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Book Review: Boys Run the Riot

It’s hard being transgender in Japan.

Just as Ryo who is struggling to be himself when everyone around him thinks he’s weird or out of place. He’s the nail that sticks up, and in Japan, the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.

But things start to change when Jin, a cool older student, is forced to repeat a year. At first Ryo thinks Jin will be like everyone else, but Jin sees him and more… accepts him. Jin thinks that Ryo is cool, has good taste, and is the perfect person to form a clothing brand with him.

Huh… I guess boys really do run the riot. Hmm… that sounds like a pretty cool brand name. ~_^

Boys Run the Riot is an #OwnVoices manga written by a transgender mangaka that has honestly one of the best representations of what LBGTQIA+ life is like in Japan.

It’s also got some of the most gorgeous and amazing art I’ve ever seen in manga. The character design is so well done. But even more than that the sheer amount of detail and thought put into every panel is honestly stellar. The very first panel setting the scene in a subway station is so incredibly accurate that you can actually pinpoint which subway station it is from the details.

The whole manga is like this. Not necessarily in color… but the artwork is so beautiful.. so in depth and filled with so much meaning. It’s on par with the art that was in Spider-man Into the Spider-verse… There’s an absolutely beautiful piece of graffiti that Ryo does that quite frankly brought tears to my eyes.

Like it’s so, so very good.

I don’t want to spoil it so instead I’ll share a close up of the artwork from the cover…

The way the clothing is rendered. The graffiti on the walls. The shift in clothing depending on what’s in the background. It’s honestly amazing art.

And that matters.

But what matters more is the beauty and relatability of Ryo. Ryo feels real. He feels true. He’s got flaws and foibles but he’s also lovable and caring and has an inner-resilience that makes me want to give him a hug and tell him he’s valid. But I don’t need to, because he’s got an amazing ally and friend in Jin. I feel that all of us need a Jin in our lives. A friend who wants to be with us because they think we’re cool and want us to live our best lives. A friend who will accept us for who we are. A friend who will call us out on our B.S. A friend who wants you to be honest with them because they’ll be honest with you. A friend who will forgive you when you mess up.

Seriously we need a Jin.

What Jin and Ryo have is a true bromance… not a romance. Ryo has a crush on his other friend, Chika, who is a little weird herself but she owns it.

This manga also really hits what it’s like to be transgender in a fairly sexist society. Because, let’s face it… Japan is pretty darn sexist… worse than the United States. Whereas in the states it’s okay to have friends of all genders, it’s less okay in Japan. Especially as teens. It’s hard to be a transgender teen anywhere. It’s hard to be transgender in Japan. And it’s really well represented here. There are some other content warnings that people should be aware of: CW: Transphobia, Homophobia, Sexism, Misogyny. Gender Dysphoria, physical violence (teacher on student), bullying. I also really appreciated the author interview at the back of the manga. The fact that the cover was created specifically for the English release is kind of cool to know.

BTW read the liner notes. Seriously. Read the liner notes. There’s some really great information there. A+ for the publisher for doing this.

This manga is stellar. Magnificent. More people need to know about it. I also really appreciated the author interview at the back of the manga.

Seriously… read this.

Five Stars

If this is your jam, you can get it here.

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I received an ARC of this manga via NetGalley

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