Stranger by the Shore promo image

The Stranger By the Shore Queer Anime Movie Shows How You Can’t Move Forward Until You Accept Yourself

5/5 benches by the sea

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Before I saw this movie I noticed a lot of people commenting on how important it was to support this release and how it was a chance to show studios that we want more queer anime, particularly ones with so much work put into their production. We want more queer anime to be created and we especially want more studios to license them so we can see them outside of Japan—subbed and dubbed.

All of that is true, and if The Stranger By the Shore is a taste of the kinds of stories we can get licensed here, then please, sign me up.

Synopsis

The Stranger By the Shore follows the love story of Shun Hashimoto, an aspiring novelist, and Mio Chibana, a grieving young man, who both find more than they bargained for during a time of transition. As each day passes, both young men find themselves in an ever-unique, undisturbed voyage of friendship and romance. But self-doubt, family, acceptance, and fear will challenge these young men, as nothing worth fighting for goes without taking chances.

Review

Slight spoilers for The Stranger By the Shore

As someone who’s been watching anime for nearly thirty years, I have a certain expectation level when it comes to queer anime—and it’s not very high. While there are anime series and movies that feature queer characters, when it comes to productions specifically about the queer experience, the ones that are unapologetically labeled as such, there aren’t a whole lot, and the ones we get don’t always have the level of care that other anime gets.

I’m from the school of, “Take this short OVA, yes there’s an entire manga series that this OVA is based on but we’re gonna animate a brief story arc from it, nothing else,” followed by, “Here’s a basic DVD release that barely has a menu.” 

Even if we’ve gotten better content over the years—Given is forever a favorite of mine—the chances of a studio taking the time to dub queer anime, advertise it, and make it available for streaming is rare.

Especially if there’s a sex scene.

Not only is The Stranger By the Shore beautifully animated, dubbed (being released tomorrow), and has a sex scene that does NOT give it the automatic mature rating I’ve come to expect with queer media, the story is heartfelt and, at times, painfully relatable.

Shun and Mio TV

The Stranger By the Shore is very much a love story, but beyond that, it’s a story about working out your feelings in regards to your sexuality and who you are. While there is obviously an attraction between Shun and Mio, they can’t come close to fully exploring that until they work through their issues of self-doubt and uncertainty—especially Shun. Shun has the biggest conflict in regards to queerness, and it prevents him from fully embracing Mio and, more importantly, himself.

Shun has a strained relationship with his parents because of his sexuality. What’s painful about this isn’t just his parents’ comments toward him, but the fact that he’s still stuck even after leaving. Shun is now in a supportive space, one that even has more queer people around him, but none of that matters because he’s still mentally dealing with the homophobia he faced years ago.

He never really resolved the situation and that’s stuck with him this entire time. 

Even if you decide to walk away from unsupportive people, you kinda need to have that release where you fully embrace the fact that you’ve distanced yourself from them because you love yourself too much to deal with toxicity. But that’s not where Shun’s head is right now and it, arguably, never has been. Part of him clearly agrees with his parents’ feelings about homosexuality, making him feel hesitant and even ashamed to be queer. 

This is why Mio is perfect for him.

Shun Gay Panic

Mio might have his own level of uncertainty, but it’s mainly because he’s in love with someone who isn’t sure about his feelings. It’s one thing to be in love with someone who doesn’t love you back, but to be in love with someone with so much self-doubt—particularly about their sexuality—can be hard. Shun straight up tells Mio things like “you’ll find a nice girl someday” and vocalizes his surprise that Mio doesn’t find him gross.

This isn’t because Shun doesn’t like Mio, it’s because Shun doesn’t like himself.

Mio is more focused on connecting with the person he loves. Mio lost his mother, so he very much doesn’t want to be alone, which means when he realizes he loves Shun he just goes for it. This catches Shun completely off guard because Mio is so open about it. It’s interesting because Mio is the younger of the two, so you kinda expect Shun to be the more mature “I’ve been there, done that” character, but Shun’s the one who’s got the most growing and self-reflecting to do. 

Mio losing his mother also creates another conflict about where Shun stands with his parents. As much as we discuss the notion of found family and walking away from toxic people who think that the family label protects them from accountability, you are still going to wonder what’s going on with your parents. You are especially going to wonder about your parents if you have someone close to you who lost theirs. What makes this easier, though, is closure. Shun needs closure so those lingering thoughts don’t continue to plague him. Furthermore, he has to want to seek out closure. Shun is very much a character who just goes with the flow of things instead of making his own decisions about life, love, and everything else.

Shun needs to make decisions for himself.

Shun Kisses Mio

Since I mentioned it, yes, there’s a sex scene in this, something I still can’t believe is on a major anime streaming service. That being said, the scene also surprised me because the characters have an honest conversation about sex. Neither of them is experienced, they’re open about not being experienced, they question who should take the lead, they use PROTECTION (something else I haven’t seen much of in queer anime, if ever), and it’s just a really nice scene after the slow burn of Shun sorting out his feelings.

And no, it’s not the most wildly explicit thing out there, but I’m so used to anything remotely sexual with queer people being wrapped in plastic/mature-rated/18+ that I was floored to see a TV-14 rating. 

That’s the rating it should have, honestly. Everything is shot subtly and the bigger focus is on their facial expressions and emotions. It’s exactly the sexual level you expect from TV-14 if there’s sex to be had.

All and all, if you’re someone who’s looking for a sweet, queer anime movie that touches on how you can be far away from the space that hurt you, yet still feel alone, leading to a revelation of having to embrace yourself before you can even attempt to be happy, then this movie is perfect for you.

Oh! And I should note that this says Movie 1 because there IS more to this story in the manga, so hopefully that gets animated too!

The Stranger By the Shore is now streaming on Funimation. The dub will be released tomorrow. As a reminder, this is the dub cast:

  • Josh Grelle as Shun
  • Justin Briner as Mio
  • Morgan Lauré as Eri
  • Bryn Apprill as Suzu
  • Amber Lee Connors as Sakurako
  • Jessica Cavanagh as Auntie
  • Steph Garrett as Young Mio
  • Brittney Karbowski as Mio’s Mom
  • Mary Morgan as Young Shun
  • Monica Rial as Shun’s Mom
  • David Wald as Shun’s Dad
  • Ciarán Strange️ as Mimi’s Bar Employee
  • Brandon McInnis as Wada

The two cats by the shore

(Image: Kii Kanna/SHODENSHA-Etranger partners)

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Author
Briana Lawrence
Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)