oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
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Uehara Akira is a handsome but painfully shy high school student with a crush on the beautiful but crude Momoi Nanako. The girls don't pay attention to Uehara because he's too retiring, and the guys are all terrified of Momoi and her violent ways. But one day, Uehara walks in on one of Momoi's grandfather's wacky experiments, and they end up body switching. Now that their behavior matches social expectations of gender performance, both suddenly get much more popular.

We end up getting a lot of wacky hijinks as Uehara's (male) best friend Senbongi puts the moves on him-as-Momoi and as Momoi's (female) best friend Shiina gets a crush on Momoi-as-Uehara, especially when Momoi and Uehara can't switch back. Though Momoi seems to be perfectly all right with this—she's no longer punished for stepping out of the bounds of femininity and gets to enjoy a lot of male privilege—Uehara is less certain. For me, this echoed how USian society generally tends to be more okay with women acting as men or wanting to be men than with men acting as women or who want to be women; it's "natural" for women to want to climb up the ladder, so to speak, but "unnatural" or wrong or played for laughs if a man wants to take a step down. Morinaga also shows that Uehara is more prone to homophobia when it comes to himself, while Momoi doesn't seem very flustered by Shiina's attraction to her.

Though the gender issues are incredibly interesting, I keep feeling like Morinaga goes more for set pieces or laughs than for After School Nightmare levels of inner examination. Possibly this is because there are a lot of jokes about Uehara getting to see naked girls while changing for gym or looking at himself in the mirror and etc., complete with nosebleeds. The breast jokes in particular felt gratuitous, especially moments when Shiina touches Uehara's breasts. Let's just say I wasn't very surprised to find that the manga is originally published in a shounen magazine.

I'm also curious to see if the manga and the mangaka will end up challenging the gender binary or not; right now, she doesn't seem to be looking much at trans issues. Plus, if Uehara or Momoi were to decide that they were transgendered, it might end up validating the gender binary without a counterexample. Anyway, all this is speculation.

Not sure if I'll keep reading this; the ogling at the female body is rather off-putting, and I think I'd like it better if there was less zaniness and more conversation.
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