Review — She Likes Gays but Not Me, Vol. 1

Background of light blue silhouttes of people. Foreground, a girl in a school uniform hugs a boy's arm. They are both looking at the viewer.

Overview

Synopsis When Jun learns his classmate enjoys Boys' Love manga, his world is opened to the possibility of a friendship he never expected.

Author Naoto Asahara

Artist Akira Hirahira
Publisher Yen Press
Genre Realistic Fiction

Length 196 pages

Release Date May 21, 2024

As Christians, we do not always know how to start a conversation about a difficult topic, especially with unbelievers. Sometimes, a piece of media comes along to depict hard situations without giving its observer any answers. Christians can use those stories to explore the effects of sin and God’s goodness on a fallen world.

She Likes Gays but Not Me is one of those pieces of media. It is a hard read, full of explicit imagery, complex emotions, flawed characters, and few answers. Christians in America are dealing with an influx of LGBTQ+ narratives. Whether or not you agree with this community’s values, the stigma around being gay in this country has all but disappeared. Japan, though, is not known as a place that celebrates LGBTQ+ rights. This manga (based on a novel) dives into how that stigma affects the life of a closeted high school boy.

Note: This manga deals with disturbing topics such as prejudice, suicide, and adult-minor relations. Please use discretion in reading this review.

Content Guide

This manga is Rated M for Mature Audiences.

Violence/Scary Images: Friends get into a fight over a girl.

Language: Sparse strong language, including s*** and f***. Sexual slang is scattered throughout, including “hooking up” and “dick.”

Drug/Alcohol References: Adults drink alcohol. A character tries to get a minor to drink, but he refuses.

Blonde woman with white shirt dances. Text explains she owns the café and loves the song playing in the background.

Sexual Content/Nudity: A major theme in this series is love versus lust, and sex is a constant topic of conversation. One teenage boy struggles with being physically attracted to men while he dreams of having a typical family with a wife and biological children. There are explicit pictures of “hentai” (pornographic) manga. Zoomed-in shots show the groping of bare nipples and clothed groins. Facial expressions denote sexual pleasure, and erect penises stick up through shorts. The bare breasts of a teenage girl can be seen during an interrupted sex scene. An adult and minor have a physical same-sex relationship. One character has HIV.

Other Negative Content: People ridicule others because of their sexuality. A character decides to date a friend he isn’t attracted to rather than tell her he is gay. Someone allegedly commits suicide.

Spiritual Content: None

Positive Content: Characters start discovering their identities outside of sexuality. The main character cares for his friends and does not want to hurt them. Various minority characters unite to support one another when they know no one else will.

Review

The reviewer received a copy of this title from the publisher.

The main plot of this story revolves around a false romance between gay Jun and his fujoshi classmate who enjoys Boys’ Love manga. However, that is only the surface level. What lies beneath is a complex character study, centering on isolation and self-discovery.

A dark-haired girl is described as liking homosexuals, but a dark-haired boy smiles and reveals to the viewer that he is gay
What They Don’t Know Will Hurt Him

Jun cannot search for a boyfriend among his homophobic peers, so he turns to grown men to satisfy his need for intimacy. One of them is an anonymous blogger with whom he chats online. This writer answers questions Jun could never dream of asking anyone else, highlighting the importance of online connections. When there is no one in person with whom you can identify, those Internet friends become even more important (like what Geeks Under Grace attempts to do for geeky and nerdy Christians!)

His other “friend” is a married man who meets Jun at love hotels for casual sex. The boy suspects his lover actually wants to enjoy his son and is using Jun as a more socially acceptable conduit. Besides being old enough to be his father, this man is toxic toward Jun, touching him in public but scolding him about contact outside their agreed-upon hours.

Light-haired middle-aged man walks into a room, and a young dark-haired man blushes at him. A light-haired lady laughs.

Being gay in Japan is still a big deal. Instead of finding a boyfriend his age, our protagonist uses online hookup sites and untraceable emails to sleep with this older man. Whatever you think about the act of homosexual intimacy, prejudice should never be so ingrained that young people (or young Christians) do not feel safe enough to share their struggles.

The Problem of Love versus Lust

This manga is sexually explicit, but the sex serves a purpose. Without a healthy way to talk about his urges, Jun wraps his whole identity around sexual passion. Unlike most LGBTQ+ titles being published right now, this one does not center on being gay as the pivotal point of a person’s identity. In fact, the protagonist longs for a typical life with a wife and children of his own. He likes his new female friend and agrees to date her. One character describes his struggle — and the primary problem throughout the book — as “the kind [of love] where your d**k gets hard and the kind where it doesn’t” (97).

Dark-haired boy longs for a baby, house, and marriage to a wife; but he says there's a problem.

This book is heavy, no doubt. It is full of homophobia, mental and terminal illness, “consensual” pedophilia, and general discomfort. However, as a Christian, I appreciate that description of love, crass as it is. The protagonist enjoys hanging out with his female friend and wants to spend his life with a special someone. If he was just going by personality and enjoyment, she would be perfect for him. What his body longs for is lust, and it does not allow him to enjoy women in that way.

The Evil I Do Not Want to Do — This I Keep on Doing
A dark-haired girl blushes and insists she is buying something for her sister. The dark-haired young man she's talking to looks unaffected.

Reading this as a Christian was hard, but my beliefs gave me a greater understanding that the main character (and maybe the author) couldn’t grasp. We know our bodies and minds are fallen because of sin. Jun’s heart is yearning for something his body is unable to supply. This is exactly how Christians see the world. Our spirits long for Heaven while our bodies are stuck here on Earth.

She Likes Gays but Not Me is not a Christian manga by any stretch of the imagination, but it brings uncomfortable topics to the forefront of its narrative. We can use this narrative to talk about sin, isolation, and other hard things. It brings up questions only Christians can answer, and when readers come forward looking for those answers, we will be here.

Positives

+ Opens discussion for Christian response to prejudice, LGBTQ+ rights, and mental health
+ Complex, flawed characters that feel true-to-life
+ LGBTQ+ protagonist whose whole personality is not his sexuality

Negatives

- Lots of explicit imagery
- Introduces a lot of heavy themes without bringing hope (in this volume)
- Adult-minor relationship without explicit condemnation

The Bottom Line

She Likes Gays but Not Me is an explicit coming-of-age tale that opens the door to deep conversation for those who can stomach its discomfort.

 

Story/Plot 8

Writing 8

Editing 8

Art 7

8

Courtney Floyd

Courtney has loved reading since she was a child. Kid's books, YA, memoirs, comics, graphic novels, manga, anything. She also loves bingeing anime, keeping up with her favorite shows like Star Trek, and playing video games. She has two dogs named Kora and Crash (after the Airbender series and Crash Bandicoot, respectively).

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