Your and My Secret Vol. 1
Gender switching is not exactly an unexplored topic in the realm of manga. From high-profile series, such as Ranma 1/2, to lesser known (but just as entertaining) titles like Futaba-kun Change, we've had our share of them over here in the states.
And now, we have another.
Ai Morinaga, the author of Your and My Secret, isn't as kind (or is it mean?) to her characters in this particular series as Rumiko Takahashi or Hiroshi Aro are with their distinct works. Unlike Ranma or Futaba-kun, Nanako Momoi and Akira Uehara are unable to change back into a girl or guy, respectively.
This immediately eliminates Morinaga's ability to throw in some of the standard plot devices that arise from changing genders in the middle of potentially humorous situations, such as in the locker room or while on a date. However, it does allow the manga-ka to explore the emotions of her protagonists with a consistent problem. That is, how will Momoi and Uehara adapt to life as a member of the opposite sex?
Well, first of all, let's examine the genesis of their new perspective. Nanako Momoi was a tomboy of a girl, with subterranean scores in school, a knack for physical activities (especially hitting people), and all the grace of an inebriated penguin.
Momoi's behavior is belied only by her appearance, for at first glance, she looks like an especially cute, petite student. She swiftly eliminates the misconception of attractiveness any guy might have about her when she walks, talks, or moves in any other way.
Perhaps because he's an amazingly nice and forgiving guy, Akira finds himself nonetheless smitten with Momoi. It may be that her manliness appeals to the quiet, unobtrusive Akira, or it may just be the fact that a cute girl is a cute girl, no matter the behavior malfunctions she may possess.
That's right; guys can be this easy.
So, drawn by his attraction to this devil of a woman, Akira ends up at Momoi's house on a school-related errand. An unexpected commotion brings him inside, where to his surprise, he discovers his beloved Momoi attached to a strange device, the unwilling subject of a mad experiment perpetrated by her grandfather! The brave Akira rescues Momoi only to have her turn on him, which surprises the easily duped hero even more. She pushes him into the machine so that he might take her place, but then the machine is activated, and the story gets going.
When Uehara is next able to gain his bearings, he sees himself assaulting Momoi's grandfather, and that's when the fun begins. The two discover that they've switched bodies, and while Akira is struck with a sense of shock and dismay, Momoi instantly sees a positive side of their situation when she realizes she now has the body of a boy - and the ability to mess with it.
More drama is introduced when Momoi - in Akira's body - begins to fall for her female friend, Shiina. Meanwhile, Akira is caught off guard when his best male friend, Senbongi, takes advantage of his distress at the situation and begins to make a move for Momoi's body.
One can imagine the possibilities with this scenario, though it's admittedly fun to watch events unfold. This is an enjoyable romantic comedy with an unusual (if not unique) spin on the situation. It's always entertaining to see characters who are forced to experience life from a completely different perspective, and swapping genders is about as different as you can get.
The adaptation is good, though it really should be with a translation staff of six people working on the project. Still, questionable translations are explained with notes from the writers in the back of the book, which is an admirable way to handle the domestication of manga. I've really taken a liking to the presence of honorifics in English adaptations, however, and they've been removed from this book. They add a significant level of depth that simply cannot easily be conveyed with English, and I never realized how much I enjoy them in manga until I read a book that lacks them.
From the imagery, it's clear that this is through and through a shoujo work. Large, expressive eyes; silken, detailed hair; and the frequent appearance of flowers as background screen tones gives that away rather quickly. The subject matter may be slightly more raunchy than a given shoujo manga series at times, but characters - especially Akira in Momoi's body - cry often enough to lock Your and My Secret firmly within the genre.
As a shoujo work, the series boasts the eye-catching attention to detail and concern for emotions that the subject stereotypically contains. Morinaga alternates between comical exaggerations and a more realistic illustrative style, keeping readers moving along with the fast pace of the story.
Your and My Secret is a quirky romantic comedy that should become even more entertaining once Akira stops crying about his situation and explores his newfound femininity. Though if he tries to explore too much, there's a good chance Momoi will find out and use his own body to beat the stuffing out of him.
She's a dangerous one, that Momoi.