He enjoys being a girl

August 27, 2008

Given that the first translated volume shipped four years ago, and that I’ve been intermittently pining for the second volume ever since, it was possible that Ai Morinaga’s Your and My Secret (now at Tokyopop) might not have lived up to expectations. Maybe it was just the fact that I couldn’t get my hands on a copy of the second volume that made me so eager?

I’m happy to say that I liked the second volume slightly better than the first, and I liked the first a lot. It’s now my second favorite manga series that deals with jumbled gender issues among high-school students, and since first place for that category is owned now and for the foreseeable future by Setona Mizushiro’s addictive, disturbing After School Nightmare (Go! Comi), there’s no shame in taking the silver medal.

But back to Secret: the awkwardness escalates slightly this time around as shy-guy Uehara and rose-with-thorns Momoi adapt to life in each other’s bodies. Morinaga builds on elements introduced in the first volume, particularly in the delightfully pansexual romantic quadrangle among Uehara in Momoi’s body, Momoi in Uehara’s, Momoi’s pretty best friend Shiina, and Uehara’s pal Senbongi. Momoi, loving life as a boy, has Shiina as a steady, and Uehara isn’t immune to Shiina’s charms either. Nor can Uehara ignore the persuasive wooing of Senbongi, much as Uehara might wish he could.

Much as I enjoy the sitcom antics of Morinaga’s My Heavenly Hockey Club (Del Rey), the character-driven farce of Secret gives it the edge. There’s a constant emotional ebb and flow, with poor Uehara torn between his desire to get his own body and the nagging rightness of his current situation. Brash hypocrite Momoi continues to amuse, holding Uehara to standards she has no intention of upholding herself. And Morinaga manages to juggle a bunch of potential narrative trajectories and keep them just about equally likely. I’m never quite sure where the series is going, but all of the possibilities that Morinaga has teased are appealing.