This one hit me right in heart. Okura's manga series is equal parts sweetness and poignancy as we follow mother of two Tomoko as she aims to support her elder son, 15-year-old Hiroki. Hiroki is a sturdy, affable kid who wears his emotions right on his face. He's easy to read and becomes flustered whenever the subject of romance is brought up around his mom. He isn't fooling anybody when it comes to matters of the heart, but Hiroki isn't ready to come out to his family that he's gay. So his mother waits in the wings while quietly supporting him in hopes that he'll feel comfortable and they'll be able to talk about his current crush and other matters openly.
Okura sets up a supportive family dynamic that immediately eases the inherent tension that can come with LGBTQ+ stories. So often readers expect any story focusing on the day-to-day life of gay folks to be one fraught with injustices and denigration because we expect that to be a part of every queer person's experience. It's “just the way it is,” including parent rejection. Okura crafts a narrative where a young gay boy's mom is not only accepting of him, but excited to be in his life. She isn't excited despite the fact that he's gay; she enjoys her son wholly. That means watching him anxiously wait for and text back his crush is cute because it's his first experience of young love and witnessing that milestone as a parent is exciting, regardless of who the crush is.
The manga doesn't completely refrain from discussing LGBTQ+ issues, but all are approached with the same kind of feeling as having a heart-to-heart with a trusted adult. Hiroki's dad is ignorant to the fact his son is gay and fortunately he works away from home for long periods, so we're not subjected to his ignorance often. Tomoko broaches her husband's casual homophobia about gay affection by suggesting he watch the BL drama all his female coworkers are talking about. She also maneuvers around Hiroki's still closeted status to discuss his desire to hold hands in public and gauge his concerns about judgment. She also considers the possibility of his future heartbreak if his crush were to reject him.
Honestly, we need more Tomokos in the world. I'm thrilled to have an easily accessible story for parents on how to be supportive of their kids and likewise a fictional mom that might be a comfort for those kids who are worried. Tomoko resonated with me heavily as a mother and I cried close to four separate times reading this book either because I felt for Hiroki or the scenes were so damn wholesome. Perhaps one of the best chapters is Tomoko's first realization about her sons burgeoning sexuality. Like many young teens, Hiroki wasn't aware of how to clear his is internet search history leading his mother to discover he's been looking at beefcake pictures. Initially, she's distraught and is about to tell her husband over the phone when, after a series of innocuous questions, she realizes that Hiroki's sexuality changes very little about how she perceives her son and being upset about it, frankly, silly.
Now, I don't know why she hasn't informed her husband. Based on the manga's timeline, Tomoko has likely known Hiroki is gay for more than a year and kept it to herself (his little brother picked up on it on his own and is equally unperturbed) unless it's because she can't gauge her husband's possible reaction, given how he is about men kissing and what he considers "normal" adolescent development. I feel like it's safe to say this will be broached in future volumes. Until then, I'm rooting for Hiroki and his mom.
Pick this one up.