Content Warning: use of terms commonly related to transphobia in a demonstrative context.
I’ll be the first to admit that a soft, feminine, maybe even crossdressing boy, paired with a more charming, unremarkably masculine boy is the most heteronormative in queer media. Still,it tops my list all the same. (And maybe it’s better if they’re brothers… Wait, forget I said that last part.) I self-deprecatingly refer to this as “BL Trash,” as it’s rarely particularly deep, but these stories still inspire positive romantic feelings as I read along. (Did I mention that it’s porn? Half the time, that manga is porn. … Forget that part, too.) If a manga offers promises of sappy love stories and some variation of soft boys, then I’m opening my wallet or waking up my tablet. The likes of Princess Princess, Love Stage!, and Prunus Girl are examples of my favorites.
I needed nothing more than to see the cover of Love Me For What I am (Fukakai na Boku no Subete o or “FukaBoku,” for short) to convince me to check it out.
From the first cover through its first several pages, FukaBoku gives off the vibe of a typical boys’ love story.
Mogumo is seemingly gender non-conforming, looks like a girl and wishes for friends who understand them. Tetsu, meanwhile, is the masculine protagonist of the series (whose family conveniently owns a cross-dressing “Girly-Boy Cafe” named “Question!”). In any other manga, this would be a simple setup for wacky romantic hijinks to ensue.
In FukaBoku, though, things are very different. This idea genuinely horrifies Mogumo.
This is where Fukaboku shows its true colors.
From here, the reader is introduced to the various employees of Question!. All of the cafe’s employees demonstrate a form of gender variance for their own personal reasons, and often have difficulty understanding each other at times due to their own unique striggles.
Tetsu’s older sister Satori, the proprietress of Question!, is a transitioned, transgender woman who struggles with acceptance in society.
Suzu is a gay man, with a boyfriend, who often has to hide his relationship in public, which troubles him. He finds that crossdressing can allow him to be more public with his boyfriend at times.
Mei is transgender, un-transitioned, and closeted. For her, acting out the role of an otoko no ko is an important coping mechanism, which she genuinely fears losing.
As the FukaBoku progresses, a closeted, lonely lesbian named Kotone is introduced. In a society where she’s denied her love, Kotone sought a relationship with Mogumo as a “Plan B” of sorts, as society wouldn’t deem them lesbians. She’s Mogumo’s only friend at the outset of the series, and a fierce rival for their affections.
It’s a series that earnestly lays bare the various challenges that LGBT individuals face on a daily basis, particularly those revolving around gender variance, which I had never had imagined that I would read.
This includes: lecturing someone on how to refer to another’s sexuality:
Gender-neutral washroom usage:
And a transgender sister’s supporting her brother’s acceptance of his own evolving sexual orientation through unwavering compassion.
From the start of its second chapter, FukaBoku had me mesmerized. It wasn’t simply that the cover and setup had “tricked” me with the promise of indulgent BL before switching it for gritty LGBT drama, but rather that it gracefully layered one under the other and let them run concurrently. The series is a rare instance of true representation of LGBT readers. Its scenario of an ‘Accepting Queer Family’ forming among the staff at Question! Provides a relatable parallel what many real-life LGBT people find themselves doing out of sheer necessity. At the same time, relatable conflicts and challenges fill nearly every panel. The raw emotion of these are made palatable to even the most casual readers, though, by its sugary coating.
Possibly the greatest challenge to exposing the greater world to FukaBoku is convince readers that there is so much more than what the cover hints at. I cannot deny that I saw this cover several times in my social media feeds for several months, and simply passed it over because it failed to stand out. At a glance, it looked like so much other content that I was already reading.
Once I started reading, though,, it was only twenty-six hours later that I found myself ordering a physical copy of the first volume from Amazon.co.jp. I’d eagerly share FukaBoku with any LGBT reader, but that is a challenge as it’s currently unlicensed in English.
(On a personal note, were an English release to exist, I would not hesitate to purchase a dozen or so copies at a time for the express purpose of handing them out during the Q&A portions of convention panels.)
The first chapters, as well as the latest installments of FukaBoku can be found for free reading online, in Japanese, via Comic MeDu’s website. Older chapters, excluding the first two, are progressively pruned away over time
The Japanese print edition, which contains the first six chapters, is on sale at Amazon Japan and other online retailers, with a second volume expected in ‘Summer 2019’. Please support the artist if you can and hopefully we can see a licensed English release in the future.
Its scenario of an ‘Accepting Queer Family’ forming among the staff at Question! Provides a relatable parallel what many real-life LGBT people find themselves doing out of sheer necessity.
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