I’ve managed to stack quite a few manga first impressions which have allowed me to hold out for full series reviews once in a while. Boys Run The Riot was a perfect candidate for that. It’s a relatively short series as it only has 4 volumes and the final one came out relatively recently.

I think that a lot of you will probably already be familiar with this series at it did make a bit of an impression when it first came out. However, if you were wondering how the full series goes, or if you just happened to have missed this one, here is what I thought of it.

Why I Picked up Boys Run The Riot

Like I said, Boys Run the Riot did make a bit of an impression when it came out. This is major because it’s partly the story of a transboy coming to grips with his identity and it has been marketed as being largely inspired by real-life events that the author went through.

To me, this sounded like a fairly unique set up and I really wanted to see how it was going to be handled. It also happens to be about fashion which I’m very interested in.

Basically, I had no reason NOT to pick up Boys Run The Riot.

Official Summary

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.

My First Impression

This seems a bit naive but I can’t stop turning the pages

What I Liked in Boys Run The Riot

As the summary says, Boys Run The Riot is basically a shortcoming of age story for Ryo who is struggling with his identity but it’s intertwined with the early days of a group of friends trying to start a street fashion brand. Both of these elements are as important as the other in the story and I think that creates a nice balance.

Although I did think the story was a little superficial or overly optimistic at first, it grew on me quickly and that is in part thanks to the wonderful friendship between Jin and Ryo. In fact, all the friendships Ryo develops along the way are very nicely developed and bring a lot to the table. In a way, I would argue that Boys Run The Riot illustrates relationships better than it does individual characters. And that’s not a bad thing.

Moreover, I think the street fashion aspect of the manga is quite fascinating. I like fashion and there are a few anime and manga about the industry out there. However, they largely focus on high fashion or runway. Don’t get me wrong, that’s great but it’s not the same thing a street fashion. What Ryo and his friends are doing is essentially printing t-shirts. There is no preoccupation with the shape of garments, silhouettes, materials. There is no need to cut or sow things, no notion of having a piece designs to fit a particular model and no one cares about how a particular piece will move or how comfortable it would be. It’s t-shirts.

As such, it’s more similar to painting or illustration as an art form. And that’s a distinction we rarely see. It also has to be marketed differently than traditional fashion. For those of you potentially less familiar with street fashion, I’m pretty sure the inspiration here is BAPE ( A Bathing Ape) which is a very popular Japanese brand. They’re pretty famous for those hoodies that zip all the way up. But you can also think of like supreme or ripndip. I don’t know much about street fashion compared to runway so I found this aspect of Boys Run The Riot genuinely interesting and I wish we had seen a bit more of the business side. That’s just me though, we saw quite a bit.

All in all, it’s a very easy series to fall into and finish. The concise 4 volume count means you won’t have to invest too much and the great pacing makes it perfectly reasonable to get through it in an afternoon or two. It’s easy to read and has a lot of great characters

What I Liked Less

Remember when I said I wanted to know more about the business side, well I kind of feel that way about everything. Like I said, I think the friendships that Ryo develops in the series are really well fleshed out and just enjoyable to read about. But a lot of other elements seem to just stay on the surface and for me, it meant that I didn’t get a great sense of closure from the story.

For instance, all three main characters have issues with their parents. I mean, they are teenagers. And of course, what we get most invested in is Ryo’s potential coming out. But we barely see Ryo’s parents before the last volume. No kidding, I think we see a panel of his mom and that’s about it. We do meet Ryo’s brother in book 3 and he gets a bit more time on page but hardly. Then there’s the confrontation, it lasts 2 pages, the brother is fairly supportive, the mom doesn’t react that well and it seems like the dad doesn’t react at all, and we never see them again. That’s it.

Jin and his dad are given more of a chance to actually complete their arc together but Jin’s dad appears very late in the story and we only get a couple of clues about Jin’s family life so I never really got invested because I never really knew what was going on in the first place.

There’s a lot of things like this. A popular YouTuber called Wing gives them a boost in recognition but also in unwanted attention. Now it could have just stayed at that and it would be fine but there’s almost a full volume dedicated to fleshing out Wing’s backstory and circumstances and then he just sort of disappears from the story.

Ryo makes friends at his part-time job and there’s a lot of highs and lows there and it just ends in a sort of vague unresolved middle ground.

Heck, even with the brand. They approach a professional brand owner early on and get turned away. The story is built in such a way that you expect this guy to eventually take them under his wing but that gets subverted and a completely new character comes out of nowhere in the last volume to teach them about the business. I did like the subversion, I thought that was cool. And I do like Joe (the mentor character). However, he basically gets introduced at the end so we just don,t have enough time with him to form much of a connection. And he ends up seeming like more of a Deus Ex Machina than anything else.

None of these elements would really matter on their own, but when you put them together, it starts to add up. For me, it left me with the impression that I didn’t get a chance to find out about most of the story. Like I was only observing it from the outside.

Conclusion

I should switch my manga review format. Because I talk about the positives before the negatives, I always feel like I end up giving a much worse image of the manga than I mean to. I actually quite liked Boys Run The Riot. In fact, as soon as I finished volume 1, I knew I wanted to read the entire series and I bought all of it.

Yes, I think it’s a little naive. All in all, obstacles get overcome pretty quickly and easily and we don,t really get a good exploration of the deeper themes. But at the same time, I found the characters enjoyable and the pacing good enough that it was difficult to put down. If you are interested in stories about trans issues or stories about fashion, it’s a pretty good series to check out.

4 thoughts

  1. Boys Run the Riot is an interesting experience, now that I’ve got professional experiences that tie to both the izakaya and fashion components of the story.

    Although this manga could use some more depth and it goes for shock value quite a bit (that scene with the blood, for one thing), I get the feeling there are some people who /need/ to know this story. In some ways, it’s different to all the YA novels about trans kids, but in some ways, it’s the same.

  2. I really enjoyed this series. Honestly, I thought the fashion theme gave it an interesting backdrop to play out the trans and friendship stories against. How did you find the bonus one shot in book 4 that eventually became Boys Run The Riot?

    1. The one with the Izakaya? If I remeber correctly, I thought it fit in perfectly with the rest of the story. If it had been slotted more directly in the timeline, I wouldn’t have known it was a bonus story.

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