by Ai Morinaga
published by ADV Manga; $9.99 US
Momoi is a lovely girl with a violent temper, poor impulse control, and a grandfather who thinks he’s a mad scientist. Uehara has a crush on her anyway, but since he’s sensitive and shy, nothing is likely to result from his attraction to her. Until they both wind up under one of grandfather’s crazy machines… and they swap bodies.
Momoi as a boy becomes someone to look up to, someone who excels on the basketball court and with girls at school. The first thing “he” does is run off and check out his new equipment. At home, his parents are proud that he’s finally standing up for himself and becoming a man. Uehara as a girl, in contrast, is the modest, well-behaved young lady everyone wanted Momoi to be. She’s too respectful to even watch her new body undress, and the first thing she does is clean up Momoi’s pigsty of a room.
Momoi’s quite the hypocrite, running around experimenting with her new body while threatening Uehara at the hint of him doing the same, but that’s just another reflection of how cultural expectations differ for boys and girls. Momoi’s happy to finally be allowed to behave in a way that’s normal for her.
In-between all this, there are lots of humorous situations based on learning about the opposite sex and the physical exploration that comes with growing up. There are also lots of closeups of the starry-eyed face of Momoi, as Uehara cries over not being as manly a man as a girl in his body is. He’s the only one who really wants to switch back, and as a girl, his worries often come out as tears.
They find themselves being attracted to the people they previously were best friends with, blaming their body’s hormones for liking members of the same sex they were born as. This manga seems to argue that traditional gender roles can’t or shouldn’t be broken, that the solution to the “problem” of a feminine boy or a masculine girl is to get them into other, more right bodies for them. As everyone keeps telling Uehara, “aren’t you happier this way?”
If I had my sociology hat on, I’d say something about how this book socializes cultural norms for gender behavior through the use of misfits to demonstrate how males and females should and shouldn’t behave. But that’s probably more thought than this entertaining comedy wants me to bring to it.
Update: Tokyopop now publishes this series.