Manga Friday: Girl Boy Girl
There are only two books for Manga Friday this week; I promise to do better next time but the end of the week snuck up on me while I wasn’t looking. (And I didn’t really have a third book that fit so nicely with my theme, anyway.)
There have been sex comedies since the days of the ancient Greeks – every culture does them, and every culture thinks slightly different things are really funny. (I’ve mentioned the common manga shorthand horny = nosebleed before; it is impressively visual, but it can look really weird to Western eyes, particular when exaggerated.) But sex comedies tend to cluster around a few major ideas – for some cultures, it’s cuckoldry, but in most of the modern world, the major plot line is about a horny young man and one or more attractive young women. That simplifies things down enough that the standard sex comedy travels internationally better than more culturally specific kinds of comedy.
(Or maybe I’m just babbling for a while before I get into the specific bizarre plots here. Well, let’s stop wasting time.)
The set-up in Strawberry 100% is straightforward, if a bit unlikely: fifteen-year-old Junpei Manaka accidentally sees the strawberry-bedecked panties of an attractive girl in his school when she falls on him up on the school roof. (I said “straightforward,” not “makes a lot of sense.”) He immediately falls in love – or maybe lust – with this girl whose identity he’s not sure of. And then, very soon, he starts dating his gorgeous classmate Tsukasa, mostly because she tells him that she wears strawberry panties.
But we the readers strongly suspect that class brainiac (with her hair in a bun, glasses, etc. to keep her from appearing sexy) Aya is actually the panty-wearer of Junpei’s dreams – and the two of them start studying together.
So we’ve got a classic love triangle: boy is in love with girl, but not the girl he thinks he is, and is entangled with girl #1 while girl #2 is quietly crazy about him. A wonderfully serviceable plot that’s kept plays and novels and stories humming along for a few thousand years now. Kawashita doesn’t mess with the successful formula all that much, but he uses it for as many panty shots as he can squeeze in (can you blame him?) and lots of close-ups of people looking longingly at or thinking about each other. It’s not quite as madcap and zany as Love Hina, but being within the realm of reason isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Strawberry 100% is a cute sex comedy for teenagers; it’s rated for “older teenagers,” but that’s mostly because there’s sexual attraction involved. (There’s no actual nudity or violence, though it does get quite suggestive.
OK, so Strawberry 100% was pretty weird, but it’s not really weird. Luckily, we have Pretty Face for that. Rando was the karate star, and the head bully, of his high school. But he wakes up one day to find that he was in a bus crash and left horribly disfigured. A brilliant plastic surgeon took him in and reconstructed his face to replicate that of a picture in Rando’s pocket: his crush, Rina. Oh, and in the year Rando was in a coma, his muscles atrophied enough that he looks physically like a girl as well. Oh, and his family moved out of town, with no forwarding address, in the intervening time out of grief over his death. Oh, and Rina has a long-lost twin sister, Yuna, who ran away several years ago, so Rando is mistaken for Yuna and comes to live with Rina’s family.
Got that? Boy-who-looks-like-girl-he-loves (due to requisite mad scientist) living with girl-he-loves, as a girl, even though he doesn’t know anything about girls. It’s all like a particularly unlikely pilot on Fox. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that the wacky doctor keeps bugging Rando to let him finish up the sex-change surgery…
Sex comedies can be even better when they’re exceptionally broad and utterly implausible, and Pretty Face certainly is that. It’s fast-moving, goofy fun, and I’m tempted to keep up with it just to see the big reveal scene (probably not for a dozen volumes) when Rando finally tells Rina who he really is.
These are both not overly adult or serious books, but they’re both fun comedies – and that’s more than enough.
Strawberry 100%, Vol. 1
Viz Media, 2007, $7.99
Pretty Face, Vol. 1
Viz Media, 2007, $7.99
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
Publishers who would like their books to be reviewed at ComicMix should contact ComicMix through the usual channels or email Andrew Wheeler directly at acwheele (at) optonline (dot) net.