First and foremost, I have news of overwhelming importance: Daniel Pinkwater is serializing his latest novel online.
It's called The Neddiad,
there are five chapters up so far, and it's really good. Daniel Pinkwater is, of course, the author of classics like Lizard Music, Fat Men from Space,
and Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy from Mars,
many of which can be read and enjoyed in these omnibus editions.
He is also my mentor and spiritual guide. Reading a new Pinkwater book online is pretty much the greatest thing that can possibly happen in the universe, ever.
The second-greatest thing is that I've added a new installment to the Overlooked Manga Festival!
I'd better start with an Overlooked Manga Update.
CMX has redesigned its trade dress, making its books substantially less fugly, and From Eroica with Love
has a snazzy new cover design. Also, Volume 6 is the BEST VOLUME YET. In a move of sheer unadulterated genius, Yasuko Aoike exploits the fact that she can only draw one pretty male face and has Eroica disguise himself as an exact duplicate of Major Eberbach
to cause all manner of mischief and shenanigans. My head keeps exploding from how brilliant this is.
Okay, to the business of the day. It occurs to me that many of my Overlooked Manga choices thus far have been a bit intimidating in length. I mean, you've got Basara
(27 volumes, with 20 available in English so far), Please Save My Earth
(21 volumes, 18 out in English), and Eroica
(only six volumes in English so far, but in Japan it's 26 and counting). Maybe it's time to suggest something a little breezier. Like, say, a manga that only has one English-language volume in print. Your and My Secret
was published briefly by ADV Manga before going, like many ADV titles, on "permanent hold." I hope another publisher picks it up, because the first volume is pretty damn funny. It's a body-swap story. I freely admit to being a huge sucker for body-swap stories, especially if they also involve mad scientists, as this one does. So. Nanako Momoi is a beautiful teenage girl who also happens to be short-tempered, foul-mouthed, and thoroughly unladylike. Akira Uehara is a handsome teenage boy who happens to be shy and introverted--and to have a huge, ill-advised crush on Nanako. Thanks to an accident in the lab of Nanako's eccentric scientist grandpa, the two teenagers switch bodies.
The twist, of course, is that they're both actually better suited to their new genders. When Nanako is in Akira's body, her bluntness and aggression are seen as positive traits, and pretty soon all the men wanna be her and all the women wanna be with her. And when Akira is in Nanako's body, everyone is charmed by his delicate sensibilities and crying jags. Such a gentleman is Akira that, transported into the body of the girl of his dreams, he still tries his darndest not to scope out the view. Not that he doesn't eventually give in to temptation:
Meanwhile, the infinitely more direct Nanako is taking every conceivable liberty with Akira's body.
As the days wear on and Nanako's grandpa continues to fail to repair the body-swap machine, Nanako and Akira grow increasingly comfortable in their new bodies. Akira's best friend (from when he was a guy) begins aggressively hitting on him (as a girl), while Nanako's best friend (from when she was a girl) becomes her steady girlfriend (now that she's a dude). Only Akira has the grace to periodically TOTALLY FREAK OUT.
The manga uses its wacky premise to explore both fantasies and real issues about gender. Creator Ai Morinaga puts some thought into what it actually means to be male or female, although female readers can expect to be depressed by the picture she paints of what society accepts as ideal "feminine" behavior (i.e., being a lameass). And the protagonists' ongoing explorations of each others' bodies are funny as hell. Not that it's all sunshine and roses:
So that's Your and My Secret.
A fun little manga, and couldn't we use more of those?