interfere in his friend’s crushes may result in his yokai-seeing secret being exposed.
Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs, Vol. 1: By Tadahiro Miura: Kogarashi, a homeless exorcist, gets a sweet offer: exorcise the inn-turned-apartment, and he can live there rent free. But, you know… the ghost is hot, so…