Thursday, March 20, 2008

Your and My Secret, vol. 1

By Ai Morinaga
Released in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: Body swapping leads to new kinds of emotional abuse.

Update: For some additional insight into the title, please check out the comments for this entry!

Okay, I fully admit that I am guy. Not the most manly sort of guy in the world, but I still suffer from the XY set of chromosomes and I realize that there are some kinds of romantic tomfoolery that I will never get. I am fine with that, and I also admit that I am not fully immersed in all that is Japanese society and culture, so sometimes I don't get the attraction of some of the things in manga.

BUT, I am sorry, but I just can't wrap my head around the fact that this title is supposed to work as either a romance or a comedy. Nanako is tomgirl and Akira is the boy that likes her. They suffer a body swap, and Nanako takes to having a boy body with gusto, getting a girlfriend and ingratiating him/herself with the rest of the school and Akira's parent far better than Akira has ever managed to do. Akira, in Nanako's body, has to work to bring in money so that the body transfer can be reversed, but Nanako's scientist grandfather seems to be no hurry to do so, enjoying the money that Akira in Nanako is making and the fact that Akira is now a live-in maid. Akira's best friend is making the moves on Nanako, even though he knew that Akira liked her. So here we are, Akira in Nanako is having his dreams of maybe Nanako liking him back shattered, Nanako is using his body for her own enjoyment and seems to have hijacked Akira's life, while Akira's friend is going behind his back to hit on the girl the friend knew he liked and Akira's attempts to get his life back are stymied by the selfishness of Nanako's grandfather.

Where the hell in comedy and romance in this? I am thinking that this is more a tragedy and if something doesn't change soon, Akira is going to mentally break down or have to take radical action in order to take control of his/her life back.

So, I didn't think like this at all. And if someone can explain to me where the romance or the comedy is hiding in this story, please tell me via comments.

Your and My Secret, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.



LillianDP said...

It's funny you had this reaction, because I did too, the first time I read this series. It just didn't work for me--I didn't get the tone, I didn't get the jokes... Then I went and read other things by Morinaga, and I realized that what's tricky about the book is that it *isn't* a pure comedy or romance. It's a satire on gender roles. If you re-read this with an eye towards skewering the way teenaged boys and girls are expected to behave, suddenly it becomes a much greater entertainment experience. :-) There's so little true satire in manga that it's easy to miss the mark that Morinaga is setting (and you may still not like it, even after re-reading), but once I figured it out, I fell in love with her work.

Prospero's Manga said...

Okay, I can sorta see that. Not sure how much I buy that, but I can see that (and why TP listed it as comedy)

I guess for a satire, I was expecting something more balanced between the two main characters, Akira and Nanako. That they would both suffer highs and lows, expressing the satire that way, rather than apparently piling everything onto Akira in Nanako shoulders.

In the later volumes, does Nanako become 'victim' of the satire also? That would help move the title away from wanton cruelty in my mind.

Lianne said...

You beat me to it, Lillian. ^_^

Your and My Secret, like most of Morinaga's works, is a satire on every level. The entire thing is absolutely supposed to be a biting social commentary on gender roles. Duck Prince (also by Morinaga) is a satire on shoujo manga and fairy tales, and it was also written off by some Western critics as "odd" or "too silly" for a love story when it was never supposed to be viewed as honestly romantic in the first place. She's working on a completely different level from most of her mangaka peers, but, unfortunately, her unique type of satire seems to be why she's a hard sell in the West. She does quite well in Japan, however.

For another example of a manga that is ENTIRELY satirical, try Reborn from Viz's Shonen Jump line. It has a definite story, but the whole thing is a joke. Reborn and most of Morinaga's titles are constructed using the same satirical theories. They may not be the most likable titles on the planet, but they're refreshing and really, really smart.

By the way, everything falling on Akira's shoulders is on purpose. Not only is the story is constructed like a normal shoujo--with an introspective and plagued lead--but he's supposed to reflect the double standard placed on teenaged girls. Once he switches to a female body, everyone around him thinks they can pressure or force him to fit conflicting societal sexual standards ("stay a virgin"; "give it up"; "you don't know what you want/what's best for you") when as a boy, he was in control. Akira, as a submissive person in an attractive female body, is treated with no respect and is the victim of sexual aggresion. Nanako, as a dominant personality in an attractive young male body, can do whatever she wants, whenever she wants, and she'll be admired for it. That's the point. If their problems were balanced, the manga wouldn't be commenting on how much girls are victims of the patriarchy. ^_^

Prospero's Manga said...

Okay, now I can sort of go there and enjoy it. Though I can understand some of the reviewers problems, we don't have the necessary 'filter' to see otherwise transparent social strictures that the characters are reflective of.

Is this something that can be easily translated? As Lillian said, this is not something she 'got' on the first read and I (unfortunately) had to be hand-held through it.

This is one of the times that I think the collected format is working against the title, because reading it one large chunk means that there isn't time to reflect upon the previous chapters and organize thoughts about them before you plunge into the next chapter. Maybe in a serial format, in what my mind was the excessive piling onto Akira does not feel like dominoes tumbling but instead a gradual reveal of the truth of his/her's new situation.

I will update the review to ask readers to look into the comments for some more thoughts on the title/review.

Jo said...

I realised that it was satire but I still really really HATED it. Nanako-as-Akira? insufferable esp how she gets to claim ownership of the body she's in while calling dibs on her old body and control what Akira does with her body. Grandpa? Creepy creepy man who needs to be sued. It irritated me on so many levels that I *know* Morinaga is doing a sterling job, but I still hated it. I don't see myself attempting vol 2.