How Call Of The Night Touched My Asexuality

While I won't give away any late-game major plot details or surprises, I will be discussing some aspects of this series' characters. If you wanna go in blind, go now! Also, it may go without saying, but my personal experience and views about asexuality, aromanticism, and related things are by no means definitive or all-encompassing.

I'm not good at talking about my feelings. At all. It's one of the hardest things for me, especially for gender, orientation...almost any queer topic, as it pertains to myself is terribly difficult. I can't really attempt to unpack all that today, but what I can talk about is...manga!

Having been a fan of author Kotoyama's style since I laid eyes on Dagashi Kashi way back then, I recently dived into their latest manga, Call of the Night. I hadn't heard too much about the series prior, though I did see female lead Nazuna a few times when an anime adaptation aired. The idea of a somewhat laid-back, vampire manga with a budding relationship sounded appealing to me.

What I found was a manga that quickly became dear to me, as it explored so many different kinds of relationships and emotions that I 've always struggled with. In a way, I started to live vicariously through the manga's storyline, wanting to be in this vampire world. Let's detail hopes that I'm not all alone out here!

Kou Yamori

Kou is our protagonist in Call of the Night. At the series outset, he's had enough of putting on a facade to be a social darling at school. Starting to explore his hometown at night, he meets Nazuna, the vampire. Feeling like vampirism is a gateway into a more interesting life away from the daytime world, he now must fall in love with Nazuna to be turned.

Seems simple enough, but Kou has never fallen in love before, no crushes or flirtations, nothing. So, what does it mean to fall in love? How do you know for sure when it happens? Is love the thumping in your chest? Call of the Night asks questions like that, and about a hundred more. If your definition of love came naturally to you, I imagine Call can read like it's trying to reinvent the wheel.

For me though, it rings familiar. I never developed sexual feelings when I was supposed to, and nobody particularly noticed! Myself included, for a long time. But without sexual attraction blossoming inside of me, I had no particular guidance about who I liked, or why, or what I was supposed to do with anyone and when. I thought everyone was doing this arbitrarily, kind of like how at a certain age you might start thinking violence and guns are awesome. I figured it was the same thing and that I would just decide to get into girls or boys at some point. I acted like I was, for most of my school age.

Kou's quest has some commonalities with me, then. The end goal is vampirism and a perceived life of freedom, but love is the road he's got to take to get there. He doesn't fall in love with Nazuna right away! Nazuna and Kou do quickly take to each other in a sort of "situationship"* but how do you know when you've fallen for someone? Does trying to fall in love get in the way? The series does an admirable job of letting the two grow together at a natural pace. Sometimes that means disagreements and spats, and other times Kou and Nazuna are a match made in heaven.

*Shoutout to situationship which has to be one of the greatest language inventions of the 21st century. It's even in dictionaries now!

In one scene from chapter 43 that hits way too close to home, Detective Anko Uguisu grills Kou over his apparent inability to turn into a vampire. She tells him, "...I doubt you can become a vampire anyway since you seem incapable of falling in love. Maybe you just aren't...equipped with those emotions.

I've heard that before, more than once, and it sucks. It hurts badly when there is someone you like, maybe love, and you can't seem to show them in a way that feels real for everyone. I was shocked that a scene like this made into what I thought was a simple flirty romcom!

Textually speaking, Kou Yamori would probably be best described aromantic, not entirely asexual. It's a little point of divergence for me and Kou. Kou has a few flashes of erotic feelings, and the differences between lust, love, and everything surrounding them part of the series' story. Erotic topics come up fairly frequently, especially for comedy (Viz's official age rating for the series is "Teen Plus"). For some people across many different spectrums, sex and romance can be very closely tied together. Speaking anecdotally here, in a lot of media, they're the same. Screen time is precious, not everything has time to get into nuanced depictions of love. When they are separate, it's often the case that sex will be portrayed as "lesser" or "inauthentic" versus romantic love, which is "true" love.

There's nothing particularly wrong with any of that. It is how it is. Call of the Night has shades of it too, our main characters are on quest for a kind of "true love", after all. It's also not totally shameful of sexual feelings though, which is something I appreciate. In other words, sexual topics aren't just for perverts here, they can be a an engaging and real part of a relationship. Lust might not be love, especially for gloomy Kou. But it's also not something that totally invalidates every other feeling you might have about someone. There are still gags about it, it is still a comedy, but a little balance goes a long way with me, and Call does have some.

All that is to say, I do relate a lot to Kou Yamori, and the tone and storytelling in Call helps me get there, too. I don't think any fictional character is going to exactly mirror me. That's fine, I can't say I desire to be depicted too accurately anyway. A book about me probably wouldn't be a terribly good one. I have yet to meet any vampires (if you are a vampire, please let me know), but Kou's challenges with love, relationships, and a desire to get away from typical human life all speak familiar to me.

Nazuna Nanakusa

It wouldn't be fair to talk just about Kou though, when Nazuna is just as much the main character! Nazuna Nanakusa is the first vampire Kou meets, and in some ways is his opposite. Believe it or not, though, Nazuna also struggles with admitting to her love, and letting romantic feelings blossom. She's much, much more of a free-wheeling, fun-loving, flirtatious type, whereas Kou is cautious and practical. Nazuna loves to tease, screw around, and generally be playful about most things in life.

Having this kind of character as our female lead is great. I sincerely believe she's funny. There was a time I would be turned off by her style of jokes and humor when I was first rediscovering myself as asexual. I was a little more sensitive to sexy topics back then. Nowadays though, I think she's a charming little riot! It's good to have this kind of character when you're exploring different relationships and emotions. Someone who can push typical buttons, speak her mind, and be forward about what she wants. Unless it involves the L word.

Nazuna absolutely can't get the word "love" out of her mouth. Genuine romantic feelings, even just mentioning them around other people, completely throws her off her game. This is one of the greatest ways that she opposes Kou, who can somewhat calmly discuss almost anything in a down to Earth way. Nazuna's big and boisterous, until the gestures seem to turn romantic.

In addition, Nazuna is a fully realized character with her own story that goes far beyond Kou. While they become extremely important to each other (after taking plenty of time to navigate that), Nazuna has existed for quite some time before Kou's appearance in her life, she has her own independent things she wants. This helps make it believable when Kou and Nazuna start to bond and come to know each other. They'll laugh at each others mannerisms, big and small, things like that make it seem like a real relationship, something beyond manga hero wish fulfillment.

While I can most closely identify with Kou, Nazuna is extremely important for a different set of emotions. I imagine anyone who likes to have some fun, takes some pride in flirtations, but is afraid to "settle down" or "take things seriously", could see a bit of themselves in her. I think almost anyone, ace, allo, or any romantic feelings, can understand her at the very least.

The Vampire Community Is Like The Queer Community

I don't think I'm going to win a Galaxy Brain award for this one, but it's simply too endearing to the series identity, and my love of it, to shove aside. Vampires have a long, long history of being tied with queerness in some way. Not always for good reasons, but nevertheless the vampire has remained a fixture of gayness in many flavors. The tradition continues in Call. One of the most interesting things about the series is that vampires are not a monolith.

Vampires in Call do not all know each other. They don't know everything about the history of vampires. And if they do know something, it might be hearsay or legend from a long time ago. If it's something recent, they might not know how it developed or turned out in the end. Nobody seems to know all the rules for vampirism, if there are rules. Sometimes there are oddities within oddities. Do I need to keep going here?

Despite all of that, as the story develops, so too does a strong sense of community between all the different characters. When their way of life and very existence is threatened, try to work together and take this threat wave seriously. If what I'm talking about isn't clear, you can pretty much replace the word vampire with 'gay, bi, trans, queer, ace, lesbian...' and so on.

That community feeling in Call is a big part of why I wanted to be in the world and kept wanting to come back when I wasn't reading it. I had a bit of an insert in Kou, but everyone else is delightfully fascinating. Seri is a gyaru with blonde hair and brown roots showing with her own love problems. Hatsuka is a male vampire who dresses and presents however he darn well pleases. When this is revealed to Kou, who thought Hatsuka was a female, he doesn't shame or get mean with Hatsuka. Midori works at the maid cafe and has a delightfully different sort of boyfriend/servant/ally that's portrayed with a refreshing amount of positivity. And while it's certainly not a yuri manga, WLW relationships come up quite a few times. All this works together to creation the sensation that these are all real, queer people that we know from our own lives.

Having once worked an overnight job where I was completely alone (legal in my state!) and facing customers, I can attest to the fact that 3AM is a different dimension. The way the night itself is portrayed in Call is yet another element where I see some of my life. The night can be peaceful solitude away from everything, or crippling loneliness when no one you would normally turn to is awake. You can meet the weirdest, sweetest people, or have your life threatened in a flash. All this stuff happens in Call. I still get anxious working past a certain hour, but through this manga, I could safely relieve some of those different, interesting night time experiences. To the really tall girl in the Naruto shirt who called me "kid" at midnight, I will never forget you.

Seeing Yourself

It would be a bit hasty of me to say something like Call of the Night is queer culture or a faithful expression of even just one queer experience. I would tell you it's a great manga with incredible pacing, fun surprises, and more drama and heart than you might expect. If you're really, truly interested in a manga focused squarely on asexuality, I can point to one-shot "Mine-Kun is Asexual" (this one stings, but it's good!). I'm aware that the same author, Isaki Uta, made a follow up work "Is Love The Answer?", to glowing reviews, but have yet to read it for myself.

We don't always find ourselves in things that are written for us, about us, or even by us. I always enjoy hearing about people's queer feelings emerging in unexpected places, popular or unpopular headcanons. One of my favorite examples is how many people (particularly transmascs) see something of themselves in Danny Phantom. Things like that are so sweet, cool, and come from a fascinating place.

That's how Call of the Night is for me. It just so happened that many elements of the series' identity and lead character hit on some part of my own life. And it's a gorgeous manga that was hard to put down. What could be better than that? Great comics are important to me! It might seem a bit odd that I found something so engrossing and absorbing here. At a glance it might seem counter to what one might imagine an aro/ace experience could be like. But that's how it is, isn't it? Sometimes mirrors are around the corner when we had no intention of looking at one. We can meet a new kin or role model at any time.

This is one of the hardest things I've tried to write so far. Queerness and identity are tricky subjects sometimes. It's hard to describe. I usually kind of hate talking about my feelings, but if even just one queer person enjoyed this and understands it a little bit, I'd say it'd be worth all the turmoil! If you are that person, how about signing the guestbook? It's free, can be anonymous, and lets me know you were here. If you enjoyed the article, sharing on social means a lot! I create Emotion Engine independently, and I'm trying to bring a little humanity back to the internet.

See you next time!

- James