Publisher: Irodori (Irodori Sakura)
JP Title: 峰くんはノンセクシャル
Original Story and Art by: Isaki Uta (@uta_isaki)
Translator: Ed Ayes
Letterer: Tim Sun
Formatting: CC Su
QA: On Takahashi and Zhuchka
Page Length: 42
Color or B/W: All B/W
Reader’s Note: I received a review copy of Mine-kun is Asexual from Irodori Sakura in exchange for an honest review of the material. I was not compensated for my review, nor will I be post-review. Additionally, any images seen in the review are taken from the official release. Opinions are my own.
One Sentence Summary
Murai Tomoe loves Mine-kun, enough that she’s willing to try seeing the world from his perspective when he tells her that bonds of love go beyond sex and physical affection…
Expanded Summary (Take from the Product Page)
Mine-kun is Asexual. He doesn’t like sexual intimacy in a relationship. He can kiss a girl, but it’s not something he wants to do if he can help it. But Murai loves him so much that she’s willing to overlook the fact that she can’t hold his hand; that she can’t cuddle up next to him when they watch movies together; that she can’t fall in love with him the way that she hopes to be loved in return. In the eyes of those around them, is this even a relationship that’s meant to last, or is it a train wreck just waiting to happen?
Asexuality is something that is quite personal for me. In fact, I -your reviewer- identify as asexual, and have been proudly living in that identity -at least consciously- since 2012. Like a lot of people who were college students then, I learned about asexuality on Tumblr.
Make all the Tumblr jokes you want, dear reader: it was a deeply influential place for me, and showed me that the way I could identify was far more open than just “straight or gay”. Heck, I would have kept thinking that not wanting to have sex -or having a lack of libido- meant that I just needed to try harder.
Truly, without Tumblr, I might have kept thinking that I was broken, like a lot of asexuals -including Mine-kun- feel. Without Tumblr, I might have kept forcing myself into situations that negated my identity.
I’ve slid around the spectrum for the better part of a decade, landing -for now, in 2020- on identifying as greyasexual. While feel greyace is the best label for me, the reality is… I don’t desire sex. I don’t need it: it doesn’t fufill me in any way. In fact, I’d even go so far to say that I’m somewhat sex-repusled, which is a valid identity too, dear reader. I know that no matter where I land or even where I shift to, I’m still worthwhile.
That all being said, when I went to request my next two titles from Irodori, I knew that I had to ask to read Mine-kun is Asexual, specifically because I wanted to review a title that covered an identity that’s very near and dear to my own. I knew that I wanted to talk about this doujinshi, specifically because I had the feeling it would be a powerful story.
Spoiler: it made me weep in the best of ways.
This review is dedicated to my asexual readers and to the community at large: here’s a story for us, no matter where we are in the world. This goes out to my amab (assigned male at birth), male-identifying, and masculine readers too: your existence is valid, and deserves stories that see who you really are. Don’t let anyone tell you that your identity makes you weak or strange or weird: you light up the world simply by being who you are.
I see who you: you are worth love in all its measures.
Now… let’s talk about Mine-kun is Asexual.
Mine-kun is Asexual is, first and foremost, a rather candid, honest look at an asexual character. Better, it’s a look at an adult male asexual character, a rarity when it comes to exploring an important identity.
The plot kicks off when Murai -with the help of a few drinks- confesses her love to Mine. Mine, who, unbeknownst to Murai, identifies as asexual. (Mine also identifies as bisexual, which is handled just… so, so wonderfully and naturally, in more ways than one.)
While Murai doesn’t mind Mine being bi, she doesn’t quite understand what Mine-kun’s asexuality would mean in their relationship. But Tomoe’s open to the possibilities, which sets the plot in motion.
I’m happy to say that my dream team of Ed Ayes and Tim Sun are back, and they’re both just as excellent as they were in my review of Arrested Love Vol. 1. I really do feel like these are two Irodori Comic’s best, though I’m only just getting started with my reviews of Irodori’s titles.
In a previous review, I said that Ed Ayes’ translations really convey how much care and thought goes into localizing the work: I believe I phrased it as Ed toeing a fine line between characterization and keeping to the source. Excitingly, that’s the same here and boy howdy, does it work really, really well. However, this time, instead of talking about the translation from my perspective, I’d like to share a Twitter thread from Ed.
I feel that Ed’s thread speaks to the localization of Mine-kun better than I can. Plus, when I can, I really want to share what the translators themself think, especially when it involves their process. Here’s the first tweet in the thread, which is thirteen tweets long:
Now, you already know how I feel about Tim’s lettering: it’s dynamic and it’s always good. Of note are the sound effects, which are really good and show off a creative mind. You genuinely can tell that Tim is the kind of letterer who is not only skilled, but passionate, which naturally, makes for an even better read.
Tim’s work is extremely atmospheric and clean, making for really readable lettering that also has personality. Coupled with those good, hand-drawn sfx, it’s just really, really nice to see. I really, really love the work Tim does on the sfx. I have to say, I’m quite the fan!
Now, let’s get to my favorite part of every review: talking about the art.
I’m just going to come out and say it: Uta-sensei’s art is superb. Like, I need to follow them on Pixiv superb. Uta-sensei could design literally anything, and I’d probably buy it. Heck, Uta-sensei could design coffee -one of the things I dislike the most- and I’d buy boxes!
It’s just that good. (Which is so, so good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
In general, the art reminds me a lot of one of my favorite on-going manga, Anmitsu’s Ran the Peeless Beauty. It’s a series centered on a m/f couple, and is quite tender and soft too, especially when it comes to the art. While they’re two very distinct styles, the fluidity and softness are similar, enough that I knew I’d love Mine-kun from page one. I’m a big sucker for soft art anyways: it just so happens that Uta-sensei does it really, really well.
One of my favorite things is how Uta-sensei draws hair: the linework is just really nice, as is the inking. Speaking of lines, I also really, really love how Uta-sensei’s lineart is in general. Everything feels so light and fluid, which works well with the story and with the setting. Uta-sensei alternates between using screntones for shadows and flat black shading: both work really well with the lineweight and general style.
I’ll also quickly mention that the lineart and general character design really define Tomoe and Mine: they’re drawn to represent their personalities quite well. Tomoe is more round: Mine-kun, who is quite calm and a bit serious, is more angular and square. Those little things. When they’re depicted in chibi or even mildly super deformed styles, they’re both even cuter!
I’ve also got to praise Uta-sensei’s eye design: the shape of Tomoe and Mine’s eyes match their personalities perfectly! Tomoe’s wide eyes suit her whimsical, cheerful personality. On the other hand, Mine-kun’s eyes -which tend to be drawn with flat screentones- represent his more calm demenor. It’s a little detail, but an important one: after all, eyes are the windows to the soul!
Another thing I really, really liked was Uta-sensei’s fashion design: all the clothes are quite charming. Just like in my review of Why Does Love Do This To Me?, they give me big UNIQLO vibes, which is super nostalgic for me. I swear, all of these doujinshi make me wanna go shopping for my own cute clothes!
Speaking of cute things… I’ve gotta talk about the characters. I can’t hold off any longer.
Our story focuses on two characters: Murai Tomoe and Mine. They’re both college students in their early twenties and attend the same university. While we never learn Tomoe’s department, we do learn that Mine-kun is most likely a part of the Design Department, which I think suits him quite well.
Honestly… I like them both a lot: I think Tomoe and Mine are the perfect characters to tell this story with. But for the sake of this section, I’ll start with Tomoe because it can’t only be about Mine-kun.
Murai Tomoe is our female protagonist. She’s goofy, earnest, expressive and passionate. At first glance, it would be easy to say Tomoe is just a typical girl: but really, she’s just as complex as the rest of us. She also really, really loves food, which… mood: so do I.
One thing I really liked about Tomoe was her willingness to understand differences: actually, that’s a major element in the plot kicking off. Tomoe’s desire to meet someone where they are really makes her a remarkable character, especially since she’s dealing with two identities that are very new to her own romantic life. At no point does she ever make Mine-kun feel bad for being who he is: in fact, she embraces him wholeheartedly and continues to see him as worthwhile and a full person.
What else can I say? I really love Tomoe. But I just really, really wanna talk about Mine.
Mine is equally as complex: he’s a fan of the “Revengers” which is essentially the Avengers. He’s incredibly passionate about them to the point that he doesn’t even notice Tomoe trying to make a move on him. As the title says, Mine’s also aseuxal: for him, this means that he has no interest in sexual intimacy, minimal to no interest in physical affection, and maybe could kiss if necessary. He says as much within the first few pages of the story, and I’m proud to say that Mine-kun doesn’t walk that back: he is who he is.
However, what the title doesn’t say is that Mine’s also bisexual. While it’s not something he publicizes, it’s something that Mine-kun doesn’t feel bad about. In fact, it’s just a part of him.
This was really, really striking to me as it’s very rare to see a queer story where the characters are a cis man and a cis woman. I tried to think of any times I’ve read a story with a m/f couple where one person is queer, and I just… couldn’t. So, it was really refreshing to see that, in large part because Mine really deconstructs what it means to be bi and date someone who, socially, would be seen.
I firmly believe you can be, and absolutely still are, queer if you’re dating a woman and you’re a man. You don’t suddenly become heterosexual: you’re still a queer man. This goes doubly for Mine, who’s identity intersects with asexuality.
Okay, okay! So I’m starting to get really, really passionate, and you know what that means: it’s right about time to get into Mine-kun in detail, which means spoilers. As always, you don’t want to be spoiled, generally don’t like spoilers, or want to go in with little to no knowledge of the story, you can skip to the TL;DR at the end of the spoiler section.
Otherwise, let’s dig deeper into Mine-kun is Asexual, which is probably the best story I’ve read all year.
Here There Be Spoilers
Let’s rehash the opening, shall we?
The story starts with college students Tomoe Murai and Mine sharing a meal and drinks at a restaurant. In a somewhat tipsy -really, drunken- haze, Tomoe puzzles out her thoughts towards Mine, who admittedly, is quite the cutie. she likes him holistically too: he likes his personality, his body, his way of speaking. She even likes the way he eats, which is honestly such a sweet thing.
All of these tipsy thoguhts -combined with that liquid courage- gives Tomoe the confidence to confess to Mine-kun rather publicly.
Shocked, Mine tries to play things off by suggesting that someone else might satisfy her, but Tomoe’s got that liquid courage, readers: she’s not going to relent. With slurred speech, she asks Mine to just out-right reject her. But Mine-kun actually likes Tomoe: he thinks she’s cute, and finds her to be good company.
But you see, as the title says, Mine-kun is asexual: he’s also bisexual, though neither bothers Tomoe. As an asexual male, Mine outright states that he has no interest in sex, though he “could probably do a kiss”.
Ultimately, physical affection -at least physical affection that’s sexual- just isn’t something he’s interested in: but if Tomoe’s okay with that, then Mine’s definitely up for dating.
What occurs after is a genuinely tender, very honest look at a relationship between someone who is bisexual and asexual and a character who is heterosexual -as far as we’re told- and allosexual.
It is a kind, queer story that feels realistic to me. Even better, it’s a queer story featuring an openingly bi and ace man and woman: this is something that the story keeps at the forefront, albiet quietly.
Still, Mine-kun never shies away from the fact that this is a queer story, and as a queer reader, I personally felt quite happy to have that as a story element. Once again, I really have to say that’s a big part of what makes Mine-kun is Asexual so, so great.
The story reads like a look into a real couple’s life, including their struggles and victories: that’s why I gave it the rating I did, which you’ll see once you finish this review. (…or if you just scroll to the bottom of the page. But I’d like to encourage you to keep reading this review, please and thank you.)
Speaking of struggles, this story doesn’t shy away from them.
In fact, very early in the story Tomoe encounters a good deal of pushback in regards to her dating a bisexual male: as soon as she and Mine-kun start dating, her friend claims that Mine-kun is probably just gay and is using Tomoe as a beard, which she instantly rejects.
Later on, that same friend wryly congratulates Tomoe on making it to three months with Mine. It comes off like a lot of comments from people who are just waiting from the ball to drop: harsh, and unnecessary, but sadly… quite real for many folks in the ace community.
While Mine-kun’s asexuality isn’t some phase or just something he can change, there’s still the expectation that one day… he will. This too is also a very real thing that people who date asexual people face, including myself.
Tomoe also deals with a lot of pushback inside her own heart: when Mine-kun spends the night, she wonders if she should be more aggressive, wonders how far she can push the boundaries.
There’s a slight implication that she means making a move to push the relationship, though it’s mostly in reference to non-sexual physical affection. In many ways, this makes perfect sense. After all, Tomoe is a character who likes affection: her struggles with trying to understand someone who doesn’t crave it in the way she does feel really, really well written and feel very authentic.
In the same measure, Mine himself is not perfectly comfortable in his identity: he -like many folks who come to understand themselves as asexual- wonders if he can become “normal”. Rather, he wonders what “normal” even is. He feels grateful that someone , which is a common sentiment for anyone under the LGBTQAI+ umbrella, particularly asexuals: how grateful do we need to be for the love we are given? How thankful -how blessed- should we feel to have a relationship with someone who will at least try to love us?
(My answer is that we shouldn’t have to feel those feelings: everyone is worthy of love. Everyone deserves love of all kinds: no one should feel “lucky” to be loved, not at least in the sense of it being a handout.)
As their relationship develops and Tomoe and Mine spend more time together, we see that Tomoe genuinely likes her relationship, even though she’s not having sex or even being physically affectionate with Mine. They eat out together, share drinks: go to a historic village and shopping. It’s sweet and tender and really, really lovely. Coupled with Uta-sensei’s art, it’s just all so divine.
But then that ball drops.
One day, Tomoe meets with her friend, who remarks that she and Mine probably haven’t even kissed yet. Tomoe eagerly deflects the statement, remarking that she’s really enjoying everyday with Mine. She also makes it clear that she’s trying not to be careless: she doesn’t want to hurt Mine-kun’s feelings, doesn’t want to bring up topics that are clearly discomforting him for him.
But the reality is is that Tomoe also feels lonely: she, herself, isn’t asexual. She -like I said before- is allosexual. She desires sex as a part of her relationships, and while she’s never had sex, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want it. Much like Mine-kun, her desires and identity are a part of her. She really wants physical affection, and maybe, wants that to turn into sex.
And as someone asexual, I think that’s okay to admit: in fact, I think it’s a really critical part of this story. Tomoe wants something that Mine-kun cannot give. Both of their choices and wants are natural and okay: what matters more is that Tomoe never forces Mine-kun into a situation where he feel obligated to satisfy her personal needs.
In response to Tomoe’s outburst, her friend tells her to let her know when they break up so she can introduce Tomoe to someone else. In a moment of weakness and irritation, Tomoe says that if it happens, she’ll let her friend know.
Sadly, she does this without knowing that Mine-kun overheard her.
Things escalate later that night when -while watching another movie- Mine tells Tomoe that she can break up with him whenever she wants. He says this not because he wants to, but because he understands that he isn’t enough for her: that she feels he isn’t enough, despite his blooming love for her.
And in a moment that cuts deep, Tomoe asks Mine-kun to embrace her and kiss her just once. Just once.
Then, after that, she’ll break up with him. Taken aback, Mine-kun quietly asks: “Are you sure that’s what you want?”
I’ll let you read what happens next. I think it’s important that I don’t spoil the last few pages of the story.
Love is a complicated thing: desire is complicated too. We all experience both on a variety of levels. For some of us, it’s an intense thing that defines a major part of our experiences. For some of us, it’s something we can live without. For even more of us, love and desire come in the form of intense friendships, filial relationships, or even affection for pets and animal companions.
All of those forms of love and desire matter. No one’s experience is more “correct” than anyone else’s. And that, at it’s core, is the message I took away from Mine-kun.
Mine-kun is Asexual acknowledges the power of love and bonds on all levels. The narrative wholly embraces Mine-kun’s identity and Tomoe’s desires and ultimately says that they both matter and are worthwhile. Mine-kun looks at asexuality, looks at the trials and tribulations that ace people face, and says, “You’re worthwhile. You’re not lacking. You never were.”
In the afterword of this doujinshi, Uta-sensei remarks that there’s overlap between themselves and Mine-kun. Uta-sensei, themselves, is “someone who leans towards being asexual”, which I think lends to the kindness in this story. And while Uta-sensei’s sexuality is private, I do want to say that I think part of what made this story powerful is having a queer-adjacent creator. I think it’s safe to say I’m an Uta-sensei fan for life.
I want to end this review by, once again, speaking directly to any ace readers. I want to tell you that nothing about you, dear reader, is lacking: who you are, who you are going to be, is worth love.
I am worth love.
You are worth love.
We all are worth love. And yes: it’s because we’re ace and we were never lacking anything. We have worth and we are worth love.
TL;DR: Mine-kun is Asexual is a powerful story about identity and what it means to love someone for who they truly are. It’s a story that everyone who’s asexual should read, if only to know that you matter and are worthy of love. It’s also a story that anyone who’s allosexual should read, if only to understand a look at the difficulties asexual folks often cope with.
It isn’t a perfect story, but neither are our lives: if anything, it’s an incredibly earnest story that doesn’t shame asexuality, but embraces it as a part of love and identity. Even still, that might not make it the powerful story for you that it was for me, and that’s okay. However, I really want you to give it a chance, fellow aces: go pick up a copy of this doujinshi today. Let yourself be seen, and support a creator who truly did right by our community.
Where To Buy Mine-kun is Asexual
You can buy a copy of Mine-kun is Asexual here. Like all of Irodori Comic’s titles, it’s digital-only, but please, as I’ve encouraged before, don’t let digital be a negative. Digital collections are just as important, and jsut as powerful, as physical, and trust me: you don’t want to miss out on Mine-kun, not if you can avoid it. This is an invaluable title: so please, consider supporting an LGBTQAI+ friendly imprint today with your purchase of Mine-kun is Asexual. It’s just that good.
ART: 10 /10
Overall: 10 out of 10
Read If You Like…
Stories focused on Asexuality
Stories featuring Bisexuality
Queer M/F Stories
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