In honor of National Coming Out Day being on Monday, October 11, this week’s featured comic is Our Dreams at Dusk, illustrated and written by Yuhki Kamatani. The story centers around a public lounge located at the bottom of a large cliff in a coastal town. This cliff, in the opening chapter, is the location of our main character Kaname’s intended suicide. Having been outed as gay at school, he feels unable to continue living. However, as he peers off the edge, Kaname witnesses a woman jump from a nearby window and watches her soar through the air towards the buildings below. He hurries safely to the base of the cliff in an effort to help her. There, he discovers that the woman is the owner of a small public lounge and, shockingly, that she is unharmed.
This mysterious woman’s name is simply Someone, and she, through her catchphrase, “You can tell me anything, but I’m not gonna ask,” is a perfect personification of the story’s theme, which advocates acceptance even without a full understanding. Someone accepts anyone into her lounge, and, before long, Kaname begins to visit regularly. Through him, we get to know all of the other regulars, most of which are LGBT+. The cast of characters is memorable and diverse enough that, if you are a member of the LGBT community yourself, you are likely to find yourself represented among them. Our Dreams at Dusk is a coming-of-age story that will almost certainly strike a chord with its LGBT audience but also serves as a great resource for allies as it explores how one can best support their friends without pushing them away.
The regulars at Someone’s lounge face a number of personal challenges. From Kaname’s struggle with self-loathing to middle-school student Misora’s hesitance to find a label for themself to Miss Daichi and Miss Saki’s difficulties in getting married, the characters each face their own unique conflicts and arcs of self-discovery and growth. The lounge regulars form something of a found family. They find both allies and foes in unexpected places, but perhaps most importantly, the comic touches on the harm that can be created by well-intended supporters. Several of the characters are outed against their will or treated with belittling pity; one kind but overbearing woman refers to a trans character’s identity as a disorder and compares it to a disease—which is incredibly hurtful, even if she does not realize it. Even Kaname himself makes well-intended but harmful comments about his cross-dressing friend Misora. Our Dreams at Dusk does not exempt LGBT characters from being flawed and, at times, even homophobic. It emphasizes growth and shows, especially through Kaname and his friends from school, the importance of having an open mind, though it may not come easily to everyone.
Kaname guides us towards the moral of the story through his own trial and error as he becomes a better ally to his friends. In the end, he realizes that Someone’s philosophy of listening—but not questioning—had been the best means of support all along. The comic’s message is best expressed through Kaname’s words: “Even if we can’t understand each other, I want to live in a world where we don’t have to understand each other.” The comic asks the reader to accept others without trying to pick apart the why and how of who they are; it is able to highlight this theme by showing how uncomfortable some of the characters are having to label and explain themselves.
Despite pushing this message, Our Dreams at Dusk never comes off as pandering or political. In part, this is because the well-developed story and characters can be enjoyed even ignoring the deeper themes. Readers will undoubtedly find one or many characters to root for. Additionally, the creator of the comic is transgender, making the story seem all the more genuine and insightful in that it comes from an individual who is able to pull from personal experience.
Some readers criticize this story for its ending, in which the mystery of Someone’s cloudy past and ability to fly is left generally unanswered. But, in the end, finding a solution to this mystery would have betrayed the comic’s own themes. Despite Kaname’s desire to understand Someone, he is satisfied to accept the person in front of him rather than prying into her past or putting a label on her. Thus, the story does not end with the solution to the mystery as a conventional comic would; rather, it ends with Kaname maturing enough not to need an answer.
Of course, aside from the story, the art also clearly had a lot of thought and detail put into it. The whimsical illustrations of Someone skipping through the air and the cozy drawings of the lounge create a comforting atmosphere. Despite being black and white, the pages seem very bright. The style was more realistic than one would usually see in comics, which definitely suited the mostly realistic story.
I suggest you read Our Dreams at Dusk if you consider yourself a member or ally of the LGBT community, or if you would like to learn how best to be respectful. The comic isn’t all just informative, though; the story and art are engaging by their own merit, so if you like dramas or coming-of-age stories in general, I also recommend it to you. Happy belated National Coming Out Day!
— Quin Hammon