Pride Month has rolled around again, which means it’s time for parades, Twitter discourse, and lists upon lists of great films, shows, and books starring queer characters. This is one such list of a couple (in both senses of the word) of queer manga readers’ top recommendations for readers in search of manga that’s more than a little on the gay side. Enjoy!
That Blue Sky Feeling
Okura and Coma Hashii
That Blue Sky Feeling is my go-to when it comes to queer manga recommendations. This slice-of-life series follows high-schoolers Sanada, who’s gay and in the closet, and Noshiro, who’s discovering his identity while learning what queer concepts like being “closeted” even mean. Noshiro’s naivete and Sanada’s cool exterior slowly warm over time and make for a sweet, funny series that adds to the compelling leads with a cast of characters offering even more representations of queerness I haven’t found elsewhere in manga. Writer Okura is adept at characterization and artist Coma Hashii elevates that characterization with expressive faces and soft renderings that invite the reader in for a lighthearted read. Check out our review of the latest volume if you need even more convincing to pick up this Pride Month must-read!
Seven Seas Entertainment
Fair warning: This is a sad one. It’s also a great one, though. Claudine follows a trans man in early 20th century France as he tries to live openly as his true self, falls in love, and navigates the small-minded world around him. Claudine’s sheer strength of will and courage are captivating, as are Ikeda’s visuals, which capture all the magic and sorrow of the character’s life. I have mixed feelings about recommending such a somber comic for pride month, but if you’re interested in trying a more serious book, and in representations of trans lives in manga, it’s a must-read.
Our Dreams at Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare
Seven Seas Entertainment
Our Dreams at Dusk, written and drawn by Yuhki Kamatani, is a heavy read, but one that is absolutely worth undertaking. The series follows Tasuku Kaname who, after nearly committing suicide from the stress of nearly being outed as gay at school, stumbles upon a community of people with whom he can belong and be understood. Kamatani’s work rendering faces conveys the characters’ feelings to a heartbreaking degree and their use of representative imagery can’t be beat. There’re a couple of pages in this volume that have set the bar to be two of my favorite pages of the year, if not of all time. I won’t describe them any further! Go buy this series!
My favorite boys’ love series of all time, and one that defies genre conventions in a myriad of ways. Border is all about a found family of (mostly) queer men working together as a detective agency. You seldom see stories about gay men that invest more time in their friendships and family lives than in their romantic relationships, but that’s exactly what Border does. Watching the protagonists support one another as they cope with traumatic pasts and try to find happiness in the present is heartwarming. Add in some mystery and crime drama and you’ve got a manga unlike any other.
Go For It, Nakamura!
Seven Seas Entertainment
Every chance I get to recommend Go For It, Nakamura!, I’m gonna take it. This is another high-school slice-of-life featuring yet another closeted gay young man, but this series presents itself as a straight comedy with Nakamura’s queerness taken as a given, rather than a significant plot detail. The series follows Nakamura as he pines for his crush, Hirose, getting himself into a handful of hijinks as he does whatever he can to talk to– or even be near– the object of his attraction. Nakamura also has a pet octopus, as octopi are his favorite animals, and Syundei makes great use of this quirk as a visual metaphor for Nakamura’s queerness. This is another go-to Pride Month recommendation for anyone looking for a queer romp through the ups and downs of adolescent attraction.
The sexiest manga I’ve ever read, and it doesn’t even have sex scenes. (At least, not yet…) 10 Dance is the story of two Shinyas– Shinya Sugiki and Shinya Suzuki– who are professional champions in two different genres of dance. The men begin to tutor each other in their respective specialties, and the resultant clash of personalities leads to some of the most potent sexual tension I’ve ever seen in fiction. Neither man considers himself queer at the beginning of the story, but as time progresses their feelings for each other deepen and they begin to reflect on their identities, pasts, and motivations. Plus, Inouesatoh brings the world of dance to life beautifully. When the two men join hand in hand, it really looks like they’ve entered a special realm all their own.
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon
Even though it takes a long minute for lesbian icons Tenoh Haruka (Sailor Uranus) and Kaioh Michiru (Sailor Neptune) to be introduced, Sailor Moon is dripping with queer energy from beginning to end. The new “Eternal Editions” out from Kodansha are the best way to read this series which follows middle-schooler Tsunino Usagi, who initially resists her duty as the crime-fighting magical girl Sailor Moon. She is joined by several other middle-school-aged girls who form the Sailor Senshi, guardians entrusted with protecting the Earth from Dark Kingdom, which seeks to drain humanity of its energy and resurrect its evil ruler. It’s funny, it’s romantic, and the art is intoxicating in its detail and line-work. Uranus and Neptune aren’t there from the start, but it’s well worth reading Usagi’s journey from the beginning.
Sweet Blue Flowers
Comics don’t get much more tender than this. Takako Shimura’s story of grade-school girls struggling with growing up and falling in and out of love is perpetually earnest and soft. This is the epitome of character-driven drama, and following Fumi, Akira, and co. as they grow both in their relationships and as people is a rewarding experience. Add in Shimura’s lovely art, with its expressive characters and charming simplicity, and you have one of the best yuri comics ever made.