by Takahashi Miyuki; adaptation by Tony Ogasawara
published by DC/CMX Manga; $9.99 US
While the first books of the series were action movie-like, Book 4 adds soap opera elements to the mix.
Musashi has been guarding Shingo, a student who wound up with incriminating photographs that caused gun smugglers to try to assassinate him. Shingo develops a crush on the powerful and mysterious superspy, which complicates his protection. Musashi, meanwhile, has been given another mission, so when she’s otherwise occupied, the organization sends a duplicate who looks just like her to attend school and watch Shingo in her place. Only the double is really a guy instead of just looking like one, which adds to Shingo’s confusion.
Those readers familiar with Silver Age superhero stories will find some of this sounds a little familiar, although with reversed genders. Manga fans, meanwhile, will recognize some key elements of shôjo stories, such as gender swapping. The result is an exciting action/adventure/romantic comedy, with something for everyone and beautiful delineated art.
Shingo is constantly reminded, through both lecture and actions, that Musashi is a world-class agent with life-changing responsibilities. He has no hope for her attention, let alone anything more. His bad attitude is a result of having his crush denied, multiplied by his issues over having a girl (no matter how skilled, experienced, and talented) protect him. She’s so unusual that she’s simultaneously a source of attraction and frustration.
It’s rare to see a male Lois Lane type in American comics. There have been superhero boyfriends, but they’re shown as much more competent than Shingo is, and usually there’s a subtext that the female should settle down with him eventually. That’s not the case here. It’s clear that his love is impossible, so the story is more about making him realize it than in winning her heart.
In the new mission, Musashi is going undercover as a high school girl to obtain missile launch codes that accidentally wound up in the purse of a teenager. That girl, the daughter of a politician, has a bad attitude because her boyfriend just dumped her.
Along the way, she learns a new way to be female from Musashi. I really appreciated the way Musashi’s shown as a kind of role model, demonstrating that women don’t have to be traditionally retiring and weak. As a trade, Musashi learns that there are other ways to get what you want beyond demanding it — she helps the girl score reputation points on her ex in return for the information she needs. Musashi’s gorgeous as either boy or girl, by the way.
One of the key characters in this story masquerades as an American naval officer, so there’s an explanatory chart of officer rankings at the beginning of the book. That’s a nice plus, but in an unfortunate oversight, the character is a Commodore, and that rank isn’t included on the chart. Book 4 also includes a short story in which a young Musashi and two other kid agents save a hijacked plane. The main story from Book 4 concludes in the next volume.