To be a man among men, one must resolve all his problems with fists and courage. That is the code by which Chinami Eita lives, a young man devoted to being the toughest and coolest guy at his school. He hopes to use his strength and fighting prowess to charm the school idol Yuika, but his plans change when he mistakes a strange pill for flu medicine and wakes up hours later with the body of a girl.
Turns out the pill was a bizarre and expensive purchase by his flamboyant roommate, who suggests that Chinami seeks employment in the idol business to raise enough money to buy a new pill, in the vague hope that a double dose will somehow make him male again. As Chinami reluctantly decides to try it, he soon finds himself enjoying the job and growing more girly as a result. To his surprise, he even ends up drawing the romantic attention of Yuika, but she is not his only admirer.
Idol Pretender is a harem-y romcom that I found endearing and constantly amusing. Watching Chinami struggle with his identity, unsure if he wants to be a man again or continue his newfound life as a girl, is a strong hook and one that the manga explores plenty. Each chapter is quite long and filled with interesting hurdles to overcome and fun, unexpected twists. It also has some quality art and nice character designs, so today’s collection of manga is off to a glowing recommendation.
When a plane crashed into an abandoned forest, it shatters an ancient seal wrapped around a tree. This freed the souls of countless demons, while the lives of 500 humans are snuffed out in an instant. Yet among the wreckage, one little baby survives.
Years later, that baby has grown up to become Tachibana Hitori, a soft-hearted office clerk who is unrelentingly friendly and compassionate. However, he soon learns that he carries a powerful demon inside him, which changes his life drastically when other demons begin hunting him down, often in broad daylight and in public. Tachibana and the demon king Oniwakamaru must learn to coexist in order to keep both of them alive, all while slowly uncovering an ancient plot involving the questionable Buddhist monk that erected the seal in the first place.
This is another kick-ass action manga by our old friend Tetsuya Saruwatari, which has his trademark strengths. The manga is beautifully illustrated and filled with gore and body horror. His storytelling continues to improve, with Tachibana and his friends & family all being interesting and likable characters, which all end up in the cross-fire of his battles with demonkind in one way or another. I was really into this story and particularly enjoyed the bond between Tachibana and the demon king, but do have to lament that the story ends very abruptly.
Hyuuga is leading a normal, everyday school life, save for the fact that one of his classmates is a European princess and heir to her nation’s throne. She is aloof and mysterious, which suits Hyuuga just fine, as he himself is antisocial and doesn’t care for other people. However, he one day catches her out of character and is quickly forced into becoming her servant/lover.
The idea of a normal teenager becoming the boyfriend of a royal princess while both are still in school is a fun one and could be used for much comedic potential. In fact, when Iinari Princess focuses on this and plays around with its side characters, the manga displays much potential. Sadly, it fails to utilize its own strengths and instead opts for cheap sex appeal instead.
We could be reading about a princess and a boy building up a romance, but instead the awkward teen Hyuuga is perfectly confident with diving face-first into the princess’ panties the moment she expresses any amount of consent. Nearly every chapter is derailed for a lengthy sex scene that doesn’t at all match the personalities of our couple. And when the first romance scene goes straight for full nudity Cunnilingus, there is little to work up towards in the remaining chapters.
Potentially interesting for those who want a decent hentai, but that’s about it.
Ijiwaru na Aitsu / Stop Bullying me
Bullying is terrible, there is no doubt about it. I used to believe that nobody deserved being a victim of it, but reading the suitably titled Stop Bullying Me has convinced me that maybe, just maybe, some people really are asking for it. Specifically Tomo Masaki.
Tomo is such an insufferable little pussy. He is dimwitted and slow, fragile to the point of tearing up at any perceived slight, and he’s completely devoted and dependent on his older brother. He sits around outside the student council room every day just waiting for him and thinks he is being bullied by the vice president, who takes issue with his behavior and lightly mocks him for it. After a lot of crying, this eventually culminates in a budding romance between the two, which Tomo’s brother doesn’t entirely approve of.
I appreciate yaoi manga when they are good, but the romance here feels wrong. Tomo is not treated like a lover, because he needs to be constantly babied by everyone lest he burst out into tears. It’s not loving, it’s fucking weird.
Shizukuishi is a half-human, half-robot girl who carries within her the soul of a monstrous golem looming over the city where she lives. If she were to ever have sex, she’d forfeit the soul and the golem is revived. However, when she meets high schooler Kouki, a thread of light forms between the two and they become connected.
Shizu is on the run from a big tech conglomerate looking to research how she operates and other forces are at work looking to restart the dormant golem. The thread of light between her and Kouki allows him to control Shizu and unleash her combat potential, but Kouki is out-of-shape and has to learn how to control this mysterious power. Meanwhile, the soul of the golem acts as an aphrodisiac, so when triggered it compels Shizu to “romance” poor Kouki who has an increasingly tough time resisting her advances.
Airbration I’d categorize under the “sexually weird” label. Its story is bizarre and the manga has a fascination with urination, which is most prominently shown when the aphrodisiac strikes. Strangely, it is still less over-the-top than Iinari Princess and benefits from characters that are actually fun and a story that I found interesting to follow. I really wanted to see where Airbration was going and got some good laughs out of it. Still, it is very ecchi and the visuals don’t leave much to the imagination, so consider if that’s what you want before diving into this weird tale.
Ikoku Shoujo to Sumire no Hanataba / Foreign Girl and Bouquet of Violets
Not all manga is fun to read because it’s good or immediately appealing, which is certainly what I felt working through this story. It’s not a premise that immediately grabs you and it took me a while to grow fond of the characters, but it constantly kept me intrigued enough to want to read more.
Masaki Ryou is a modern Japanese student who one day falls down a well and wakes up in a flowerbed in 19th century England. There he is received as a guest and soon finds out that he is being mistaken for his grandfather, who did study his craft overseas.
It’s a fun story, as Ryou and another exchange student take up residence with a 19th-century weaboo and her wealthy family. However, the story doesn’t have much focus and begins to be about a series of smaller sub-plots. Ryou begins to shift into a background role and is overtaken by the two girls, then suddenly has to take center stage again for the finale.
On the fictional island of Ilegenes, research into genetic modification has gone out of control. People modify bodies at will, create clones to harvest organs, or create enslaved AI people with bizarre modifications. A fierce black market has the government in its pockets and is quick to deal with any dissenters looking to regulate their business.
Fon Fortinbras Littenber learned that the hard way when his parents were murdered by company goons for protesting against rampant modification. Now grown up, Fon still lives on Ilegenes and has entered its military academy. From there, he hopes to work his way up the ranks, attain power, and end the era of corruption that has turned Ilegenes into a dystopian hellhole. However, his patience is growing thin and, as he learns more of the people who slew his parents and the true depravity of the island’s underworld, his desire to lash out and slaughter the criminals becomes harder and harder to control.
Ilegenes was a good read and should appeal to fans of Deus Ex and similar works that explore the ethics of futuristic sciences like genetic modification. It handles its deep themes well and has a cast of characters I grew very interested in, like the aristocrat Janis who has a clone to grow limbs for him to replace his aging prosthetics, but still treats the clone as a little brother and seems to genuinely love him. The fact that all the main characters are handsome boys also adds extra points to the score.
Imawabi no Dakini
Now this is the kind of shounen that I like. Fushimi is a young man who has a mutual crush on his lifelong childhood friend Toume. However, he one day wakes up at a shrine and finds out that she has been possessed by an ancient fox deity that grants wishes. He, of course, wishes to have her returned to his side, but wishes like that come at a high price.
Fushimi becomes a servant of the fox Goddess Dakini and must aid her in slaying evil spirits. Her appearance has caused a breach between the spiritual and human worlds, yet Dakini can harvest the energy from these evil spirits to increase her own power. Still, there are spirits out there that even she fears and mystical forces operate from the shadows, looking to attain the Fox Goddess for their own purposes.
This manga scored major points with me for the great character designs and the expressive nature of its protagonists. Dakini is immediately interesting through her design alone; powerful, a mischievous side sometimes crossing into malice, but also a little goofy and out of her element. I ended up very invested in the story and the bittersweet ending struck me so hard I didn’t want to read anything else that day.
A solid 8/10 manga, but it is held back by all the references to folklore that I found nearly impossible to follow.
When a young girl is killed in a car accident while crossing the road, an unnamed novelist sees something he shouldn’t have. Her friend survived, the truck just barely missing her, but before bursting into tears at the death of her friend, he sees the girl save her video game. Why would she do that? The thought lingers in his head, until one day he returns home and is taken hostage by that same girl. She leads him back to her house, where he is locked up in a storage room so that he can never expose her secret.
However, despite getting numerous opportunities to escape or overpower her, our friend convinces himself to stay and not even call the cops, despite her failing to confiscate his phone. Through his imprisonment and glimpses into his captor’s life, we learn more about her and what drives her to kidnap a stranger who may have thought she acted a bit weird. Did she cause the accident? Is it some kind of psychosis? Wait, where are her parents and is this even her house?
Imperfect Girl is an absorbing mystery story and not knowing what the little girl is capable of is an interesting narrative device. Will she resort to violence or is that merely a threat? Is she getting sloppy with her security measures or is she testing her prey? I was very driven to learn more about her and how the protagonist’s imprisonment would end.
The superhero team Gakusei 5 consists of five students who battle alien invaders looking to conquer Earth, but most people think there are only four. Yuji fills the role of superhero Green, but he is afraid to fight and prefers to stay far behind his teammates. The manga doesn’t make it clear if he is supporting his team from the backline or just outright cowering, but it’s obvious he isn’t the most upstanding hero and certainly not self-sacrificing.
His cowardly ways are put to the test when he one day finds a recently-defeated villainess in the playground. She has been wounded and is now starving, unable to make sense of our earthly ways and unused to not having servants at her beck and call. Yuji helps her out, but this one act of kindness spins out of control when she declares she is staying with him forever and never leaving our planet again!
I love the parodies on super sentai stories that Imperfect Hero offers and Yuji was a good character to focus on. I enjoyed seeing how he interacts with the more heroic members of his team and how he juggles trying to hide his superhero identity to the villainess Mayura, while also trying to hide his involvement with her from the rest of his team. A good story overall, especially if you share my soft spot for this old school artstyle.
In Search of Lost Time
Variety Art Works is basically the World Masterpiece Theater in manga format, but with some curious and out there picks for what stories they adapt. While last time this meant I had to read the overly-cynical I Am A Cat, this time I ended up finding In Search of Lost Time and absolutely loved it.
The story follows a 19th-century French aristocrat of a minor family, looking back on all the highlights of his life and trying to determine where it made a turn for the worse. We flashback to his youngest memories and follow this man as he matures. Its a story dense in a culture that is hard to fathom nowadays, with people obsessing over social controversies like wealthy sons marrying actresses and the like. Our protagonist is an intriguing man with a lot to say about high society and its machinations, making this story really feel like a guided tour through the life of a bourgeoisie.
It’s a shame it does begin to feel rushed after the adolescence chapter, because the story is otherwise a straight 9/10 for me. The artstyle and character designs are also great and expressive, especially when you consider you get to see all these characters grow old. If you have a fondness for European history, this is a must-read story.
Ichinensei ni Nacchattara / In The First Grade
Yeah, this is a good point to draw the line for today’s collection of manga. In The First Grade is about a high schooler called Iori who, on his way to confess his love to a classmate, is run over by a truck after pushing a grade schooler out of the way. He dies, but his body is stolen by a young scientist with a lolicon fetish, who returns him back to life in the body of a five-year-old.
I know, stellar subject matter.
Iori just kind of starts living with the lolicon scientist, where he also discovers that the girl he loves is her sister. Iori then enrolls in elementary school where he is reunited with the girl he saved.
It’s such a useless plot. Returning Iori to his proper body is an objective that’s continuously dangled in front of us, but there is nothing preventing the scientist from just doing so; the solution is just withheld to prolong the manga’s runtime. The manga did have some nice moments and creative jokes, but there’s a constant, uncomfortable vibe to all of it. It makes fun of lolicons, but it’s also very much pandering to them. Kids are drawn in seductive poses and clothing, even going so far as to imply it’s normal for kids to wear bedroom lingerie.
Some pervy jokes would have raised an eyebrow, but wouldn’t be the end of the world. It’s Ichinensei ni Nacchattara’s relentlessness that bothers me. Chapter after chapter of cringeworthy storylines with sexual themes and gratuitous “fan”-service, it’s incredibly one-note and has no business being 60 chapters long. I wasn’t looking forward to the ending because of excitement, but because that’s when I would know for sure if it had all been a massive waste of time.