This manga…is fantastic.
Shimanami Tasogare (しまなみ誰そ彼) is so good I honestly don’t want to say much about it. A big reason I enjoyed it was just going in with only the premise and reading from there. By the way…the title is difficult to translate. It’s something like “Shimanami, Who he is”…maybe. I don’t know Japanese well enough for this title. “Shimanami” is a notable road/bridge that connects islands in the manga’s setting, “Tasogare” seems to be some sort of result of playing with kanji for “who” and “him”. Anyway, this is a manga by Kamatani Yuuki (鎌谷悠希), who apparently made Nabari no Ou, the anime of which my little sister watched and all I know about it is I really like the OP. The art looks totally different, and it seems they’re really hardly alike. Getting sidetracked, I guess.
This is a manga about
cats, doing various cat things alternative sexuality and gender identity and such. It features a small but highly examined cast of characters, the protagonist among them being a closeted gay high school boy. The rest of the cast…well, that’s part of why I don’t really want to say anything. “You’ll see!”, basically. The series is an introspective and interpersonal drama but it’s not what I’d call “dramatic”. It can be pretty funny, for one! And by my measure, it’s otherwise incredibly realistic. It’s painful, and interesting, and hugely enthralling. I really found it difficult to put it down once I started reading. Kamatani-sensei employs a whole lot of visual imagery and outright well-paneled pages, also, such that almost every page is just really, really good. I don’t want to post them and spoil you getting them for the first time.
But, well, I’ve gotta show and talk about something.
High school boy Kaname Tasuku forgot to clear the search history on his phone after watching gay porn and his friend notices it. He tries to cover it up, and to be fair his friends don’t seem UPSET about it and assume he just got pranked or something (so basically, they’re teasing him), but even covering it up causes some real severe self-damage since he doesn’t say the kindest things while doing so.
So, faced with the probability of his homosexuality being out in the open, he decides to kill himself.
I skipped around a bit, but the chapter actually goes like “oh shit, I’ve been outed” to this page, after which he makes it clear he’s planning to jump from here off a cliff. The chapter returns to the reasons he came to this decision throughout it, mainly because Tasuku stops when he sees somebody else jump first.
This is actually how the manga will probably grab you. Everything happens very quickly at once, and then some woman commits suicide before the main character can. Tasuku rushes over to where she fell, yelling for help. He comes across a strange house, where the people inside seem strange as well (they don’t seem to care about him saying someone just leapt from a window), and they just tell him to go inside as he pleases. Before he can register any of this, the woman who seemed to have died walks in.
This is…uh, someone. She’s anonymous. Two translations refer to her as either “Anonymous” or “Somebody” (in Japanese it’s “dareka”, so the latter is probably more correct although I prefer the former). She doesn’t give her name to anyone and doesn’t seem to be someone you can find out about through registries or something. She owns this strange house, and seems utterly aloof. Naturally, when she leaves, Tasuku immediately follows her because what the hell.
The rest of the chapter has Anonymous moving forward at her own pace while Tasuku pursues. Eventually she says this, something of a catchphrase:
She gives Tasuku an ultimatum: speak your mind and I listen, or don’t and I leave. This is enough of a push to get the boy to…at least admit something’s troubling him, and we discover the last reason he decided to try to commit suicide.
The rest of the chapter is kinda subtly powerful and there’s a lot of good pages, but basically, Anonymous says something like “that lounge seems to attract people who want to die” and “well, you can come over to that lounge whenever you feel like it and talk to the people there.”
“Gay people come by too.”
And she leaves. The manga continues.
The setting of Shimanami Tasogare is a seaside town called Onomichi. It’s old, and lots of homes in it have been abandoned since most people just leave when they grow up. It’s that sort of place. Tasuku moved here recently, and the town itself has a strange amount of character for a manga. Most of the time, it doesn’t really seem like the town a manga takes place in has any real purpose. However, here Onomichi gives a lot of context to the way characters act, or their aspirations or eccentricities. It’s pretty interesting.
Yes, I did just take a hard left from that summarizing I was doing. Well, at this point, I don’t want to go very much into specifics.
I’ll start being general, though! I quite love the characters in this series. Whether or not they’re “normal” (as in, heteronormative) is not actually known off the bat. Naturally, Tasuku takes Anonymous’s word to start suspecting all of the lounge patrons, but it’s kind of a surprise whenever we learn the deal with any one of them. The manga quickly makes one of the characters, a frequenter of Anonymous’s lounge, very major and grants them a lot of focus. It’s like this character becomes the protagonist for a bit, all their strengths and flaws aired, and they end up helping Tasuku grow a little. Kinda tough to say, but this character’s probably my favorite of the cast so far. They’re amusing and courageous, but not perfect.
Most of the major cast that ends up at the lounge is also a part of an NPO called Cat Clowder, because this series is subtly full of cats, but basically they renovate abandoned homes around Onomichi for the government. Anonymous’s lounge was one such place, and while Anonymous certainly draws a lot of people (and probably you, the reader), the series sort of subverts expectations by making Anonymous’s appearances and actions rare rather than making her a regular character. Anyway, Tasuku eventually joins Cat Clowder and starts growing as a person.
As a person with more volunteer experience than I ever expected I’d have in life, I can relate to this aspect. There’s isn’t too much I can say about this here without getting into a lot of detail, though, just that Cat Clowder kind of opens up the floor to more characters than just those who like to hang out at the lounge. One of those characters is an enormous source of tumultuous internal conflict in the series, another is a part of aggravating but totally believable external conflict, and another is mysterious and I’m pretty interested in seeing how they grow. Well, “interested in seeing how they grow” applies to my opinion for most of the cast, honestly.
After all, quite a few of them are immature. Especially Tasuku, honestly. For real, Tasuku’s kind of a dick on a number of occasions.
Christ I’m demonstrating a lot of restraint when talking about this series. I guess if I had to say why I like Shimanami Tasogare so much, it’d be because it deals with subject matter that I’m very interested in and handles it in a shockingly realistic manner. Like, for instance, technically this series isn’t a romance despite dealing largely with sexuality. A romantic aspect exists and there is a possibility of romance, but mostly this is about getting to know other people and getting to know yourself. It’s just really rad. Super compelling, and I like it a lot.
I guess I can’t speak for how interested most people might be in this series. I’m highly recommending it, for the record, but hey, I don’t know what you like to read. If you think it’s only worth reading if you’re part of LGBT I can tell you that’s false, as a straight guy myself. And even though I’ll admit my bias to being interested in such fiction, I must also mention how this is actually a seinen manga targeted at average adult males, so you may still dig it. For what it’s worth, I really believe that this series is handled extremely well. Great characters, twisted love interest relationship, really tugs you along with its pace, great cliffhangers, great art, great pages. This is good manga.
Wanna buy this? Shimanami Tasogare may be purchased from CDJapan, Kamatani Yuuki’s Bookwalker author page (guide), honto (guide), or ebookjapan. Kamatani Yuuki can be found on twitter @yuhkikamatani. Next up is one of the more well-known series I’ve read. Thanks for reading, see you then.