Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Stop Bullying Me! by Natsuho Shino
In Stop Bullying Me!, simple and straight-forward Tomo can’t help but love his kind and popular older brother, Ei. Tomo follows Ei wherever he goes but is constantly harassed by Ei’s best friend, Izumi. Despite Izumi’s belittling words and light physical assaults, Tomo eventually realizes he has feelings for Izumi and must discover if love can blossom from their mutual animosity.
At first glance, this manga is a sweet and simple love story. There are many heart-warming romantic moments and deep reflections on how family relationships grow and change when people start new relationships. Perhaps the most compelling element of this manga is the faithful brotherly relationship between Tomo and Ei. Not many stories authentically portray a happy sibling dynamic, but Tomo and Ei’s loyal love for each other is real, precious, and inspiring.
My one concern with this manga is the light-hearted approach it takes with the very serious issue of bullying. (Get ready… I’m about to step on my soap box and rant for a while!) Being harassed as a young person or adult can result in significant damage to a person’s physical, emotional, and mental health. Like Tomo, some real-life victims of bullying develop confused feelings of attraction for their tormentors. In addition, many try to change themselves so as to become invisible or please those who hurt them. These painful realities often result in significant damage to self-esteem and can harm a person’s ability to engage in fulfilling relationships with others. I fear that stories like this manga, if taken too seriously, might reinforce rather than challenge a disempowering response to harassment. I don’t want to be too harsh- this manga was indeed a cute story! But rather than read about someone who falls in love with his abuser and lives happily ever after, I want a story where a victim of bullying finds the strength in himself to survive hardship, cultivate the support of allies, and create a safe space for himself where he can build love with someone who treats him with the respect he deserves.
Stop Bullying Me! is complete in one volume. The book contains some suggestive language and I would have felt comfortable reading it when I was fourteen.
Review by Aaron Walsh. Add your review of "Stop Bullying Me!" in comments!