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Title: IS~Otoko Demo Onna Demo Nai Sei~
Author: Rokuhana Chiyo
My Rating: 4/5

I've written about this manga in detail before and everything I said there still stands. I enjoyed this manga quite a lot and I love that there is a manga with a positive, realistic portrayal of intersex people, but I wish it weren't so...conservative. It seems like so often I read or watch something and I'm like, yes, it's awesome that this is out there, but I want more.

One of the main things that bugged me was Haru's relationship with Ibuki. Haru and Ibuki met and fell for each other when Haru was in high school and was being forced by the school to attend as female because his birth certificate said female. Ibuki does continue his relationship with Haru even after he finds out that Haru is intersex and feels more male than female, but they have a lot of problems and it's really played as a "straight except for you" thing. But what's even worse is that it really feels like the main reason Haru never takes testosterone or has top surgery or anything is because he feels it would alienate Ibuki even more. He hates his body. The doctors keep trying to push him towards female hormones because of his birth certificate, and the one time he gives in and says yes, he ends up not being able to make himself take them. But even though he knows there is the option of T if he wants to fight for it, because his therapist, who is on his side, told him he could do that, he is always stopped by the thought of losing Ibuki.

The other thing is that over and over the manga talks about how they can never have sex. Sex is envisioned as heterosexual PiV sex only, and since Haru can't have that sort of sex, he can never have sex at all. In the end, he and Ibuki do get together, but it is a very platonic scene. There's a hug and they cry, but there's not even a kiss, much less a sex scene or even a fade-to-black. I really wanted the story to acknowledge that there are other ways of having sex.

Also there was some hinkiness with gender in that often gender roles were depicted as something innate. Haru was able to become friends with the girls in high school, not just because he was forced to go to high school as a girl, but because of some (physically) female part of him that allowed him to relate to them. And later, Haru ends up adopting an intersex child whom he names Nozomi, and he raises Nozomi as intersex. At school, Nozomi tells the other kids that zie can play with both boys' and girls' toys because zie is neither a boy nor a girl. As if that's something that only zie can do because zie is intersex.

There's probably other stuff I'm forgetting as well, but despite all that, I did enjoy it a lot and do recommend it. I wish it had been better than it was, but it's good for what it is.

You can find scanlations up through vol. 9 (of 17) here. The first eight were translated by a different group, then it was picked up recently by Dokukinoko Scans, and as of chapter 38, I'm working as their translator (so you can be guaranteed it's good; no idea about the earlier stuff).
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This is not a proper review, since I don't like to review before a series is finished, but I mainlined these ten volumes over the past few days and I wanted to talk about this manga.

If you missed my previous posts on this manga, it's a josei series that has a serious, realistic take on intersexuality. Scanlations of the first eight volumes can be found here (though sadly it appears to be discontinued by the group who was working on it). The author has worked closely with an online intersex group to make sure she has her facts straight and isn't getting offensive or appropriative, which shouldn't impress me as much as it does, because it should be how everyone approaches fiction, but we all know that's not how it works, so I do admire her for how respectful she's been with this topic, especially considering the fact that her original idea was for a generic fantasy story that had a "hermaphrodite" hero/ine and it was only when she started poking around online for research that she realised, hey, this could be offensive, and then trashed that idea and wrote this story instead.

An outline of the story )

There's a lot I love about this story )

but what I really want is a queer story, and this is often depressingly heteronormative )

I just...in so many ways this manga is awesome and is showing a better way, rather than unthinkingly regurgitating society's wrongness. But I want it to question more. I want the characters to realise that there's a better way than what they're told. And I don't know if they will. I don't want to come to the end of this manga and be disappointed, but I'm so afraid I will.
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Guy Burt - The Hole

Woohoo! Book #13 finished! After reading half of The Hole this morning on the bus, I found I just had to finish the rest of it up this evening. It was a really quick read, only 150 pages (one of the reasons I picked it; long books are being saved for next year!) and really kept my interest.

I originally heard about it from [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija's Young Adult Agony Awards (though I don't know that this is YA? It's about teenagers, but I don't know that that automatically makes it YA, and Amazon offers no insight), but lucky for me, by the time I read it, I had completely forgotten any spoilers I'd read.

Anyway, the plot is that five teens have another friend lock them in this basement room at their school while everyone else is away on a field trip. The friend is supposed to let them out after three days, but doesn't come back. I highly recommend it, but it's best read without spoilers.

Spoilers under here! )

Apparently there's a film, which I've put on the Netflix queue, but from the book reviews I read, the film was reeeeeally different. In fact, almost all the negative reviews were people criticising the book for not being like the film. One criticism was that the characters were more fleshed-out in the film and given backstories, but honestly, that didn't bother me at all. I didn't find it relevant. There was the right amount of information needed to tell the story. (In fact, I was quite impressed that the author was eighteen when he wrote this. This book certainly deserves a lot more praise than dreck like Eragon, to name another book written by a teenager.)

This also seemed to have a high number of reviews by people with no reading comprehension whatsoever. One person commented on how you don't know who the narrator is til the very end, but it's clearly said on page ten that it's Liz. D:

Rokuhana Chiyo - IS~Otoko Demo Onna Demo Nai Sei~ 1-4

I ordered the first four volumes of this off Amazon Japan and really wish I had the money to order the rest! (There are currently fourteen volumes and it's still ongoing.) I read all four of these in one go because it was hard to put them down.

IS is short for intersex (or intersexual, as it's said in Japanese), and I want to start off by saying how impressed I am with the author. It's not a guarantee that any author anywhere, even a professional, is going to do research or treat a topic with respect, and manga often feels more like fanfic than other professional fiction, in that it can be very, very self-indulgent and cracktastic, and many authors who are serialised just write whatever comes into their head rather than plotting ahead.

So when I read the author's notes for this, I was really surprised. She originally read a fantasy story about a boy who turned into a girl (or vice versa) and thought it would make a neat manga, so she talked to her editor about doing something with an intersex character. Her editor told her that was a sensitive topic and she would need to research and treat it with respect, and she agreed, not thinking it would be anything. Then she got online and started reading and realised how much work she had ahead of her. And instead of writing something fantasy or sci-fi, instead of writing something made-up that could possibly be offensive, she actually did a ton of research, joined a messageboard for intersex folks, talked to many people both online and in person, and then wrote her story. Furthermore, each chapter she writes not only has to get approved by her editor, but is vetted by one or more intersex people to make sure she has her facts straight and hasn't done anything accidentally offensive.

It's sad that this is something I'm so surprised and impressed by, but that's how it is. I wish fandom would take that to heart for any number of topics...

Anyway, the manga starts off with a couple of one-offs about different intersex people, and then starting with volume two, it focuses on a third character for the remainder of the series. I enjoyed the first two, but I'm glad it settled into something more than just a bunch of one-offs, because there was a lot of repetitive information between the three, plus the first two felt a little too much like issue manga (which tbh, they were).

The main story is about Haru, and the story starts when sie's born (one nice thing about this series being in Japanese is that you never have the pronoun problem!). Haru's parents are upset when they first find out their baby is intersex, but they soon decide to raise Haru as-is, and let hir decide to get surgery or hormones or whatever when sie's old enough. However, they do put down female on Haru's birth certificate, which will become a problem later. More rambly, with vague spoilers )

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