Bokura no Hentai 4/5: Fumiko Fumi

 

Bokura no Hentai

The questioning gender/sexuality train picks up where it left off in the earlier volumes, but with a new cover design. I am all aboard the train, but less on board with the new covers. Which might seem petty, but I have stated my “judge a book by its cover” policy on more than one occasion. The kissing designs of the first three books were both enticing in a provocative way, especially with the obis proclaiming that what looked like girls kissing were actually boys dressed like girls, and revealing of the characters and their relationships. 

The slight smile on Paro’s face as he kisses a wide-eyed Marika, the total embarrassed sincerity of both Marika and Yui as Yui goes in for the kiss, the self-awareness of Paro and the slight defiance of Yui as they move to kiss each other, these covers almost perfectly capture who they are in relation to each other. Each kiss is set in a colour that really shows the reader the level and kind of emotion connecting the two kissers. And it’s satisfying to go back to these covers having read the books and see the hints of the story in them. 

But the new covers belong to the blandest of shojo school romance stories. I like the inclusion of the female characters on the backs since they do play larger roles in these volumes, and picking up on the color themes of the first volumes also brings these covers closer to the first three, but overall, they just feel less daring and interesting. I’d even like them more if they were just stark white backgrounds, the way the first three are jet black. But these polka dots seem like such a cop out and the poses way too standard school romance. 

Bokura backSorry for what is probably the longest rant about covers to ever grace these pages, but they have been bugging me since the books arrived in the post a couple months ago. I get that the designer is maybe trying to shake things up, but the original design was so strong and could have easily been shaken up by pairing the boys and girls in cover kisses against a totally white background. Which would have been more in tune with the insides of these books, since the girls play a much larger (and kissier) role in both volumes. 

We get a little break from the drama of the Yui-Paro-Marika triangle at the beginning of Book Four with a focus on new Grade Seven student Mai, who develops a crush on Yuta/Marika, the first time she’s ever liked a boy instead of wanting to be one. She a bit reminiscent of Yuta’s best friend Akane, but because she has some distance from him and doesn’t know his situation, she turns into a nice foil type character later on when he comes out in a serious way. 

Mai

Yuta never stops being the strong, assured, sweet character that she is right from the start, even though she is constantly questioning who she is, sometimes hating who she is, and always trying to walk the fine line between being who she really is and obeying ye olde social rules. So her big coming out scene in a hallway at school is preceded by a scene of serious self-loathing and a weirdly wonderful moment between her and Satoshi, who is no longer cross-dressing because his sister’s old uniform doesn’t fit him anymore. 

And this growing bigger and older is something that comes up again and again in these volumes. Osamu/Paro watches his body change with dismay and realizes he won’t be able to pass for a girl anymore soon. Ryo/Yui discovers that his sister’s shoes no longer fit him and ends up confronting his grieving mother about his true self. And while we may not have all cross-dressed for whatever reason as a teenager, these depictions of changing bodies, crossing unwanted thresholds ring very true. Adolescence is this weird, scary thing where the you you thought you knew changes into something new and unfathomable. Fumi really gets on the page the uncertainty and self-awareness of puberty. 

Ryo

And she does it from a variety of perspectives. I really like getting to see more of the girls’ viewpoints in these latest volumes. Akane is still mostly relegated to Yuta’s cheerleader and supporter, but she fulfills this role with such personality and intent of her own that I have a hard time being grumpy about it. She’s basically amazing in the big coming out scene and I only wish that every kid coming out as not whatever the mainstream thing is had someone as fierce and supportive as she is. But Yui/Ryo’s girlfriend Hacchi gets a lot more page time and I really loved seeing where she is coming from, especially after the cliffhanger of Book Three when she witnesses the big showdown between Yui, Marika, and Paro and discovers that her boyfriend dresses up as a girl. Hacchi

I really wish that there had been something like this on the shelves when I was doing the whole adolescence dance. Fumi offers up so many different perspectives, but in a nuanced and understanding way, about gender and sexuality that seem like they could only be helpful if you were the actual age of the kids in the books. Sort of like how Kaze to Ki no Uta distills and encapsulates all the drama of being a teenager, Bokura no Hentai captures all the grey areas and confusion and weirdness. And I may be a grown-up now (nominally), but I can still appreciate grey areas and confusion and weirdness. Marika

 

 

 

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