Sunday, February 13, 2005

Cheeky Angel Book 1
by Hiroyuki Nishimori
English Adaptation: Gary Leach
Translator: Joe Yamazaki
Viz, June 2004, $9.95

I wasn't sure about trying this series about gender switching comedy. Usually when something like that happens in stories they tend to focus on the icky sides, with the different ways of certain bodily functions. Or have the character eerily oggling themselves and their new parts, or even worse talk about how terrible it is to be a woman or man in general.

Yet this series shatters all of those expectations, and just made me wonder why I waited so long to try the book.

It follows Megumi, who when he was 9 years old rescued an older man he assumed was a wizard, and was given one wish. He wished to be "the manliest man in the world" but his wish was misinterpreted as wanting to be "the womanliest woman in the world" instead.

Flash forward to age 16, Megumi's lived the last 6 years as a girl and is about to start high school. His only real friend is Miki, she was with him when his wish was granted and is the only one that remembers when he was a boy. Which is what he needs, with every guy in the world out to try and get in his pants.

Their friendship is a little odd though, with Miki constantly trying to push Meg to act more feminine in her dealings with the boys passes. Which to her seems to mean being extremely passive, while Meg just wants to beat them up until they learn to leave him alone.

It is an interesting exploration of what it is expected of the different sexes. Both seem a bit too extreme takes on it --- Miki needs to learn that standing up for yourself doesn't make you less feminine. While Meg needs to learn that violence doesn't solve every problem.--- but seeing them journey to eventually learn that is interesting so far.

There are implications that Miki and Meg might become even more for each other in the future. Since Miki's the only one who Meg trusts and can really talk to. If it happens, it will make for an additional level of enjoyment to watch for.

One of the things that startled me was seeing such an honest look at the stupidity and downright intruding nature of boys trying to show their affection for girls.

From the class bully Genzo, who after being beat up by Meg falls in love with her and constantly bothers her to go out with him despite Meg telling him no. To the nerdy guys who seek to protect and win Meg's heart through acts of random kindness and "heroic" deeds. Yet are really just pests who won't leave Megumi any personal time to herself or with Miki to do what they want.

None of them can get beyond their own feelings for what they want to try and see what Megumi feels and wants. They treat Megumi as an object to be won rather than an actual person, which is why they really have no chance of ever getting anywhere.

All of which make for a compelling story, as Megumi wonders if he would act the same way if he was still a guy in their place. Which provides interesting insight at the nature of who we are as individuals and as a whole, while still keeping things light enough to be fun.

I can't wait to read volume 2!

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