It’s kind of wild to me that Takeuchi Sachiko has basically made a career of being a queer fangirl. Her work is generally either about fandoms or life as/with a queer person or a combination of the two. Which is pretty incredible in Japan, when you think about it, since while fandom is more or less accepted at a mainstream level, queerness is still one of those things that’s better left untalked about with the ladies who lunch and the old dudes who still run pretty much everything. But Takeuchi is out here talking about her partner transitioning, her own coming out as a lesbian, and casually incorporating her queerness into her other manga, not as some big statement, but as one part of who she is. Like when she and editor M-ta are at a public bath and she comments on how people always ask her if she gets turned on by all the ladies at the baths. She asks M-ta if she would be turned on by men walking around naked in a bath, and M-ta has to concede that no, it would be pretty boring.
Akachan Honbucho might be the exception to the queerness/fandom focus of her work, given that it’s about a middle-aged straight man who turns into a baby. But with the other main characters being gay, in a fandom, or living an unconventional life, I think the queerness is just more subversive here, more subtle, like a subliminal message for the straights. I am still sad this series ended after only three books. It is so good, and I wanted to learn more about the private lives of those other characters. And knowing Takeuchi, she would undoubtedly have managed to queer up some of the other people in the office.
So it’s always a good day when she puts out a new book. This time, it’s the fourth in the Burachin series, which is honestly a series in the loosest sense of the word. Readers can dive in at any volume and enjoy the hilarity and sincerity since there is no overarching story driving these books, but rather a simple theme: be near hot guys somehow. Sometimes, the hot guy-ness is very obvious, like when she and her editor go to a handshake event for some idol, but at others, the hot guy aspect is more oblique, as in the first chapter of this volume, where Takeuchi declares that calories are a hot guy after they go swimsuit shopping. (This makes sense in context, trust me.)
As with previous volumes, there is a lot of pop culture stuff that I have no idea about. I have never been to a handshake event. I am a member of zero fan clubs. I have never heard of the visual kei band whose lead singer Takeuchi devotes three chapters to interviewing. And yet! I love this book and this series because of the sheer force of Takeuchi’s personality that comes through in these pages and the magnificent, emotional reality of her depictions of this life she and M-ta share. I wish Takeuchi would do Line stickers because she has an uncanny knack for perfectly capturing even the most random emotions—the moment of realization that you have been scammed, the blissful sadness of finding the perfect stuffed cat, the sudden focused rage at abusive tweets flooding your timeline.
But while the focus is always on the hot guys, our heroes still have to live in the real world, and they struggle with all of the things the rest of us struggle with as we grow older. Pets get sick, parents get old, bodies start to crap out in new and interesting ways. Takeuchi and M-ta cheer each other on and support each other at every turn, leading to some very funny sad hugs in the middle of restaurants in this volume. At one point, in a very Adult Masterclass move, they go to an insurance agent to discuss health and life insurance. It’s here that they discover they have levelled up, though—the insurance agent they talk to is very fine. Now the hot guys are coming to them! It’s the perfect blend of adulting and fangirling that makes this series so meaningful and good.
The chapters collected in this volume span from mid-2018 to mid-2020, so yes, we get a glimpse of how the pandemic is changing their world of chasing after hot guys. Everything has been cancelled and they are not okay with this lack of hot guys in their lives. But when Takeuchi wonders if this is at last truly the end for Burachin, M-ta steps in with the inspirational speech, telling her friend and fellow fan that even if the series ends, their friendship is forever. And yes, that’s great and moving and hooray to lifelong friendships with people who really get you, but as a reader, I don’t want heartwarming odes to friendship. I want more Burachin, more of these ladies out there prowling around for hot guys in make-up shops.