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To Strip the Flesh by Oto Toda

A Full Review

To Strip the Flesh book cover

To Strip the Flesh by Oto Toda (Tooda Oto Tanpenshuu: Niku wo Hagu) is a collection of 6 short stories. Viz published the book under the VIZ Signature imprint last June 2022. Viz describes the book:

A moving collection of six short stories that explores what must be stripped away to find the truth and celebrates the beauty of embracing who you are.
Chiaki Ogawa has never doubted who he is, although the rest of the world hasn’t been as kind. Bound by his mother’s dying wish, Chiaki tries to be a good daughter to his ailing father.
But when the burden becomes too great, Chiaki sets out to remake himself in his own image and discovers more than just personal freedom in his transition—he finds understanding from the people who matter most.

The short story "To Strip the Flesh" is not only the book's namesake but also the best story of the collection. It's a poignant drama following an F-M trans person named Chiaki Ogawa, a 26-year-old butcher with a YouTube following. He has butchered animals since he was a teen as it was the only job his father, a hunter, was reluctant to give to a "girl," and Chiaki was happily doing his job until his father dropped a bombshell. Father has colon cancer, will refuse to get treatment beyond palliative care, and urges Chiaki to become "a bride" and get married.

Spurred on by this news and his father's dying wish, Chiaki seeks gender-affirming care. In the end, the story is about not succumbing to your parent's happiness but rather being true to who you are and aiming for your own happiness. Hopefully, your parents will accept and understand. In Chiaki's case, his best friend since high school Takato understands and has always had his back pre and post-transition, but I'll let you discover what the father had to say about his transition.

To Strip the Flesh table of contents and opening page

While the other stories aren't LGBTQ+ related, they are short and great too. My personal favorite is the award-winning short "David in Love." Winner of the highest award at the ITAN 14th Super Character Comic Awards, "David in Love" is a toys-come-to-life story and answers the age-old question of why Ken (Barbie) dolls don't have genitals. The story is about a little girl who receives a replica of the infamous David statue as a souvenir from her father's business trip. Upon receiving the figurine, she promptly abandons it in a drawer. David, unhappy with the situation, attempts to woo her. He wants to be displayed and played with like all the other dolls. Does he get his wish? I'll let you discover that on your own. It's a funny story. XD

Other short stories include "I Just Love My Fave," about a granny cheering on her pop idol grandson, "Hot Watermelon," a delinquent son comes to understand his mother's feelings and straightens up 'n flies right, and "Two Page Manga Collection," short stories told in two pages. One of my favorite shorts from the "Two Page Manga Collection" is the dark comedy "God." It has that gut-punching ending that makes you go, "Ooooohhhh!"

In summary, To Strip the Flesh is an excellent short story collection. For me, short story collections are usually hit-and-miss. Maybe the first story or tentpole story is fire but the rest are meh but not here. From beginning to end To Strip the Flesh is a solid and poignant collection, sometimes dramatic other times comedic. In addition to the short stories, there are the author's anecdotes as well as a special interview between the author and the gay writer Motigi that you won't want to miss. Also, note that there is some blood, gore, and body horror, particularly in "To Strip the Flesh" and "Hot Watermelon." The book has a Teen+ rating. At any rate, this book gets two big enthusiastic thumbs up from me, and I look forward to more Oto Toda short stories in the future.

Check out the manga via Viz's website here.

To Strip the Flesh back cover

What LGBTQ+ works to read after To Strip the Flesh:

  • Claudine by Riyoko Ikeda (F-M trans protagonist)

  • Boys Run the Riot by Keito Gaku (F-M trans protagonist)

  • How Do We Relationship? by Tamifull (GL/yuri)

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