Run Away With Me, Girl – Battan

This manga series of three books was recommended to me by someone on Twitter. She said the artwork is stunningly beautiful and I agree fully with her. 🙂

Maki’s first love was a her high school classmate, a girl named Midori. On their graduation, Midori breaks up with her saying: “We are adults now, too old to be fouling around dating girls”. Ten years later Maki hasn’t forgetten her first love Midori and she gets reconnected with Midori through a chance encounter. But Midori reveals that she is pregnant and engaged. Maki is torn between her feelings and the happiness she sees within Midori about her child. But finding out more about Midori’s soon-to-be-husband, raises a lot of red flags with Maki.

And when Midori shares a secret she has been keeping for a long time, the flame of Maki’s love burns brighter. Can they start anew?

Is it teasing or does she still love me?

I need to give a warning that this short series contains domestic violence and childhood traumas. Can’t spoil too much of this series but I highly recommend it as a dramatic, funny and yet painful romance story.

She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat – Sakaomi Yuzaki

Nomoto loves to cook and de-stresses herself by creating a lot of dishes but always too big portions that she can eat by herself. She decides to invite her neighbour Kasuga, whom she first found a bit intimidating, to enjoy her meals together. Slowly Nomoto realises that her feelings towards her neighbour are a bit more than friendship and I love to find out how the story further progresses. There are only two books out and Nomoto has just researched what lesbianism means.

I didn’t pre-order this series because I didn’t know if I would enjoy the story. I started reading one girl love series and it became very toxic and frustrating, which means that annoyance just projects on future other series so I wait until I see more reviews from others or if I can check it out in stores (I’m looking at you “How Do We Relationship?”, so frustrated with that series) I know, I know I need to let this shit go but “How Do We” just fucked me over.

Below you will see the page that pulled me in the series.

My first thought, the audacity of this man. Good for you Nomoto thinking this is just gross.
I’ve always been repulsed by the assumption that women are just there to cater men. And looking at the rhetoric going around in very conservative circles that women are nothing more than just birth machines.

It’s all lovely as you as a woman wants to have kids or be the carer in the household, it is your own choice. But not everyone fits this bill. When we cook, my husband and I are a team in the kitchen, I do not want to be the only one that works on the meal. We are both equally responsible for the household. The whole Stepford wives spiel creeps me out. I have the urge to set a man on fire when I notice him doing absolutely nothing in kitchen, cleaning or childcare. Yes, I broke up with guys that just wanted me to replace their mothers.

I often find myself rebelling when someone says: “Oh your husband must love that you wear pretty dresses or do you often cook him great food”? after finding out I have Indonesian roots”. I do things for myself, not to please him. If our marriage was based on just pleasing him, I’d never gotten married. So fuck the patriarchy!

Lesbian Pride Flag

While the story isn’t that far yet, the mangaka created this image for the start of Pride Month on her Twitter account. Guess I just have to wait for this relationship to further develop but whatever course it takes this series is just wholesome. Two women confronted with the image society expects of them and not having any of it. I love them to bits.

The elaborate detail of the dishes Notomo makes is just mouthwatering good. I often suggest to my husband that we need to make this and he agrees.

Our Dining Table – Mita Ori

This is one of the most cute, genuine and heartwarming stories of two men reaching out to each other and falling in love. It also contains themes of coping with loneliness and the fear of losing a loved one.

Yutaka has difficulty eating around other people and is enjoying his lunch all by himself when a small boy is staring at the huge onigiri in his hand. When the little boy’s tummy rumbles he decides to share his onigir with him and they started talking. When Yutaka asks him if he is all by himself, the little boy replies that he is with his brother. Chaos ensues when his big brother arrives and give the boy a good scolding for wandering off during shopping and trying to eat someone elses food. The older brother apologies and storms of with his little brother

Back at the office Yutaka overhears his colleagues discussing drinks after work and one mentions if they should invite him. “Nah, don’t bother, he never comes anyway.” Leaving Yutaka a bit hurt over these comments.

Later that night, Yutaka thinks about his past and the reader finds out that he when he was younger, he had been told that people can’t stand to eat food when looking at him. That’s some big time trauma you place on a kid.

The next day he goes and have lunch in the park once more and finds the two brothers waiting on him. The small boy is introduced as Tane and wants to eat his onigir once more. His older brother, Minoru, makes him apologise and asks Yutaka to teach him how to cook these onigiri that his little brother craves.

Their cooking parties are becoming more frequent and Minoru and Yutaka begin to find out that they have a lot of in common both feeling lonely and insecure after the death of ones relatives. Trying to find their way on how to handle communicating with others or raising a little brother while not forgetting you have your own to look after too.

There is nothing that I don’t love about this manga, the art style is lovely, the themes are portrayed with a lot of respect and it just show to men, gradually falling in love and being the support for each other that they so much craved.

What is an onigiri?

It’s a Japanese riceball, often with filling. That could be a pickled plum, pickled vegetables, egg, various types of fish or even chicken.

The shape is a triangle but I’ve seen them in a round shape too. Wrapped in a sheet of dried seaweed this are quick bites you can have to soothe your carvings.

When I was in ramen shop in Tokyo the owner offered us miso fried riceballs in the same shape. You slowly see these appear in the Netherlands and I am happy I have healthier quick bite options

Blue Flag – KAITO

Blue Flag

Reposting this blog I wrote in 2021 for Pride Month 2023 as this is one of the best series that I own. I reread it atleast once a year because the story is this good.

2021 – I picked up this tradepaperback (TP) by chance in March of this year at my favourite bookstore in Rotterdam: Donner. I’ve seen it online before but I was still on the fence if this would be a good read. The art is great but for me the story is important. That’s why I prefer a brick-and-mortar store over online. Sometimes it’s just hit and miss when I preorder TP’s online. After flipping through volume 1 at Donner, I purchased the first two of the series. They had up to number 5 on the shelves but TP’s are quite pricey and I had already splurged on other things.

Back at the hotel I tore through both of them in one evening and couldn’t wait to devour more. In March you couldn’t shop freely because of Covid-19, I had to reserve a time slot at each store I was visiting and my schedule on the second day was packed full. So after I got home I ordered the rest of the available TP’s from Donner and read through them in one go.

The story focuses one three characters: Futaba, Taichi and Toma and it’s a love quadrangle with a dash of unrequited love. Confused yet?

When you look at the cover of the 1st volume you can see how the feelings flow towards the main characters. Taichi isn’t popular but has an unlikely best friend Toma. Toma is handsome, great at sports and everyone likes him. Tachi realises that it’s really odd that since their childhood they are best friends. Even some people at school wonder why they have this bond. He notices his classmate Futaba has a crush on Toma and tries to be matchmaker between the two, but Toma’s feelings are for someone else…

From left to right: Toma, Tachi and Futaba

As I said the cover of the 1st volume gives away who likes who. This coming of age story touches a lot of subjects like gender equality, same sex relationships, unrequited love, bullying and the choices the main characters have to face.

I said earlier that it contained a love quadrangle and I spoke about 3 main characters. The other character that falls in that equation is Masumi, she loves Futaba more than a friend but will never tell her this because of the hardship same sex couples would face. She also knows that Futaba won’t return her feelings and doesn’t want to ruin the friendship they have together. It’s quite heartbreaking that she hides her feelings, you clearly see her struggle with this. And she is the first one to notice Toma’s feelings towards Taichi, telling him they are alike.

Masami dropping the bomb on Toma

The story had me crying at times, it’s really tough being in your teens and struggling with feelings that are not considered the ‘norm’ by society. For me love is love no matter what gender you represent but sadly even in 21st century the LGBTQIA community is still met with violence and hate. But you see a rise in LGBTQIA books, movies, anime and manga. Even games are becoming more inclusive, to the horror of some hardcore gamers that whine a mile about it. Kind of like those religious people tossing around the Bible trying to interfere with other people’s lives. In my honest opinion religion is a self-guideline.

What I didn’t expect is that I would have a strong connection with one of the side characters, Mami. She is a real girly girl with makeup and the works but she wants to be friends with guys without romance. She sees nothing wrong with just being friends with boys but often it ended in the boys falling in love with her or girls at school getting upset with her, saying she is fishing for attention. She just wants to be friends and maybe find love on her own terms. So when she starts playing videogames with Taichi it is met with suspicion. She blows a fuse and poors out her heart to Masami and Futaba that she just wants to be one of the guys as a girl. I hear you Mami. I’m happy you have Shingo as your best mate for life.

Please don’t hate me – Please don’t fall for me
Shingo tells Mami how it is.

While your emotions are being tossed around by the story, the mangaka has a way for drawing amazing expressions. I knew exactly how the characters felt, the way they looks shocked, sad or angry. You just got swept away with the boys and girls of the series.

Toma being grilled by Shingo

While Taichi tries to bring Futaba closer to Toma, he notices his feelings for her. And with the confession of Toma what choice will Taichi make? I’m not going to spoil the ending for you but I was very satisfied with the conclusion.

What will Taichi do?

Overal this was a great series and while I am sad it ended, if they added more volumes it wouldn’t do this story justice. Just the right amount of love, drama and humour. You really feel for the characters, understand their pains and fears. And Mami being the MPV of the story was a great surprise. In 8 volumes you get a wonderful story with fantastic art.

My rating:

Skip and Loafer – Misaki Takamatsu

This is a charming slice-of-life/romance series that follows Mitsumi Iwakura while she moves to Tokyo with the ambition to become a government official so she can help develop her home prefecture that has been depopulating for years. Surprised by the massive transit hubs on the way to school, she ends up losing her way and is in danger to be late for her opening ceremony. Sousuke Shima, her soon-to-be laidback classmate, helps her get to school just in the nick of time for her opening ceremony speech. Shima thinks school will be very interesting with Mitsumi attending and shows up daily.

The series is fantastic, the target audience is young adult men, but I know lots of girls who are hooked to this one. 😉 But one of the best things about this series is that Mitsumi’s aunt Nao is transgender.

Mitsumi & Nao

Nao is introduced at the very beginning of the series (both manga & anime) while accompanying Mitsumi part of the way towards her school on her first day. You see two girls standing close by gossiping and giggling about Nao’s Adam’s apple. Luckily for Noa or Mistumi, they don’t hear this. When they split up, Mitsumi loses her way and runs into Shima who helps her out. Mitsumi will stay with her aunt while she attends school in Tokyo.

Nao is a stylist and has a boyfriend. She helps Mitsumi with her outfit choices as Mitsumi has totally no clue what fits together and what not. When the story progresses you find out more about Nao’s youth. How she struggled living in a rural area where people weren’t accepting of her gender. In Tokyo you can find kindred spirits, a larger group of LGBTQIA+ members that will support you. I see this in my hometown, it’s not a small town but you can’t walk hand-in-hand with your same sex partner without being called out, harassed or worse. And people here will also single you out when you look not feminine or masculine enough for your gender. I am sorry to say that transphobia is big here in the southern regions of the Netherlands. We still have a lot of work to do.

The reason I love Nao so much in this series is that she is very supportive of Mitsumi but also listens to the struggles of Mitsuki’s friends. When there was a sleepover she informed Mitsumi’s friends parents that she is biologically male and was sleeping over at a friend’s house so they wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. She really aware of how unaccepting people can be and she doesn’t want Mitsumi to get hurt. She is the bestest aunty ever!

Nao is portrayed in a respectful way by the manga-ka. I think it’s great that her family is so accepting and I hope to find out more about her story and her adventures in the coming volumes of Skip and Loafer. We need moar Noa-chan!

Cherry Magic! – Yuu Toyota

The full title reads Cherry Magic! Thirty years of virginity can make you a wizard?! And it follows Kyoshi Adachi being able to read minds after being a virgin for 30 years and finding out his hot colleague Yuichi Kurosawa has a huge crush on him. This manga is a really sweet gay romcom, it even has a live action series that I love dearly.

I am happy that a lot of new gay manga is stepping away. In the past we had too much rapist turn to lover stories and it gave a totally wrong representation towards the gay community in Japan. Some manga-ka and gays became very outspoken against this type of storytelling and the shift began towards a more realistic depiction of gays and their relationships.

So our main character of this series finds out on his thirtieth birthday with him still being a virgin, he is able to read other people’s minds when touching them and it stresses him out a lot.

His panic even becomes bigger when he is stuck in a full elevator and finds out that his handsome and popular colleague Kurosawa has a major crush on him. He can’t contain his embarrassment when he hears Kurosawa fawn over his bedhair and it being his lucky day being so close to Adachi. His heart just skips a beat because of this honest but secret confession.

Knowing this it becomes very obvious to Adachi that Kurosawa goes out of his way to help and support Adachi at work. He encourages Adachi to join an in-company design competition and gives him the confidence he needs to face his challenges. And Adachi in turn helps Kurosawa out while using his powers to find out why a customer is so angry while visiting the office. The man was upset and dissapointed they didn’t have any cake for him. LOL so childish but so cute how he sneakily tried to find out what the problem is.

They eventually start a relationship and both are totally on cloud nine while trying to overcome the challenges society throws at them for being a gay couple in Japan. At the moment, there is no marriage equality in Japan. Which means that even if they are partners for years, they won’t receive the same rights as married couples like being recognised as a partner to be able to visit their partners when in hospital.

In 2009 Japan began to allow Japanse Nationals to marry same sex-partners in countries where same-sex is legal. Individuals would get key certificates that states that a person is single and of legal age in order to be able to marry in areas that would allow it.

Some areas have begun to establish a partnership system that would recognise same-sex relationships for situations like hospital visitation or renting an apartment together. The couple will get a proof of partnership paper. I hope one day same-sex marriages/relationships will hold the same rights under Japanese law. Being under a conservative government does not help while the population in Japan is in favour of giving LGBTQIA+ people right to marry.

That said, I am disgusted that in the country that prides themselves for holding the first gay marriage, aggression and violence towards the LGBTQIA+ community has been becoming more common these days. The hate is being fueled by false narrative, often voiced by people in high places like politicians and making the Netherlands an unsafe place to live in if you are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. To those assholes I say, fuck you!

I saw the live action series first before becoming hooked on the manga. The storyline in is a bit quicker in development in the live action series and they couldn’t do the outragious first day Kurosawa planned. A helicopter is not a great idea, lol! But the clumsy stumbling and akward situation just were acted out very well by the actors and I love this just as much as the manga. You can find the live action on Crunchyroll and the mangas at any physcial or online store.

Is love the answer? – Uta Isaki

The kickoff for our Pride Month is with this manga by Uta Isaki. When I order manga I try to research online what the story is about. With manga it is sometimes easier to find out because it has been published in Japanese before being translated. The brief summary made me curious about this manga.

When it comes to love, high schooler Chika wondes if she might be an alien. She’s never fallen in love or even had a crush on anyone, and she has no desire for physical intimacy.
Her friends tell her that she just “hasn’t met the one yet,” but Chika has doubts. It’s only when Chika enters college and meets peers like herself that she learns there’s a word for what she feels inside – asexual – and she’s not the only one. After years of wondering if love was an answer, Chika realizes that the answer she long sought may not exist at all – and that that’s perfectly normal.

The manga starts just with a simple question: “What does it feel like to “like” someone?”
Chika is listening to a boy she is friends with, confess his love to her. You see the confusion on her face while she is trying to figure out what the words “like” and “go out” mean to her. But his definition doesn’t fit with what she feels.

Her friends are ecstatic that she started dating, they thought it would never happen. This remark surprises Chika. “Is this something that is expected of me?” But when he takes her home, things go south quickly. When he tries to be intimate a sense of fear comes over her and she rejects him. All he could say was: “Why? I thought we were going out. Don’t you know the deal when you go over to a guy’s house?”

Later at school she is shunned by the boys, called an alien and someone that doesn’t have common sense. For me personally I really hate boys who are like that. Looking back at my dating youth, I was also ridiculed when I didn’t want to have sex on the first date. WTF men, why are you like this?

Her friends just tell her that she hasn’t met the right guy yet, calling her ex a creep but at a heartbreak karaoke meet she overhears he friend talking about the incident. When told that they broke up because she didn’t want sex with him while she was over his place, they called her a prude. That she should have known what going over to a boy’s place means and that she will never get a boyfriend until she fixes it.

These words hurt her to her core while she thinks: “I see, I just haven’t met “the one” yet…I wish someone would teach me…”How to human 101″ for aliens…”
On which she assumes she is not a normal person. Poor girl, I just want to hug her.

Chika ends up going to college and studying psychology to learn more about herself. By chance she runs into the professor that she idolizes and asks her passionately to teach her about humans, about how to be normal, about why she doesn’t have sexual urges, never liked anyone romantically. And the professor asks of her: “So you want to study psychology because you don’t understand romantic attraction?”

Chika: “I’m not sure. Romance is supposed to be great, and not being able to like anyone isn’t normal, because any regular person would definitely-

Professor: “Then why should you have to do it? Why would you force yourself to do something that doesn’t feel natural? It is the same with romance.”

And this is just the first 40 pages of the manga my friends. The professor really does a micdrop here.

This manga beautifully shows how Chika meets people that are also part of the LGBTQIA+ community, how they handle their fears and overcame their difficulties while she comes to terms with her own sexuality. It shows that you can’t always define asexual people as one whole, they experience it all in a different way and I think that the manga-ka does a great job with this book. But y’all need to know that questioning someone why they still don’t have a partner, saying things like you haven’t met the right one yet, does not help the person in question. Some people are absolutely fine with not having a romantic partner. They make their own identities and not the identity that society wants to copy and paste on every single human being on this earth.

What is asexuality?

Asexuality is a sexual orientation that is part of the LGBTQIA+ community and refers to a person who is not sexually attracted to others.

* Some asexual people do not experience sexual attraction, but can fall in love with (are romantically attracted to) others – alloromantic asexual.

* Some asexual people can have sex even though they have no sexual urges (An example is someone who will have sex if a partner requests it. Some asexual people people are sex-repulsed, while others are not, and this may determine whether they are able to have sex.)

* Some asexual people have sexual urges but don’t wnt to act on those urges with other people.

You can se that asexuality is vastly diverse that it seems difficult to find two asexual people who are the same. The manga-ka didn’t mean for the main character to represent asexuality, She is just one of the different kinds of asexual identities out there.

A legend has passed on

Today I woke up to the news that the mangaka of Berserk, Miura Kentaro, passed away on the 6th of May. And I was devastated.

I grew up with Berserk when it was released in 2003 by Dark Horse, together with Blade of the Immortal, it was my baptism in the world of Japanese comics. I was blown away by the work of detail in this dark fantasy world. The story was gripping, the style made you crave for more. Miura-san had me hooked on manga.

The joy I felt whenever a new volume came out and when I read the last page the tension harsh waiting game began for the next release. I wasn’t that active on the internet and the community in the Netherlands is very small, because I am not a big fan of going to anime-cons. The crowds just do me in. But I had a coworker with whom I could chat and speculate about the story’s progress.

When I grew older Berserk stayed with me. But you also find out the dark side of being the mangaka of a popular series. Your publisher wants a steady schedule in which you deliver quality work. And these schedules in Japan are insane. Look at Shonen Jump that comes out weekly, which means if you are serialised in that, you need to deliver a new chapter once a week. It’s crazy. Sadly, so many mangaka had to take a long period to recover their health. And with Twitter these days, they are exposed by the disappointment of their fans when their favourite series is on hiatus. Some comments are outright vile.

Miura-san struggled with his health and trying to keep fans happy. And now he is no longer among us. I have a deep respect for this man. Mangaka’s have assistants to help them but this is not an easy life. They often crunch together to make the deadlines pulling many late nighters. He wanted his staff to be able to have a family life and he gave them the chance.
Just wished he looked out a little bit more for himself.

I shouldn’t read the comments on Twitter under his respect posts, but sadly I did and still some fans don’t understand and called him lazy for not keeping up with the schedule or taking breaks. Crying about what will happen to the story. For me the story ended when Miura-san passed. I don’t need more. I’ll cherish what he has given me.

It reminded me of the time the wonderful Terry Pratchett passed away. I was blessed to have met him in person, we had a little chat about how his books gave me joy. I didn’t want someone else to finish his books, I was fearful that they couldn’t carry the spirit he had. So when I heard that in his last will he asked for his hard drives to be destroyed by steamroller my heart made a little jump. That’s the Terry Pratchett I know and love.

I have a few mangaka left on my list that give me the same joy as Miura-san. I hope they look out for their health.