Continuing my way down the “coming out of the closet” category, I discovered Koimonogatari (2013.)
There are seventeen chapters that have been scanlated so far. The scanlation seems to be recent, but Baka-Updates has the “status in country of origin” listed as “two volumes (hiatus)” (emphasis, mine), and, given that Tagura-sensei has published other manga since, I have a bad feeling that even if we get the “full” story scanned and fan translated, it’s not going to be complete.
Which is a bummer, because this high school drama is really pretty gay.
What I like about the story so far is that it seems to be about a friendship–a friendship between a gay guy and his straight friend.
Yoshinaga Yamoto is gay. His classmate Hasegawa Yuki accidentally overhears him talking to a girl friend about a love confession that he rejected. As Hasegawa says, he didn’t mean to overhear it, but now that he has, “once you know the truth, your entire perspective changes.”
For the longest time Hasegawa is Yoshinaga’s only male friend that knows he’s gay. They end up striking up a very angsty, very TEENAGE friendship. There are a lot of little dramas, including Yoshinaga meeting another gay teen who is living a kind of hustler lifestyle, and a big one, in which a classmate outs Yoshinaga to everyone and it goes… horribly.
In these seventeen chapters, the outing is the big climax… and that’s a problem. Because, for reasons that make plenty of sense, in story and to his character, Yoshinaga ends up denying the accusation.
And, it’s a huge bummer.
I mean, I realize I can’t have it both ways. If I want a realistic portrayal of GLBTQIA+ people and queer relationships, the reality, AS I KNOW ALL TOO WELL, is that life can be pretty crappy when you’re a gay teen.
According to the Trevor Project, GLB teens are almost five times more likely to have tried to commit suicide than their straight counterparts (trans teens are left off this statistic, because their suicide rate is _so_ much higher.)
Which is why I feel like we deserve happy stories…. and this one may have been headed there when the volumes stopped publishing. There’s a hint of something at the very end of what is currently scanlated that makes it seem as though maybe Yoshinaga is going to get a PERSONAL happy ending, at least.
So, it’s hard for me to judge this particular story because it just peters out and quits. What we have is both depressing and really, REALLY f*cking awesome.
Because, even though I can’t help but ship our two main characters, I’m really happy with the mangaka’s decision (so far) to have Hasewaga and Yoshinaga remain platonic and yet REALLY close.
In fact, the two guys tease each other with fake out love confessions all the time, because it’s one way in which they can tell each other they love each other and not have it get SUPER-awkward.
But, they have plenty awkward moments too, which are endearing AF and… real?
It’s still possible that if more is scanlated (or written) this will be the perfect queer manga. As it stands, it’s darn close.
There is, however, no sex.
I don’t know that the lack bothers me. This particular story feels so very HIGH SCHOOL that I think that sudden smut would feel very jarring. Also, Yoshinaga has opportunity and makes a conscious choice not to have sex. His gay friend is like, ‘dude, you’re still a virgin? I can fix that,’ and Yoshinaga thinks about it seriously, but decides that he wants his first time to be special, even though the gay friend has really talked him down about the possibility of that, basically telling him that you might as well get laid, since relationships are so f*cked-up. (Which is also depressing? So, I do hope that Yoshinaga at least ends up with a nice high school boyfriend at the end of this story… also that his gay friend finds someone who shows him that life doesn’t HAVE to be like that.)
But, regardless? I want to say that I LOVE Yoshinaga’s choice.
Talk about something you almost never see in yaoi/Boys’ Love: a protagonist who says “No thanks to your offer of a quickie; I’d like to wait.”
Ultimately, I liked this one a lot. It was precisely the kind of story that I told the person at ConFABulous I didn’t think existed in yaoi/BL. It is a fairly authentic portrayal of how hard it is to be gay in high school, especially when it’s all so very new for you, yourself, as well. And, they _do_ talk about that in this manga. Several times, Hasewaga reminds Yoshinaga that it’s no surprise that he doesn’t know what to do in certain circumstances because he’s only just learning what it means to be gay, for himself.
I think that’s a big theme in Koimongatari: everyone is struggling to figure out love and romance. Everyone. Because we see in several of Hasewaga’s scenes that even though he likes girls, he’s kind of not into romance (if I were writing this story, I would have Hasewaga come out as aromantic,) and so all of his “normal” relationships tend to crash and burn and he feels very helpless to solve this problem, partly because his heart just doesn’t go ‘doki doki’ the way that it seems other people’s do.
This is partly why I’m not SUPER mad about Yoshinaga’s public denial. It made me sad because I want people to be able to come out and not face being ostracized/bullied/etc., but I also understand why he would chose to do it.
Queer folk everywhere make this choice on the daily: am I safe to come out here? Almost all of us have a range of out-ness. We might be super-out to our friends (not unlike Yoshinaga by chapter 17) but we’re closeted at our work/school, or with a particular organization/set of people, or even our immediate families.
This entire yaoi is about watching Yoshinaga feel out where it’s safe to come out, and where it’s not.
That’s pretty much 100% accurate. For me, that was college, but for Yoshinaga and many of you out there, it’s high school (or even earlier… or later.)
So, these types of stories DO exist. How many of them there are remains to be seen. If I want to be jaded, I can imagine that one of the reasons this title is listed as “on hiatus” in Japan is that it might not have been that big of a seller. We always talk about how we want stories like this, but accurate and authentic representation isn’t always a big money maker. If yaoi is written for straight women, it’s not really surprising that they might not rush out to buy a super-angsty, ZERO smut yaoi about how f*cking hard it is to actually BE gay.
That kind of ruins the fantasy.