So Cute It Hurts!! Volume 1
So Cute It Hurts!! is one of those “only in manga” setups. Megumu (girl) and Mitsuru (boy) are twins. Neither has yet found true love, because she plays history games and he’s a player. He’s sporty and adored while she’s a bit of a fan-geek.
He’s flunking history, so he badgers his sister into pretending to be him for the makeup test while he dresses as her. His ego isn’t affected by this at all, which is where the title comes from: his first day in a skirt, he thinks, “I’m so cute it hurts.”
That doesn’t help him when he’s smitten with another girl, someone being bullied by the school’s “star model”, who’s beautiful but nasty. Meanwhile, Megumu is chased by a jealous boyfriend whose girlfriend Mitsuru had poached. While hiding on the roof, she bumps into a gorgeous guy who smells of lavender and wears an eye patch.
Thus begins a parallel story of first loves. As drawn by Go Ikeyamada, the characters are cute, as they need to be. The events are highly emotional, elevating the pedestrian events with layers of teen angst.
I found the boy’s story, with the girl bully, more interesting than the more exaggeratedly dangerous boys’ school Megumu has to face. Particularly once the unique quality of Mitsuru’s crush is revealed, adding some depth to his situation.
However, in both cases, gender stereotypes are exaggerated for drama. The queen of the girls is a beautiful bitch who uses wiles to get her way. The king of the guys is the top fighter in the school. When Mitsuru is dressed as a girl, he still promises to protect the schoolmate he has a crush on (and occasionally swings a practice sword). When Megumu is pretending to be a boy, she still gets to see her love object look adorable surrounded by cats. Weirdly, the bad girl is made fun of for coming onto someone as a way to get what she wants, but when Mitsuru does it, it’s seen as part of his outgoing personality. In other words, she’s punished for trying to use sex as a weapon, while he does the same thing without penalty.
Although most of this volume is setup, the characters are appealing enough that I’d like to read more with them. Particularly given how self-possessed Mitsuru is. His egotism is weirdly inspiring. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)