Ep. 17: Even Though We’re Adults
Mangasplainer Chip Zdarsky wanted to read something aimed at a grown-up audience this week, after a few weeks of reading about teens and their problems. So this episode we jump into Takako Shimura’s down-to-earth, complex, and beautifully illustrated LGBTQ romance story ‘Even Though We’re Adults!’ Will it be just what the doctor ordered? Spoilers: Yes. It’s very good.
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Even Though We’re Adults Volume 1
By Takako Shimura
Translated by Jocelyne Allen. Adaptation by Casey Lucas.
Lettering and Retouch by Rina Mapa
Published by Seven Seas (Print & Digital)
0:00: Before we get started! While this isn’t a spoiler-oriented title, we do talk a lot about the story beats of this book and some of the twists and turns are revealed. We recommend reading this one before listening to the podcast.
01:45: So Christopher mentions the strength of Takako Shimura’s previous works being the impetus for wanting to read Even Though We’re Adults, but doesn’t go quite as in depth as he could given the breadth of her work. Here’s a quick bit of background on Shimura-sensei, as well as the works under discussion.
Takako Shimura (1973-) was born in Kanagawa, and his known primarily for her works which feature LGBT topics, with a focus on lesbian and transgender subjects. She made her debut in 1997 with the series Shikii no Junin, untranslated, and since then has created more than 70 published volumes of manga across nearly two-dozen separate titles!
Her first manga to be released in English is the transgender coming-of-age series Wandering Son, which was published by Fantagraphics beginning in 2015. It’s about two young people coming out to each other as transgender, and supporting one another as they discover their true lives. Only 8 volumes of the 15-volume series were published, hampered by low sales. The series was published at more than double the price of your average manga, and that combined with its length made it very difficult to find a place in the market. Still, hopes are high that it could get picked up and re-released one day. There are random volumes of this series available, but there is no digital edition. There was an anime release of this series. This series ran in the Kadokawa-published Comic Beam seinen manga magazine.
Her next series published in English is Sweet Blue Flowers, a lesbian romance/coming-of-age story set in an all-girls high school. It’s a very slow burn. Originally released as 8 volumes in Japan, VIZ published this series in 2-volume bind-ups beginning in 2017. The series is currently available in print and in digital, and ran in the magazine Erotics F, from Ohta Publishing, which is technically seinen but also sometimes a little hentai and sometimes not, it really is its own thing and it’s maybe what you might call “sexy art comics” in the North American market. Despite appearing in Erotics F, this is a very, very tame series. https://www.viz.com/sweet-blue-flowers
Which brings us to today’s book, Even Though We’re Adults, which just completed its fourth and final volume this January in Japan. It runs in the josei manga magazine Kiss, published by Kodansha, and the English edition is published by Seven Seas. It’s interesting that all 3 of these series ran in different magazines, and from completely different publishers too.
A quick check reveals that right now Shimura-sensei has THREE ongoing manga series, again, at three different publishers. Prolific!
03:38: That marketing text one more time: “Ayano, an elementary school teacher in her thirties, stops by a bar one day and meets another woman named Akari. Sparks fly as the two chat, and before the night is over, Ayano even goes in for a kiss. Akari is intrigued but confused…especially when she discovers that Ayano has a husband! Both Ayano and Akari are about to find out that love doesn’t get any easier, even as you grow older.”
Who doesn’t want to read the book after seeing that blurb, right?
04:30: Chip has been pushing back a lot lately about reading manga that feels like it’s written for younger readers, regardless of subject, and I chose this knowing that it would probably land differently for him. Fingers crossed!
6:00: That sequence, going from having a drink at the bar to ending up in an alley, that David mentions, is strong. Moving backwards and forward through time, and getting to see how this moment came to be, is one of the joys of the first chapter.
8:50: “Superman Returns” is actually a pretty inspired reference, here.
12:00: We’re talking a lot here about how the shifting perspectives are really strong storytelling, but we’re all pretty expert comics readers (in general). As host (hi, it’s Christopher) I wish I’d gone back here and asked if we thought it would be easy to read and follow for non-comics readers, who might be lured in by the mainstream-friendly high-concept of this series. What do you think readers, is it easy enough to follow?
12:45: “It’s not as content-packed as Oishinbo.”
Few things are. 😉
15:10: Here’s a brief excerpt from the hair-cutting scene that David mentions, which is such a good scene, in that it expertly weaves in exposition about the main plot while giving incredible depth to Akari’s character, and setting up the most awkward BBQ of all time. (Remember to read right-to-left).
17:00: He liked it! Hooray!
17:45: As Chip and David mention, that silent sequence with the husband going to work after the big revelation is just really, really well done.
18:20: The scene Chip mentions, which effortlessly shows the intimacy of these characters’ relationship.
19:54: Hi Jocelyne! We have no idea if you read this.
20:18: That whole sequence where the mom shows up is gut-wrenching. I think we struck a good balance this episode, in that we all really liked the manga and were pretty upbeat on the whole of the episode, while still recognizing these are incredibly difficult moments, that real people have to go through. These are tough things, coming out late in life is never easy, people can get very hurt, but understanding that is a big part of what makes this story so good.
22:00: Page 123 and 124, with a realistic kitchen. David’s thoughts about the art are spot on, though I think I personally feel it’s a bit better integrated than he and Chip do. Still, I think it’s a dramatic change from the almost ‘impressionistic’ artwork that was found in our previous josei read, Helter Skelter, and shows the diversity of the genre. Josei can be lots of things, give it a chance!
Like, it can be absolutely heartbreaking and terrifying, like this scene that ends with “I’m Just Thinking” as David mentions.
22:30: Here’s that image from The Invisibles that David mentions, with Edith sadly passing away, from Book 3 (Volume 7). The art here is by Sean Phillips (inked by Jay Stephens), who’s just an amazing comics artist and excellent at conveying subtle emotion and character acting. Love his stuff.
24:20: That kids graphic novel Christopher mentions is called Long Distance and it’s by Whitney Gardner. It’s about science stuff and also moving away and how to make friends (and how not to). Unfortunately because the book doesn’t release until June 29th, we can’t show you this scene from the ARC. Sorry! But maybe go look for it in a store near you at the end of the month. https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Long-Distance/Whitney-Gardner/9781534455658
25:45: I was actually thinking of Jason Sudekis to play the husband in the Netflix version, and not Bill Hader. Jason Sudekis makes much more sense.
Still love Bill Hader though.
26:30: This is really, really delicious-looking chicken karaage.
29:41: “No one’s pulling a sword out, here.”
Agreed, Chip. Agreed.
30:00: So yeah, we didn’t plan it this way, but Even Though We’re Adults Volume 2 lands on June 15th, but manga sometimes arrives in stores a little early. So yeah, check your local shop, they might have a copy lying around, but if not, you’ve got time to buy and read volume 1 before volume 2 comes out next week.
31:25: Page 77 interruption panel. It’s a great interruption font with the WHAT, but Chip feels there’s room for improvement… 😉
32:45: An example of how texting is handled in this volume. It really is good!
33:30: Jonathan’s is like the equivalent of Denny’s. Saizeriya is the Italian restaurant version of Jonathan’s. I’m sure there are other restaurants Andrew likes better, but we end up there somewhat frequently. It’s also cheap as heck, I should point out. Don’t make it a mainstay of your Japan eating experience, but if you’re on a brutally tight budget, dinner for $7 is a pretty good deal.
36:00: After Hours, 3 volumes from VIZ. It’s a solid read, albeit set in a period of life maybe 10 years before what’s going on here in Even Though We’re Adults and for a younger audience. The art style is very “anime” though, so that might be more your speed! Check it out! https://www.viz.com/after-hours
37:45: Cowboy Bebop and Trigun. This is just too big to gloss. The short version, though, is that these are both sci-fi anime about bounty hunters from around the same time period in the early 2000s, but Cowboy Bebop does have far fewer anime tropes than Trigun, and it’s honestly held in a different regard.
39:00: We’ve talked about Love & Rockets on the podcast before. It’s a generation-spanning story about two women, Maggie and Hopey, and their relationship as it grows and changes over the the course of series. Debuting in the early 80s, the characters have aged in more-or-less real time, and grown with its readership.
Then we bang through a few other Western titles that we think fans of Even Though We’re Adults might enjoy!
We mention author Tillie Walden and her books, which are relationship-driven graphic novelas. They include Are You Listening, On A Sunbeam, and Spinning, among many others. LGBTQ+ stories by a queer creator. https://www.tilliewalden.com/
This One Summer, by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. There are three layers of story here, one about young girls, one about a teen girl, and one about an adult woman, subtly queer, and beautifully illustrated. You must know about this, right? It won like every award. https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781596437746
Finally David mentions Octopus Pie, by Meredith Gran. It’s a very long-running story, serialized as a webcomic and it’s a personal favourite. It has characters that are ‘slackers’ in their early 20s, and then follows them for years and years as they grow, change, and deal with their lives. It’s incredibly funny, but also DOES really tackle a lot of deep stuff. I’m maybe a little afraid to read that ending. http://www.octopuspie.com/
42:46: Deb gives a great explanation of Yuri, which is stories about WLW and the audience is sometimes intended to be women, sometimes intended to be men, or sometimes intended to just exist. There’s a huge history of books and stories to explore here. That’s pretty specifically why we mention one of the greatest English-language resources for yuri manga, Erica Friedman of Okazu. A longtime campaigner for and historian of Yuri manga in English, follow her at https://twitter.com/OkazuYuri and visit her website at https://okazu.yuricon.com/.
44:55: “Even Though We’re Adults is a masterclass in storytelling.” – Chip Zdarsky.
Seven Seas, please quote him on the back of volume 4? 🙂
46:00: Christopher says chacun à son goût, which basically means “To each their own.” He then interjects pamplemousse to rile up Chip, which just means grapefruit, and is the flavour of LaCroix he was drinking at the time. He pronounces LaCroix in the French pronunciation, “lah qwah”, as opposed to the gross American pronunciation, “LuhCroy.”
46:27: We keep mentioning Akiko Higashimura’s work, including (especially Tokyo Tarareba Girls.), but she really is amazing at the Grumpy Author’s Note at the back.
Anyway, we’re not gonna spoil the author’s note here, there’s already a lot of excerpts. Just go ahead and buy this book! It’s such a good book and we all loved it.
47:11: THE BREAK! Please remember that after this part, all timestamps are approximate because of dynamic ad insertion.
47:30: Glad David didn’t actually drop in that comment. Thanks, David.
48:00: So I only read about half here, I encourage you to go check out Erica’s full comments. 🙂
50:00: Telling Chip more about that book, Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks? Chip if you read these show-notes, here’s what you should search for.
51:21: There really are a lot of YouTube how-to videos for “How to make money on Amazon Kindle!” where the punchline is basically just “Take freely available works and re-upload them, trick people,” and that’s a tonnnn of Kindle Marketplace. Not all of it, but like, yeah.
52:00: Deb was reading (but not necessarily recommending) the Fire In His Fingertips manga, not a light novel.
53:00: Here’s the next question!
“The question is, in regards to Chip’s interest in more adult-oriented manga, even if it’s teenage-looking: are you planning to read anything by Usamaru Furuya? I really enjoyed “Marie no kanaderu ongaku” (it’s licensed in Spain, were I am from, but I don’t know if it is in America) and I would like to know more about his works. Do you recommend any? (“Genkaku Picasso” was cool-looking but I found it a bit lacking, storywise).” – Reverend Dust
We talk a lot about Furuya’s work here. The book that Reverend Dust is referencing is My Dear Marie, which is in a number of languages (French, Spanish, Italian) but no, sadly it’s not in English. And it should probably be, but it’s clearly not up to me.
Meanwhile, Usamaru Furuya. Really interesting creator, and works very much in the tradition of Ero Guro Nansensu, popularized by Edogawa Rampo, and maintained by Suehiro Maruo. If you liked The Strange Tale of Panorama Island last week, his work might be up your alley!
Here’s a bibliography of what’s available in English:
Secret Comics Japan: This anthology series features amazing stories from numerous creators including Junko Mizuno, Kiriko Nananan, Shintaro Kago, and (as mentioned) Usamaru Furuya. Furuya’s work is excerpts of really inventive comic strips from his formalist work Palepoli. Out of print, goes for 200 bucks online. No digital.
Short Cuts: 2 volumes of humour comics, set at the sort of height of Japanese ‘cool’ youth culture. Cute/smart/funny/problematic, probably? Technically out of print, but there seem to be copies of volume 2 still available certain places. No digital.
Genkaku Picasso: 3 Volumes, about a kid who draws things that come to life. Weirdly edgy. It’s available in paperback (some volumes are out of print) but all 3 volumes are available (digitally, legally) on the VIZ app and elsewhere.
Lychee Light Club: Mixes sex and violence to talk about revolutions, using some genuinely chilling imagery. Can’t in good conscience recommend it, but if it’s the kind of thing you like, googling it will tell you quickly weather or not it’s for you. Out of print, digital only.
No Longer Human: 3 volumes, adaptation of the Osamu Dazai novel. Very out of print. Sorry! The Junji Ito version is still available though.
55:00: Here’s that strip that David mentions from Usamaru Furuya’s Short Cuts. It’s VERY funny.
59:00: The Stranger, by Albert Camus. Lookit David classing up the place.
1:00:00: Episode 25 is coming up REALLY quickly! For Episode 25 we’re covering Akira Volume 2, and even more… 😉
1:01:00 Grift vs. Graft. I’ve read so much of Brubaker & Phillips’ Criminal, how could I have screwed that up? ^___^;;
1:05:00: The moral of the podcast is: Yeah, scans exist, and they serve lots of different kinds of readers in different ways and not all of them are shitty, but please financially support official releases whenever possible (and maybe pull down scans once official books get released)! Thank you so much.
…and that’s this episode of Mangasplaining!
You can find Even Though We’re Adults and many of the other books mentioned above at a comic shop near you, via comicshoplocator.com. Thanks again to D.A.D.S. for their musical accompaniment this week, and we’ll see you again next time! Take care!