Book Title : Boys Run the Riot
Series : Boys Run the Riot, Vol. 01
Author : Keito Gaku
Genre : Manga, LGBT, self-discovery, Trans
Warnings : deals with prejudice, high school bullying/teasing, and trans mental health.
A transgender teen named Ryuu finds an escape from the expectations and anxieties of his daily life in the world of street fashion. This personal, heartfelt, fictional story from a Japanese transgender manga creator made waves in Japan and will inspire readers all over the world!
High schooler Ryuu knows he’s transgender. But he doesn’t have anyone to confide in about the confusion he feels. He can’t tell his best friend, who he’s secretly got a crush on, and he can’t tell his mom, who’s constantly asking why Ryuu is always dressing like a boy. He certainly can’t tell Jin, the new transfer student who looks like just another bully. The only time Ryuu feels at ease is when he’s wearing his favorite clothes. Then, and only then, the world melts away, and he can be his true self. One day, while out shopping, Ryuu sees an unexpected sight: Jin. The kid who looked so tough in class is shopping for the same clothes that Ryuu loves. And Jin offers Ryuu a proposal: to start their own brand and create apparel to help everyone feel comfortable in their skin. At last, Ryuu has someone he can open up to–and the journey ahead might finally give him a way to express himself to everyone else.
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK FOR MY READING PLEASURE **
Copy received through Netgalley
Boys Run the Riot, by Keito Gaku (Translated by Leo McDonagh)
This story is incredibly smart, real, honest, and quietly powerful. A manga about a transgender teen, FTM, written by a transgender #ownvoice writer? I knew the instant I read the blurb and saw that STUNNING cover that I had to read it. The way Ryuu was drawn half in uniform, half in street clothes, and how Jin was quietly in the background, made it an incredibly powerful cover from the start.
Ryuu begins the story as very inwardly self-expressive, but outwardly suppressed by societal norms. Leaving the house in his school uniform – a girl’s uniform, that makes me instantly feel uncomfortable – he secretly changes on his way to school and makes excuses for the tracksuit he wears all day.
Then Jin arrives at school. A senior who has been held back, Jin is everything NO-ONE in this story wants to be. An outlier. Different. Yet, he’s also everything they WANT to be: confident, self-expressive, unafraid and openly himself.
As the story progresses, Jin quietly pushes his way into Ryuu’s life through friendship and sharing experiences. They become friends, and Ryuu begins to open up. Learning not to be afraid of himself. Learning how to fight back against a world that doesn’t accept him for who he is. Jin is the first person in the whole world who doesn’t judge Ryuu, who doesn’t force him to be the girl he was born as, and who accepts him for who he really is. Like any friends who don’t know much about each other, they fight. But that fight is BEAUTIFUL! And, no, I’m not crazy. Because it’s that first fight that has Ryuu screaming his truth and Jin quietly accepting it.
For me, that moment between Ryuu and Jin was perhaps the most powerful of the entire book. With Ryuu standing up and speaking his truth, loud and clear. Jin accepting it, admitting he doesn’t understand and probably never will, but that he *wants* to understand.
There is also a really, really stunning piece of graffiti Ryuu leaves, in that scene, but I won’t share it because of copyright etc. However, the art is simply MIND-BLOWING! The image of a man breaking free, unzipping himself from the girl he lives within. And that’s exactly what I mean by quietly powerful. Because, though Ryuu’s story is about both becoming confident, coming out as trans, and accepting himself, while becoming a designer for this new brand that is so risky…the story is also about self-acceptance in general. It’s about friendship. Love, and not the romantic kind. Supporting others and being supported. Telling your truth, and having people accept it, listen, and not judge you for it.
The story touches upon some sensitive themes – gender dysphoria, coming out, acceptance, self-worth, self-discovery, the use of binders, as well as touching upon bullying and depression – but it does so with quiet confidence, understanding and sympathy. It never pushes an agenda, or a theme, with force. It just lets them sit quietly in this life of Ryuu and Jin, so that you FEEL and EXPERIENCE those struggles in their daily life, as they come together as friends and business partners.
For me, how the story was constructed and allowed to breathe is one of the reasons it was such a success for me. As well as the stunning, mature art style that let the characters be individuals and show their personalities freely.
I’ll be waiting for Volume 2.
“It’s okay if the only one who knows the real me…is me.”