Cover Image: To Strip the Flesh

To Strip the Flesh

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I'm not generally a huge lover of a comics collection because they can vary greatly in quality but this is a very promising debut and a strong showing.

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I’m not sure if my copy of this book is the complete copy or just serial highlights. To strip the flesh is nothing like what I thought it would be based on the cover. I saw the meat hanging in the background, but I was somehow thinking this would about a serial killer, and it is not. It is about a character who has known their entire life they are a boy but was born biologically a girl. Mother has died, and their father cannot see the truth about his son. The story ties itself to hunting how to strip the flesh off the hunted animals. It also relates to stripping the body of unwanted/necessary body parts. Overall, I liked what I’ve read of this story, but there seems to be giant gaps. Especially since the story only takes up the first 89 or 90 pages. Then there is like nine other stories, and another five or 10 shorts that do not fit with Strip the Flesh.

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To Strip the Flesh, a powerful, genre-bending manga composed of six short stories about gender affirmation and transitioning. Oto Toda's storytelling capabilities through art is strong; Chiaki's struggles, with himself, his body, his family will resonate with readers, even if they come from vastly different experiences. Heartbreaking yet hopeful, this is a book that I will definitely recommend.

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This was such a great manga. I absolutely, LOVED the art style. It was so clean and pleasing to look at. I would gladly read more of this author's work. I enjoyed the story as well and I'm looking forward to reading more stories by this author. I would highly recommend this story - especially the artwork!

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This was an interesting read! Many of the stories had unsettling or off-kilter elements (in the spirit of "stripping the flesh", I suppose) that had me bracing myself for a bleak or dark twist—but instead, the twist was generally more toward a heartfelt and humanizing turn of events. The short stories didn't feel as strongly interconnected as they could have, thematically, but "Flesh" and "Hot Watermelon" both did interesting things in grappling with parent-child relationships and changes in perspective/belief. I don't know if I'd read this again, or own it myself, but I'm glad it's out in the world!

At times "Flesh" did lean into what felt like more tired or overrepresented presentations of trans narratives, but the author interview at the end of the book offered some meaningful context to how Toda's own experiences informed the narrative. And in the end, I found the slightly simplistic/idealistic portrayal of Chiaki's father's acceptance to be a sweet and relieving narrative choice.

Intriguing, unsettling, and relieving, all at once.

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I wanted to be more excited for this than I actually was. The illustration is good. The story is a little disjointed. Always down for trans rep, whether I personally like it or not

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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this manga in exchange for an honest review.

There are spoilers in this review.

Within Strip the Flesh by Oto Toda there are six collections of short stories (To Strip the Flesh, To Strip the Flesh cont., I Just Love My Fave, David in Love, Hot Watermelon, and Two-Page Manga Collections.) Before the manga was released, I heard a lot about it, including a lot of positive reviews, and I was not lured astray by them.

The drawing and stories throughout this series are excellent. Every story is a little different, but a lot of them focus on the LGBTQIA+ community.

To Strip the Flesh & To Strip the Flesh cont.
This was probably my favorite of the short stories in the collection. The main character is an influencer who makes the content of how to strip the flesh off of the meat you hunt. The main character is transgender and they want to transition, but they don't think they have the approval of their father. Their father develops a terminal illness, and it is his wish to see them happy and married. But, when Chaiki (the main character) has their best friend ask for their hand in marriage, the dad refuses. Chaiki breaks down and states that they're the only person who knows how to make them happy, not their father. After this, Chaiki decides to get surgery and start their transition. This story made me cry so much throughout, and it really ends by being a heartwarming story that I think everyone should read.

I Just Love My Fave
This story was a really fun read where there are two people who meet. One is older and the other young are in a place like a restaurant or cafe and start talking to one another about their love of the same boy band, A-Live. Their each huge fans of different people within the band. I don't want to spoil too much, especially the twist! But, it was a really fun read and I really loved the twist.

David in Love
I think this is the second favorite in the collection. It is so quirky, and it gives that Toy Story feel where toys come to life in the middle of the night or when no one is looking. This toy is just an action figure of the statue David. David loves his owner, but his owner finds him creepy. Every day his owner hides him away, and every night he comes out of his hiding spot to put himself somewhere she will find and see him.

Hot Watermelon
In this story, the child wants to put a magical spell on his mom to let her know how they feel physically. They are upset because their mom continually smiles and they feel like she doesn't understand. The mom ends up using the magic spell on them, and they feel the pain that the mom has carried but hid from their child. The only thing that relieves the pain is when their mom has them as a baby, and it makes them understand their mother better.

Two Page Manga Collection
Honestly, there is a lot of fun manga in the collection. Each one was different from the other and well told.

I highly recommend this manga.

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I received an ARC from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

I find myself torn trying to review To Strip the Flesh. Anthologies are always challenging to form an opinion on by their very nature, and this collection is no exception. Oto Toda’s art was certainly extremely competent, but her style didn’t strike me as particularly memorable.

I do think that the longest of these stories, that following Chiaki Ogawa’s transition and its impact on his relationship with his father, is the strongest by a wide margin, and therefore, perhaps it was a mistake to place it at the very start. I was expecting to be squeamish about that gorey imagery in this opening chapter, but it doesn’t feel gratuitous and indeed, seems vital to themes of bodily autonomy and control presented here. Oto Toda has clearly drawn on personal experiences of dysphoria, as mentioned in the interview at the back of this volume, and an informed understanding of the LGBTQ+ community. As someone who’s read a lot of similar trans narratives about parental strife, it did strike me as a little formulaic, and didn’t personally wring any emotion out of me, but it is very exciting to see trans issues coming more to the forefront in the transphobic Japan, and this tale of ultimate acceptance is probably quite a bit more groundbreaking in that context.

Being shorter, the other stories simply didn’t really give the reader a whole lot of time to get acquainted with the characters, and not a lot of them felt effectively executed to me. However, they were as a group, much more creative, filled with imaginative ideas, and I appreciated them as riskier pieces of more inventive storytelling, even if they didn’t all “work,” for me, I was definitely never bored. I eagerly anticipate more of Oto Toda’s work in the future as a result, even if this collection isn’t going to become a favourite of mine.

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To Strip the Flesh by Oto Toda is a collection of manga short stories, leading with the titular (and longer) first story before continuing into smaller ones. To Strip the Flesh focuses on the interwoven threads of Chiaki’s transition and his relationship with his father, and ultimately reaches an emotionally satisfying conclusion; the art at points is visceral without being gratuitous and a resonant depiction of what gender dysphoria can be like.

I really wish the whole volume was dedicated to the titular story. The rest of the stories in the collection, while interesting, didn’t hold my attention as much or feel as impactful. Overall, I’d recommend it to manga fans interested in a more realistic depiction of LGBTQIA+ issues or who are fans of manga anthologies.

Thank you to VIZ Media and NetGalley for an advance review copy. All opinions are my own.

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This book was decent. It depicted some well developed family dynamics. I really liked some of the symbolism used by later stories in the book. My only negative is that some of the mini stories at the end felt too short. Some of them had pretty interesting concepts that I would have liked to see developed more.

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To Strip the Flesh by Oto Toda is a collection of manga short stories beginning with two stories about To Strip the Flesh specifically and then continuing into others.

To Strip the Flesh is about learning to live authentically as yourself without allowing your parents or others expectations for your life to limit you. You only have one life and you cannot wait to be true to yourself. One of the most profound experiences for Chiaki, that limits his ability to move forward are his father’s tears and pain when he realizes that a bullet has grazed Chiaki saying, “I put a wound on a little girl’s body.” These words come back to haunt Chiaki again and again and provide a stark contrast to the previous statement, “Battle scars are a man’s pride”

The visual elements of the story were beautifully rendered with the initial butchering as homage to stripping of flesh, Chiaki’s recurring dreams about being on the table used for butchering, and Chiaki’s excessive swollen breasts representing the dysphoric perception of the body. All of these elements came together to maximize the potential of the format without being overly graphic in a manner that detracted from the content. Chiaki’s desire to participate in hunting with his father, a dangerous, masculine activity is a point of conflict and development.

Ultimately, the initial storyline ends with Takato, Chiaki’s friend and confidant since childhood, shielding his new girlfriend from Chiaki because he has become so interesting and hot with his scruff and his “come hither look”. I loved this closing because it illustrated Chiaki’s confidence in himself and his happiness after transitioning and moving forward. I was blown away by how artfully the experience of becoming ones own person and changing into ones own body was rendered. The collection is worth reading based on this story alone.

CW: gender dysphoria, self-harm, butchering; the images themselves were not particularly graphic, but there are instances in which Chiaki appears to consider harming himself due to dysphoria.

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My Thoughts:

This book is an older YA manga of six short stories that look at the idea of stripping away and finding truth through the reveal. The longest short story represented on the cover is about Chiaki who has always believed that he should be a boy and be able to go hunting with his dad. However, her mom's dying wish was to see Chiaki in a wedding dress so she tries to be a good daughter even if she struggles with her body, her breasts and even how the outside world sees her/him.

Chiaki has a YouTube station where she butchers the meat her father gets from hunting and it is easy to see the metaphor of Chiaki's own desire to strip away the outer layer of himself. He also has a very interesting relationship with his photographer who is even willing to marry Chiaki so that she can be the perfect daughter to her dying father.

I found this manga to be very philosophical, especially the "David in Love" short.

From the Publisher:
hiaki Ogawa has never doubted that he is a boy, although the rest of the world has not been as kind. Bound by his mother’s dying wish, Chiaki tries to be a good daughter to his ailing father.

When the burden becomes too great, Chiaki sets out to remake himself in his own image and discovers more than just personal freedom with his transition—he finds understanding from the people who matter most.

Author: Oto Toda
Publisher: Viz Media LLC
Publication date: June 21, 2022

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I really liked this compilations of manga short stories! The first story, and the longest in the volume, is about Chiaki, a trans man who has been putting off transitioning because he doesn't want to upset his father. I found this story to be extremely relatable and thought it captured that tension between feeling repressed by parents and the need to be seen for your true self. I liked that Chiaki's best friend has been a staunch ally even since learning that Chiaki is trans and does his best to support him. All in all, an emotional story with a satisfying ending. The other stories in the collection were interesting and had a theme of love and the urge to connect with and understand our loved ones. They range from cute (I Just Love My Fave) to silly and a bit weird (David in Love) to visceral and searing (Hot Watermelon). The two page comics were really fun as well!

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I enjoyed the first story in this collection and I wish that it been longer. I think that there could have been more character and relationship development, it felt as though the story ended very abruptly. I did not realize there would be other stories in this text. Some of them were fun and interesting, but for the most part they were forgettable. I think this will appeal to a lot people and I'm glad I was able to read it, but it wasn't something I would necessarily recommend to pick up.

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challenging dark emotional hopeful inspiring reflective slow-paced
Plot- or character-driven? Character
Strong character development? Yes
Loveable characters? Yes
Diverse cast of characters? N/A
Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

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To Strip the Flesh is a collection of short stories by Ota Toda.

To Strip the Flesh
Written by: Ota Toda
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: June 21, 2022

“To Strip the Flesh” is the first short story included in this collection, and it’s in two parts: “To Strip the Flesh” and “To Strip the Flesh, Continued.” This story focuses on a character named Chiaki Ogawa, who was born a girl but identifies as a boy. Chiaki, who was raised by a single father after the death of Chiaki’s mother, kept trying to vocalize this preference, but the father refused to listen. Chiaki stopped saying anything after being involved in an accident during one of the father’s hunting trips.

The story sees Chiaki struggling with whether or not to have surgery to finish transitioning. Chiaki’s father has been diagnosed with cancer and only has a year to live, and Chiaki doesn’t want to do anything to upset him before he dies. However, Chiaki’s mind is changed after being angered by something the father does. Another important character in this story is Chiaki’s best friend, Takato, a boy who has always been there for Chiaki and supports Chiaki’s desire to transition.

I thought both parts of “To Strip the Flesh” told a very compelling story and shows one person’s journey as they try to navigate the world while finding their true identity. While this story isn’t indicative of what all transgender individuals go through, it still provides a window into some of the thoughts and realities that occur. Art-wise, there are a couple of spots where it might seem a little graphic, but those panels and scenes had to be that way to make the story realistic.

At the end of the volume, there is a conversation between Ota Toda and Motigi, a former gay sex worker and gay bar employee who is also a content creator known for a Twitter essay manga. The conversation between them is on “To Strip the Flesh,” and it was interesting to read Toda’s thoughts behind creating “To Strip the Flesh,” as well as to read Motigi’s thoughts on the story. This section at the back of the volume is worth reading, because it helps the reader to understand the story even better.

The next story in the volume is “I Just Love My Fave,” and it shows a fan of an idol group meeting the grandmother of one of the group members and forming a friendship. The story also sees the grandmother meeting up with her grandson and giving him words of encouragement. I thought this was a sweet story and that it worked well in this short length.

“David in Love” is about a small replica of the Statue of David that’s given to a girl as a souvenir from her father’s business trip. However, she’s grossed out by it and hides it away in a drawer. But the Statue of David falls in love with the girl and keeps coming out of the drawer at night so the girl will find him in the morning. However, everything changes one night when a burglar breaks into the girl’s room. Personally, I found this story to be a little on the odd side, but it ended up not being the story I liked the least in this collection. It turns out that “David in Love” was Toda’s debut and that it won the highest award at the ITAN 14th Super Character Comic Awards.

“Hot Watermelon” sees a young man who has trouble communicating with his mother after his father left. One day, he hears about a spell on the internet and it’s supposed to convey your feelings to the person you’re trying to reach. The spell involves swallowing 10 watermelon seeds and holding the person you’re trying to reach in your mind. We see the spell being used, but the person using the spell isn’t who the story leads you to believe. In the end, mother and son are able to communicate again, and the son changes his attitude. While I like what the story ultimately accomplished at the end, I thought the whole idea of the spell and the watermelon seeds was strange. It was even stranger to see the effects of the spell as it was actually happening. While the intention here was good, the execution didn’t work for me. Because of that, “Hot Watermelon” was my least favorite story in this collection.

This is then followed by seven manga stories that are each told in two pages, and these short manga work for what they are. In fact, these manga wouldn’t have worked if they had been any longer in length. It’s revealed a little later that these two-page manga stories were projects that Toda turned in for the Kozuki Foundation’s creator training program. The foundation supports young people working toward their dreams, and the program was a lifesaver for Toda at the time.

I really liked Toda’s art style in this collection. The characters in each story have very distinct looks from each other, which helped me feel like these were each separate stories. It was refreshing to see that Toda doesn’t have generic character designs or utilize designs that are recycled throughout the volume.

Even with the two short stories that didn’t appeal to me as much, I still found To Strip the Flesh to be a strong collection overall. If you are a manga reader who has an appreciation for short story collections, To Strip the Flesh is worth giving a read.

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Oto Toda's 'To Strip The Flesh' is an interesting manga collection of short stories, with the title story being the strongest. It tells the story of a young transgender man in Japan, attempting to postpone his transition until his ill father passes away, so as not to upset his father's ideas and dreams of what his child's life will be like. His father wants nothing more than for the main character to get married and have a family (as a woman); his closeted transgender son wants nothing more than to be able to go on hunting trips with his father, but as the man he really is. Ultimately, he decides to go ahead with his transition, even while his father is still alive. The story follows the two as the father is able to see how much happier his son is now that he's living life as his true self, and they grow closer than they were before.

I will add that hunting and butchering is portrayed quite a lot in the story, as it's a hobby the father and son share, so if you're not keen on that (though the gore isn't too graphic), you may want to pass on this one. I'll also add TWs for gender dysphoria (a main theme in the story) and a couple transphobic comments. Furthermore, as the story takes place in Japan, there are references to the transition process in that country that may be unfamiliar to readers from elsewhere (required chromosome tests, travelling out of country for surgery, references to 'Gender Identity Disorder'). Regardless, I thought this was an interesting read, and it was great to see how much happier the main character became as the manga progressed.

The other stories in the collection also have similar themes of love and family bonds, but the title story really overshadows them, in my opinion.

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Warning: This book contains mature language, nudity, dysphoria, gore, violence, and other mature content.
Chiaki has known that he is male for most of his life, despite the inability of those around him (including his parents) to accept this. His father refuses to teach him how to hunt as "girls don't hunt" and presses Chiaki to follow the dying wish of his late mother, "to grow up and become a beautiful bride." Chiaki wants nothing more than to follow through with surgery to remove his breasts and uterus, but feels he must wait until his sick father passes from cancer.
With the support of his best friend Takato, Chiaki finally breaks free from his internal struggle and makes the decision to go forward with the surgery. Chiaki's father finally comes to terms with Chiaki's choice and realizes how much pressure he has been under to hide his true self. Chiaki and his father are able to make amends, while Chiaki embraces his new lease on life.

The book also contains a number of shorter stories such as a statute of David doll coming to life, a grandmother's ghost cheering on her idol grandson, and a young man who struggles to understand the feelings of his mother.
Heartwarming stories, detailed and sometimes quite graphic artwork. This collection of stories is not one to shy away from the more difficult topics.

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The main story in To Strip the Flesh definitely is the star of this volume, but the other short stories are also very worth the read. I thought it would all be equally short stories, but the title story in the beginning is a oneshot that makes up a good chunk of the pages. The art and story are equally enjoyable, with the latter short stories showcasing even more of the artist's skills. It is worth pointing out that there is a note at the end of the book explaining that to convey Chiaki's experience with transition in Japan the book "retains some of the original Japanese terms that have fallen out of use in English discourse." While there are instances of nudity in this book, I think it is a worthy addition to a YA collection. (I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.)

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Thank you to NetGalley and publisher for this ARC

A powerfully poignant stories, followed by many other wonderful stories. loved the Q&A at the end.

A beautiful view on trans experience

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