From the stack: Shout Out Loud! Vol. 3

January 17, 2007

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it lately, but I really, really like Satosumi Takaguchi’s Shout Out Loud! (Blu). The first volume made a pleasant enough impression, but the subsequent two have really won me over.

It’s a workplace comedy about voice-over actors in boys’-love dramas, which gives Takaguchi lots of room to play. After a successful stint doing voice work in kids’ videos, Shino has made a career change, quickly becoming a go-to bottom in the industry and attracting the romantic interest and professional jealousy of his cast mates. He’s also learned that he’s the father of a 17-year-old son resulting from a brief, early marriage.

In other words, Shino has a lot going on in his life, and he’s a worrier. He wonders whether he’s a good enough parent to moody, hockey-loving Nakaya, and about the course of his career. He’s also baffled by the new range of romantic possibilities that have cropped up. His failed marriage left him something of a loner, and now he isn’t sure if he’s ready to start over, much less with a man. (Handsome acting partner Tenryu is providing plenty of inducement to get ready, though.)

Nakaya is struggling with his own confusion, finding himself unexpectedly attracted to a young hockey coach, Fuse. Is it curiosity or just intense admiration? Nakaya isn’t sure, and Fuse is keeping him at arm’s length until Nakaya figures it out. (And of course, it all gives Shino another reason to worry.)

Takaguchi doesn’t spare any effort in developing her cast, and she doesn’t shy away from their sexual identities. Some are gay, some are bisexual, and some are straight but very, very curious. But they aren’t defined exclusively by their sexuality; they work, squabble, gossip, visit with family, hang out, and basically just live their lives as best they can. It’s not all smoldering glances and tortured, inner monologues.

In other words, it’s very lifelike — sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always engagingly believable.