Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Maria Holic, vol. 1

By Minari Endou
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: All a woman needs is a cross-dressing man

Kanako has transferred into the same private all-girl school that her mother graduated from hoping to find love there just as her mother did. Of course, whileKanako's mother married one of the teachers, Kanako wants to fall into love with a fellow female student since she literally gets hives from even touching a boy. Unfortunately the first girl she gets a crush on, the daughter of a important school founder namedMiriya, turns out to be really a secret cross-dressing boy. After Kanako accidentally discovers that, Miriya decides that the only way to ensure that his secret is kept is to move in with Kanako in the school dorms and thus sabotage all of her efforts to get close to someone. Naturally this creates all sorts of hilarity and confusion.

This is a story where you are not sure if the people who you are supposed to cheer for are worthy of being cheered, if for no other reason thatMiriya is making Kanako attempt to resolve her sexual identity more difficult. As a result, it is hard to answer the question whether Kanako is really gay or just the sort of pretend gay that is supposed to be titillating within the story without actually having to resolve it. Or worse yet, is the creator trying to imply that all that a lesbian needs is for a man to cross-dress in order for him to become acceptable? Maybe this is treading into one of those areas where American and Japanese cultures define sexual identity and lesbianism differently, but it is hard to look at this as just a comedy without also looking at the mixed messages the title is built on. Which is a shame, because the art and storytelling is pretty solid, it is just some of the themes that underpin the story and where they can go concern me.

Maria Holic, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

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