from graphic novel guest blogger Francisca Goldsmith:
Takako Shimura has a well earned reputation as a sensitive and sensible LGBT cartoonist. Bringing her 2003 series to American readers asks that readers in the U.S. be as sensitive and sensible. The gender orientations of eleven-year-olds just isn’t the stuff of stories here. In fact, it is the stuff of reality. Shimura balances a full plate in this story, all the while offering it with the kind of easy grace that makes the balance appear to be almost magical. Included in the balancing act: we become invested in the awareness and experiences of both a girl and a boy; we witness both “regular” kids and our two outliers acting and reacting to each other; manga glyphs of facial expressions and emoting mix with almost Western text-led storytelling tropes.
The last crossing has to be the reader’s: can you take responsibility for your own awareness, and be willing to read this first and judge it afterward? A host of kids could profit from you doing so.
Adult/High School–Preteens Nitori and Takatsuki meet and become friends quickly, in spite of the fact that most of their peers still prefer same gender companions. What Nitori keeps from Takatsuki–although one of his other female friends knows and many of his classmates suspect–is his strong desire to be a girl. Conversely, Takatasuki, who is a new student in their class, longs to be a boy. In Shimura’s sympathetic hands, this manga is neither gag nor message heavy: both main characters, their peers, and their family members are credible and developed with enough depth that readers can think about them beyond the bounds of the book. Appropriate to their age, these friends are concerned with the clothing and social behaviors suited more to the other gender than with anything explicitly sexual. And they are very lucky: their parents treat them with respect. In Japan, this story could be heartening, or enlightening for Niroti and Takatsuki’s generation, while in the U.S. we haven’t yet learned to play well with stories of gender identity for the prepubescent set. However, the book belongs in every high school library, as well as in public collections that are accessible to both youth and adults. Highly produced, with large clear black-and-white panels, it can also encourage teens who have been shy about diving into unflipped manga (imported Japanese comics that maintain the right to left flow of the original), as they will come to care about more about the story than the direction the page turns.–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA