Reading Pile: Love Me For Who I Am Vol 1
If you're in the mood for a book that not only tackles trans themes in a respectful manner but is also very genuine, earnest, and wholesomely cute then you should do yourself a favor and give this series a try. It took like no time for me to get hooked into the character dramas and by the end of the book I was really looking forward to more.
The story follows Mogumo, and lonely non-binary student who just wants to find friends that will accept them for who they are. Another student named Tetsu invites them to work at a crossdressing cafe owned and operated by his elder sibling, thinking it might just be the perfect environment for Mogumo to be themselves. Unfortunately Tetsu didn't entirely understand how Mogumo identifies and made a few assumptions.
There's a lot of initial misunderstandings as the cast learns more about each other, and then various teen drama/romance material is gradually added to build more sub-plots and conflicts. The story really shines as it introduces all the different characters and how they fit in at the café and how they all identify.
Besides Mogumo we're also introduced to:
Sacchan, Tetsu's elder sibling who is a trans woman and operates the café
Mei, who initially identifies as a cross-dressing boy but later comes out as a trans girl
Suzu, a gay student who feels freedom while working at the café as having to hide his relationship with his boyfriend is stifling
And Ten, who loves cosplay and dressing up as it allows him to assume different roles to play to offset the stressful role of a successful student.
There's a lot of engaging interplay as everyone learns more about each other and how they fit in their growing community. What really helps to push the narrative and character developments is a pretty heartfelt approach to wanting to create conversations. Creator Kata Konayama includes a short back-up about their development of the story and how they themselves discovered the term non-binary in their process and then moved forward with developing Mogumo afterwards. That desire to learn and understand coupled with their fun art style, sense of humor, and the overall charm of the storytelling pulled together to make a really fun package.
This is the kind of book that I really want to see stocked in libraries and schools as it tackles the core idea that people shouldn't have to ask permission to be themselves. Plus it does so with the focus of creating dialogues and approaching people's stories through empathy and care, which is always a treat to get in any fiction these days.
There are a total of three volumes out so far with a fourth on the way this August, so if you're looking for a manga that hits the spot for cute drama with relatable characters then I highly recommend giving this a shot.