At its heart, Okura‘s I Think Our Son Is Gay is about how to be a good ally. It may be trickier than it sounds because it involves knowing which battles are yours to fight, and which you must accept as something your loved one needs to handle on their own. Tomoko’s journey began when she suspected her older son Hiroki, a second-year in high school, was gay. Although he still hasn’t come out to her, she’s acutely aware of what that might mean for him. Her story is equal parts watching and worrying, and both require that she really thinks about her words and actions.
One of her observations in volume one was that she suspected that Hiroki was crushing on his best friend, Daigo. For three volumes, Daigo was a frequent visitor to their house, so when he suddenly stops coming by, Tomoko (and Yuki, though he’s more subtle about these things) becomes concerned. When she asks, Hiroki tells her cheerfully that Daigo has started dating a girl in their club. Both Yuki and Tomoko are shocked by the news, and Tomoko worries about how her son is coping with the situation.
The subject of a crush who finds a significant other is one that manga has explored for decades, to the point where stories like No Longer Heroine flat-out acknowledge the trope. But Tomoko isn’t quite sure how this affects Hiroki or if it changes his feelings, as there’s a good chance that his crush was never going to be reciprocated. Interestingly, she doesn’t stop to think that gender doesn’t have much to do with that; just look at Hiroki’s childhood friend Asumi and her very unrequited crush on him. But she does worry that it might be harder for Hiroki to move on from Daigo because his options are more limited, or at least because he may never get the chance to come out and confess his feelings.
To this end, she discusses things with Mr. Tono, her gay coworker (without actually saying why she’s asking). Tono is an interesting character because he’s the only out character in the series so far, making him the de facto reassurance for Tomoko that things will be okay for her son. But he also shows her how unthinkingly cruel the world can be. Tomoko watches uncomfortably as coworkers treat Tono like a character rather than a person, assuming things about him based solely on media stereotypes rather than who he is as a human being. Although Tomoko rarely says anything to them, we can see her registering each microaggression and careless assumption, and how those affect her thinking and worldview. For example, when a TV program runs a segment that attempts to “test” someone’s heterosexuality as a joke, Tomoko is forced to realize that she might have found it funny before. But now it just makes her think about how unfunny that “joke” is and how hurtful it could be. Her first concern is always for her son’s comfort and well-being, which is, incidentally, a significant aspect of positive allyship.
Although Yuki takes a much lesser role in the series, this volume continues the hints that he isn’t all that into romance. When Asumi’s mother and other neighborhood women crow that if he’s gone to the movies with a girl she must be a girlfriend, Tomoko feels uneasy. She knows that Yuki is not interested in dating, and she cannot quite pinpoint why she feels uncomfortable with the other women’s assumptions. It may not be gearing up to say that Yuki is aromantic and/or asexual, but the fact that Tomoko’s discomfort is included is important because it recognizes that there is no timeline for when or if someone becomes interested in dating. The crucial thing is to let people be themselves at their own pace, and the brief inclusion of Yuki’s life helps to show that. It’s also important that Yuki himself raises the possibility of no longer going to the movies with people to avoid the type of speculation he has been subjected to. As always, I Think Our Son Is Gay points out problematic elements of social expectations with a light touch, making them all the more resonant.
This volume is also notable because Daigo gets a chapter from his perspective. It doesn’t answer the question of whether or not he’s aware that Hiroki likes him romantically, nor does it reveal if he reciprocates. But what it does show us is that Hiroki is an important person to Daigo and that he wasn’t sure how having a girlfriend would affect their friendship. If anything, he was willing to continue to put his friendship with Hiroki first, but Hiroki himself quashed that idea. The whole thing implies that this close friendship may not be forever, because the boys could want very different things from each other. But that bittersweetness is part of growing up, and it’s good to see that Daigo, too, is grappling with it.
This continues to be an excellent series. It’s deceptively powerful for something written and drawn with a light touch. Okura delves into a variety of topics (including the disconnect between straight guys thinking lesbians are “hot” but gay men are “gross”), and his use of symbolism with the mascot doll Daigo gave Hiroki is well-executed. Warmhearted and poignant, this is a series worth reading.