It took me a long time to track down a copy of Kata Konayama’s Love Me For Who I Am. COVID 19 has, of course, caused a number of printing delays, as well as some continued distribution issues, at least in Canada, anyway. Thankfully, I finally got my hands on volume one and it was well worth the wait!
Tetsu notices that Mogumo, his classmate who was assigned male at birth but who prefers to dress in feminine clothing, is always alone and doesn’t appear to have any friends. Wanting to help, Tetsu invites Mogumo to work at his family’s cross-dressing boys café, Café Question, thinking that they’ll be able to relate to the other people that work there. However, it turns out that he’s misunderstood Mogumo’s circumstances; Mogumo is non-binary and doesn’t identify as either a boy or a girl and they’re devastated when it seems like they won’t be welcome at the café after all, since the waitstaff are all supposed to be boys who are dressed as girls. Are Mogumo’s fears that they’ll never find friends who can understand them doomed to become reality? Or will they be able to find a place where they can finally feel accepted?
It’s so nice to see a manga series with a non-binary character as one of the leads and to see matters of gender identity talked about in such an open and frank manner. Love Me For Who I Am does a great job exploring some of the confusion and misconceptions that can crop up around the concept of being agender, even within the LGBTQ+ community.
The other servers at Café Question are a diverse group who all have different reasons for wanting to work there, and, even so, most of them are baffled when Mogumo initially tries to explain that they aren’t a boy or a girl. Thankfully, even if they don’t quite understand what Mogumo is going through, they all want to get to know them better and for the café to be a place where they can belong. The manager, Sacchan, is also very supportive and wants the café to be a safe space for all of her staff. She’s a great role-model to her young employees and I found her dedication to their well-being to be very heart-warming.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any issues that Megumo and the other servers need to work through, however.
Early on in the story, Mogumo raises as an objection to introducing themselves to customers as an Otokonoko: a term which refers to a man who dresses as a woman and which Mogumo doesn’t feel applies to them. This causes some friction with Mei, one of the other servers who does like the term and wants to keep it as part of their introduction.
Mogumo initially feels guilty and like they’re causing trouble for the other staff, but, thanks to Tetsu’s encouragement, they stick to their guns and refuse to call themselves an Otokonoko. The staff all end up agreeing to drop that part of their introductory speech and, rather than being a problem, Megumo sticking up for themselves actually winds up helping Mei begin to be more true to herself as well. Mei, it turns out, is a trans girl and she realizes that, while she had found the term useful in the past, Otokonoko doesn’t accurately reflect her identity either. Thanks to Mogumo’s bravery, she starts experimenting with her gender expression more and adopts a more feminine way of speaking and asks people to address her with she/her pronouns. It’s so sweet to see this group of teens working so hard to try and understand each other and to support each other on their individual journeys!
Love Me For Who I Am also has an adorable little romance that starts to develop between Tetsu and Megumo. Since he’s been so friendly and helpful to them, Megumo quickly falls for Tetsu and doesn’t make a secret out of their growing affection. It seems like Tetsu might be more then a little interested in them as well, but it doesn’t look like things are going to go smoothly between the two of them and some complications have already started to crop up. Both Tetsu and Megumo are sweethearts and they’re seriously cute together, so I hope they can work things out and find a way to be happy.
This manga is a real gem! With lovely art, an inclusive cast of endearing characters and a positive message about acceptance and being true to yourself, this isn’t a title that you should pass up. I’d highly recommend this manga to everyone, but I think that this could be a particularly meaningful series for non-binary or trans-gender teens who are looking for titles where they can see themselves represented.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10
For more information on this series, visit Seven Seas Entertainment’s website.
What did you think of this manga? Who’s you’re favourite character? Let me know in the comments. I have a hard time choosing, but I think Sacchan is probably my favourite.