I’ve been looking forward to Yuhki Kamatani’s Our Dreams at Dusk: Shiminami Tasogare for a while now. A Twitter post about it made the rounds last year, and I was happy to find out later on that Seven Seas Entertainment would be localizing the series. The debut volume just came out last week, and it introduces us to protagonist Tasuku Kaname. Tasuku is a high school student who’s been forced out of the closet before even having time to come to terms with his sexuality himself. One day while he’s contemplating suicide, he sees a mysterious woman named Someone-one and follows her to a drop-in center. Much to his surprise, he soon finds that he’s not the only queer person there. This is an emotionally down-to-earth story that still weaves in touches of the ethereal throughout. So, does the series live up to its massive hype?
Story-wise, there’s a lot to like here. While a lot of the manga deals with Tasuku’s coming out and struggling to accept himself, there are also other queer narratives present that don’t show up in media as frequently. This is due largely to the supporting cast. The drop-in center is populated by queer people at different stages in their lives, and we get to see cross-generational friendships form. The interpersonal dynamics are very engaging thanks to the strength of the dialogue and how distinct the various characters’ personalities are. One character’s arc in particular highlights how coming out isn’t a simple one-step process, but rather is something that is repeated and grappled with across one’s lifetime. Also noteworthy is how skillfully Kamatani conveys moments of awkwardness and fear. Tasuku’s fumbled denials and staggered acknowledgements all read very true to life, and his mental turmoil is easy to follow even as he shifts frantically between various degrees of self-acceptance.
This manga also owes a lot its emotional potency to its artwork. The characters’ facial expressions throughout capture emotions both explosive and subtle, and there are some particularly memorable panels of Tasuku ugly-crying. The page and panel compositions are well-balanced, allowing the story to flow smoothly while still leaving room for creative layouts here and there. The instances where Kamatani mixes extended visual metaphors in with what’s actually happening in the story are among the book’s best. There’s also a lot of skilled use of changes in perspective to match tonal shifts. The most striking example of this is a two-page spread of Tasuku walking into a classroom. The distorted, fisheye lens-esque angle makes the tiny room look like a large, dangerous expanse. Given Tasuku’s terror as a classmate calls him a homo while he’s still in the doorway, it’s a perfect fit.
There’s little to dislike in this volume. The story takes a bit to really get going, and it’s not until chapter two or three that the manga starts to feel like something special. The beginning isn’t bad, it’s just slow and it takes a while before things get really impactful. There are also a few instances where the art doesn’t push quite hard enough. One of the most pivotal visual metaphors is roughly halfway in, and though it’s affecting the attention to detail doesn’t feel quite thought-out enough for the scene to reach its full potential.
Cons aside, Our Dreams at Dusk: Shiminami Tasogare Vol. 1 is a memorable, emotionally earnest read. The characters are well-written, and watching queer people of varying ages support each other is a feel-good experience. The art is also pleasing to look at thanks to Kamatani’s knacks for visual storytelling and composition choices. I’m looking forward to seeing where the manga goes from here.