I felt compelled to review Boys Run The Riot as someone who loves street fashion and is a part of the LGBTQ+ community. When my co-worker handed me my review copy I was in awe, it’s taller than your average manga which I personally love and the cover is very eye-catching. As I was working at my desk I kept glancing at it. Occasionally I’d pick it up and reread the back summary. My excitement couldn’t be contained for when I would get to read this manga.
I’m a huge fan of the finely detailed and realistic art style, I find this a good break from the typical anime-styled characters. Whenever mangakas add realistic elements to their story, it makes it so much more empowering and emotional in my eyes. The struggles of the main character are perfectly portrayed. I personally believe this is one of the best transgender youth representation stories out there. Keito Gaku, the author of Boys Run The Riot, did a spectacular job shaping this manga into something anyone can read, all while learning about the hardships that transgender people face on a daily basis.
In Japan, a school uniform is tradition, but for our main character, Ryo, it’s pure torture. School itself is torture for Ryo as the frilly uniform skirt and people around him remind him that he was biologically born a girl. When Ryo puts on his favorite casual clothes when he’s alone, he feels like the whole world melts away and that he can be his true self. One day, while out shopping, he happened to reach for the same T-shirt as the scary looking transfer student, Jin. Fearing for the worst, Ryo is surprised to find out that Jin is a cool guy that has a crazy goal of starting a fashion brand. Ryo finally finds someone who wants to understand who he really is, a true friend and ally.
I can somewhat relate to the main character and his struggles. I was always deathly scared back in early high school and middle school of standing out. During the end of my high school life, I started expressing myself more through fashion without a care in the world. I honestly love wearing both guy clothes and girl clothes; shopping in both sections of the clothing stores makes me the happiest. To me, clothing is the best way to express yourself, but don’t go crazy and own 50 T-shirts like I do!
Overall, this was an inspiring read and I can’t wait for the other volumes to release. If you’re tired of all of the wacky isekai and all of the shiny shojo manga, then this manga is for sure your next read. A cool fact you may not have known (if you didn’t read the really, really small print on the back/researched it) is that the author, Keito Gaku, is transgender! This is their first published manga (In English) so please show them some love by giving Boys Run The Riot a read!
Boys Run The Riot is a work of passion. Keito Gaku, the author, is transgender, and infused many of his personal experiences into the story. The Acknowledgement page reveals the English localization was an all-trans team. Reading the Kodansha Comics editor's devotion to bringing it to a wider audience is beyond apparent. Gaku and everybody involved with the creation of this English-publication should be proud of their work. They channelled their passion into a great book that is poignant for trans people and their allies.
Clothes are more than something you wear, they’re an outward expression of yourself. Which is why Ryo is tortured every time he comes to school. He has to dress as a girl and live publicly as a girl, but he knows that doesn’t match the boy inside of him. He tries to show it in small ways: a short haircut, “accidentally” wearing his tracksuit to school. But he can’t be who he truly is. He is head-over-heels for his best friend, Chika, but how can she possibly understand his feelings? Anytime he tries to be his true self, he’s rejected and ostracized. That is where Jin comes in.
Jin is a transfer student who had to be held back a year. His outward appearance and history make him look like a delinquent, but he’s a kind soul. One day, Jin runs into Ryo making street art, the only way Ryo can truly express himself even if it’s under anonymity. Seeing how great Ryo’s art is, Jin convinces him to form a fashion brand.
This is a character-driven manga, and the characters themselves are strong. Ryo’s interpersonal drama with his identity and self worth is well executed. It can be hard to communicate deep feelings, but the author is able to give voice to them in a way that is easy to understand and empathize with.
Jin is the perfect pal. He accepts Ryo as he is, and has the business savvy to get their brand off the ground. He may be a bit too perfect. Jin is definitely the person Ryo needs right now, and I applaud him for that. As a reader, though, it causes Jin to come off as a bit flat. I hope in later volumes they round out his character and develop his backstory.
Outside of Ryo, Itsuka was my favorite character. He’s a quiet guy who loves photography and is recruited by Jin and Ryo to take pictures for the fashion brand’s website. This is huge for Itsuka as he can finally make his passion more than a hobby. But doing this simple act leads to a cascade of bullying and social manipulation for helping outcasts. Can he truly follow his dreams or must he rejoin the status quo that suppresses him? As someone who has struggled with similar feelings, Itsuka’s story and his decision was an emotional gut punch for me.
As an ally, the book provided deep insight into the mind and experiences of a trans boy. There is an interview of the author included at the end of the book. It goes beyond the book's personal story and explores the wider range of views of not just Japanese society, but also the Japanese trans community. Be sure to read this book cover to cover!
I was excited to pick up this book based on the concept, and it duly delivered. It’s been said that the more specific a story is the more universal it becomes, and that’s true for this book. I am invested in these character’s journeys, and excited for future volumes.
Boys Run the Riot manga volume 1 features story and art by Keito Gaku.
High schooler Ryo knows he’s transgender, but he doesn’t have anyone to confide in about the confusion he feels. He can’t tell his best friend, who he’s secretly got a crush on, and he can’t tell his mom, who’s constantly asking why Ryo “dresses like a boy.” He certainly can’t tell Jin, the new transfer student who looks like just another bully… The only time Ryo feels at ease is when he’s wearing his favorite clothes. Then, and only then, the world melts away, and he can be his true self.
One day, while out shopping, Ryo sees someone he didn’t expect: Jin. The kid who looked so tough in class has the same taste in fashion as him! At last, Ryo has someone he can open up to—and the journey ahead might finally give him a way to express himself to the world.Add to CartLearn More