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Manga / Claudine

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Claude de Montesse is a trans man living in early 20th century France. Born in a woman's body, he was assumed female at birth and thus given the feminine name Claudine. It wasn't until he was eight that he began to dress in traditional masculine clothing and inform everyone that he was really a boy. While his father respected this, Claude's mother insisted on taking him to a psychiatrist. Claude would later develop something of a friendship with the psychiatrist, who would take a deep interest in the young boy.

The psychiatrist won't be the only one: Claude's good looks, natural charisma, and gentlemanly demeanor will prove irresistible to multiple women as he grows up. Four in particular- his childhood friend Rosemarie, the sweet maid Maura, the stunning librarian Cécilia, and the lovely ballerina Sirène- will show him that love can hurt as much as heal.

Claudine (クローディーヌ...!, Kurōdīnu...!, "Claudine...!") is a 1978 Shōjo manga by Riyoko Ikeda. It was serialized in Weekly Margaret in January 1978 before being released as a single volume later that same year. An English translation was published in 2018 by Seven Seas Entertainment. The manga is notable for being one of the first manga (if not the first) to feature an explicitly trans character as well as explore trans related issues in a sympathetic light.

Note: While the main character is referred to by his deadname and with female pronouns, he's also explicitly stated to be trans. As such, the main character will be referred to as Claude and with male pronouns.

This manga includes examples of:

  • The Ace: At university, Claude becomes a popular gentleman and scholar whose even invited to events like the gentleman's club.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Rosemarie's love for Claude is reject by him and he never falls for her. His own feelings for Cécilia are rejected, and Sirène ultimately chooses Claude's oldest brother over him.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Claude passionately declares his love to Cécilia one night, but she rejects him since she can only ever see Claude as a girl.
  • Arranged Marriage: Instead of marrying for love, Claude's parent's marriage was arranged.
  • Birds of a Feather: Claude and Cécilia bonded over their shared love for the written word.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • It's hard not to feel sorry for Maura when she realizes that her first paycheck never arrived home and when her dad suddenly dies.
    • Rosemarie witnesses all the disgraces that befalls Claude, and can only give him limited support. She gets half her face scarred in the fire that killed August and Cécilia and that, combined with her one-sided love for Claude, means she'll never marry.
  • Broken Ace: While Claude is popular on campus, he still struggles in his romantic life due to being transgender.
  • Broken Bird:
    • By the time Sirene rejected Claude for his older brother, he's beyond depressed at how society treats him along with the constant heartbreak he's faced.
    • Rosemarie's broken by the end of the story, unable to get over Claude's rejection and later death.
  • Character Development: By the end of the manga, Rosemarie's accepted that Claude will never love her and claims to bear no hard feelings towards him, choosing to support him no matter what.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • After exiting the psychrist's office the first time around, he sees a bushy-haired girl's umbrella flying away. He catches it and brings it back to it's very grateful owner. Some years later, the bushy-haired girl- whose name is Maura- returns into Claude's life as a maid. Maura becomes Claude's first love.
    • When Claude was fifteen-years-old, he saw a pretty girl through the window of a ballet academy. Two years later, the girl comes back into his life: her name is Sirène, and she becomes his third and last love.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Rosemarie was Claude's neighbor and they've known each other since they were kids. Also since they were kids, Rosemarie has been in love with him. She confessed to him but was ultimately rejected. She seems to be the girl who understood him the most out of all of those involved in his life; though she still refers to him by his birth name and with female pronouns, she calls him "a true man given a female body", in contrast to Cécilia who could only ever see Claude as a girl.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Rosemarie loved Claude and was jealous of any other woman he happened to fall in love with, causing her to lash out in passive-aggressive ways towards the other woman/women.
  • Coming of Age Story: Claudine tells the story of a noble young trans man who grows up from a boy to a young man during early 1900s France.
  • Country Mouse: Maura's parents worked as retainers for the de Montesse family, and she was even born in the main house. Then they moved back to a nearby village, and Maura came to work to the main home.
  • Downer Ending: The story ends with Claude committing suicide after finding out his lover left him for his oldest brother.
  • The Hero Dies: Claude takes his own life after Sirène chooses his eldest brother over him.
  • Hot Librarian: Cécilia is a beautiful young woman who worked as a librarian for Claude's high school.
  • Hot Teacher: He worked as Rosemarie's tutor and is quite handsome.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: When Claude explains to Sirène that he's trans, she takes it in stride.
  • Jerkass: Even before Louis' lover cheated on him, he was aloof and had anger issues.
  • Kick the Dog: Rosemarie meets Maura while the maid was on her way to the post office. Maura got lost and Rosemarie deliberately sends her in the opposite direction out of jealousy. Since Maura has no sense of direction, she gets hopelessly lost and winds up losing the money she intended to send to her mother and dying father.
  • Idiot Ball: In the final chapter, practically everyone around Claude begins to behave like assholes to him. Sirène cheats on Claude with Andrew who bluntly tells Claude that he "forgave her this sin, because you're a girl", after which the psychiatrist technically finishes our main character by suggesting that Claude is "an imperfect male" on account of being born in a woman's body.
  • Inter Generational Friendship: The psychiatrist is at least middle-aged when he meets the ten-year-old Claude. Despite the large age gap, they both share a lasting friendship. The psychiatrist explicitly refers to Claude as a good friend in the ending narration.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Louis and Claude are both stunningly pretty men with long blond hair.
  • Love Hurts: Claude's love affairs all end poorly, either just for him, his love interest, or both.
    • He falls hard for Maura and they share a kiss, but Claude's mother catches them, leading her to send Maura back home.
    • Cécilia can only see Claude as a female friend, rejecting his Anguished Declaration of Love, and is later murdered by her own brother.
    • Sirène chooses Andrew over Claude, resulting in Claude's decision to commit suicide.
  • Meido: Maura is an adorable girl who works as a maid for the Montesse family.
  • The Mourning After: Rosemarie never stopped caring for and loving Claude, as evident when we see her visiting Claude's grave.
  • Nice Guy: The Doctor is a true gentleman who respects Claude as the man he is.
  • No Name Given: Claude's mother's given name is never stated, only being referred to as Madame de Montesse. The psychiatrist she takes Claude too is left completely nameless.
  • Not Good with Rejection:
    • Louis founds out through Rosemarie that Auguste was sleeping with his sister, Cécilia. Then he went crazy.
    • Sirène's secret affair with Claude's oldest brother, Andrew, and her choosing him over Claude is the primary factor in Claude's decision to shoot himself.
  • Parents as People: Claude's father Auguste is an Open-Minded Parent, letting Claude dress and act as he likes instead of trying to force him to be someone he's not. That said, Auguste has his own personal issues that he's not dealing with, mainly that being his affairs with Louis and Louis's sister, Cécilia.
  • Parental Favoritism: Auguste favored Claude among his children because Claude was the one most similar to himself. Claude is said to be pretty much the "second coming" of Auguste.
  • Princely Young Man: Claude and his brothers were raised to be distinguished gentlemen who treated women respectfully.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The psychiatrist treats Claude with respect and doesn't ever try to convince Claude that he's not trans.
  • Rule of Three: Claude falls deeply love with three different women throughout his life.
  • Scars are Forever: Rosemarie's scarred face "ruined her for marriage", so she sees herself as unfit for any suitor.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Claude gives one to Maura when she's grieving over her father's sudden death. Claude's mom catches them and they have a huge fight, which leads to Claude going to the psychiatrist for the second time.
  • Sibling Triangle: A love triangle forms between Claude, his third love Sirène, and Claude's oldest brother Andrew. Sirène ultimately chooses Andrew.
  • Sleep Cute: A very fatigued and cold Maura falls asleep on Claude's shoulder right after arriving at the de Montesse home on a rainy day.
  • Snow Means Death: Claude kills himself on a snowy night. It's still snowing when Rosemarie visits his grave.
  • Sobriquet Sex Switch: Claude's name is only two letters away from his deadname, Claudine.
  • Spurned into Suicide: What specifically pushes Claude into shooting himself is how Sirène- his third and last love- left him for his eldest brother Andrew.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Claude's older brothers- Andrew, Edward, and Thomas- all grew up to be tall, handsome men with black or brown hair.
  • Trans Equals Gay: Played with: Claude is aware that people who don't truly know him will mistake any relationship he has with a woman as a lesbian relationship. It's why he and Sirène are careful to keep their romantic feelings for each other hidden, even though Sirène knows that Claude is a heterosexual trans man.
  • Trans Relationship Troubles: Claude's relationship with Maura is interfered with because it's seen as same-sex and thus inappropriate. Cécilia rejects him because she can only see him "as a girl".
  • Trans Tribulations: While a lot of Claude's issues are directly caused by his turbulent love life, the fact that he's seen by others as a masculine woman instead of the man he is definitely exacerbates these issues. Something that contributes towards his suicide is a phone call he has with his psychologist, who tries to assure him by saying that he's a man who happened to have an imperfect body. Claude interprets this to mean that he'll never truly be a man because of the body he was born in.
  • Two-Faced: Rosemarie has scars on half of her face due to the fire that killed Auguste and Cécilia.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: When he first sees Claude, Louis mistakes him for a cisboy. It isn't until Rosemarie mentions Claude's relation to Auguste de Montesse that Louis realizes Claude was born female.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: A distressed Rosemarie tells Louis about Auguste and Cécilia, not knowing that Louis was Auguste's first lover. Louis snaps massively, setting a gamekeeper's hut holding Auguste and Cécilia on fire. The fire ends up killing them both, and leaves Rosemarie herself with severe burns on half of her face.
  • Uptown Girl: A gender-inverted variant between Claude and Maura: Claude is the youngest son of the rich de Montesse family, while Maura is a poor maid who enters the de Montesse home in order to earn money for her sick father. Maura becomes Claude's first love and they wind up sharing a kiss.
  • White Hair, Black Heart: Louis has white hair, and commits atrocious actions like setting fire to a house when he finds out that he was cheated on.
  • Yandere: Louis had been having an affair with Auguste for years. When he finds out through Rosemarie that Auguste was cheating on him with Louis's sister, Cécilia, Louis completely flips out, setting fire to the hut that Auguste and Cécilia while they were still inside.