Manga Review – Tenshi Ja Nai!

Tenshi Ja Nai!! Volume 1

Tenshi Ja Nai!!
I’m No Angel!!

天使じゃない!!
SHIGEMATSU Takako
Shoujo – Romance, comedy, drama, gender bender
8 Volumes (complete)
Go! Comi
Out of print

Summary:

Haunted by memories of bullying, Hikaru just wants to blend into the crowd. However, she just got stuck with a rising idol for a roommate! Hikaru wants nothing to do with Izumi, but when she discovers Izumi’s secret, Hikaru finds herself blackmailed. Will Hikaru ever find peace?

Review:

I try to keep my reviews spoiler-light or spoiler-free, but here it is: Izumi is a guy. In case you couldn’t tell from the “gender-bender” tag.

I think the main problem with this series is that it is that there are too many holes. There are gaps between the character’s personalities and actions (not in the tsundere way) and gaps in the story.

I’ll start with the former. So many times I felt like I didn’t fully understand the characters. They almost seemed to act randomly. Even the time for the love confession was rather odd. One boyfriend seems like a rather straight-laced guy. He acts more daring (raburabu) than what his personality suggests, especially considering his job, but then he dumps her. He just goes from no to yes to trust me to goodbye in what feels like no time flat. The break up occurs just when it starts to feel like a sweet relationship (which started pretty shallow). The other guy makes more moves when the object of his affections has a boyfriend. One of Hikaru’s suitors (with no prior mention of his strength) can suddenly take on several armed robbers. Hikaru’s boyfriend just disappears for well over a year. The story has a reporter character who suddenly goes away when she was originally presented as a comedic stalker who would never go away. But she just falls off the face of the planet. Hikaru’s inner strength randomly shows up. I have felt more connected to characters in series half — and even a quarter — of this manga’s length.

Speaking of time, chapters do not pick up nicely after the previous. The story got from an inn right after New Year’s to a scene at school during the next school year. I know a lot of manga do this, but it just happens way too often. Time skips happen rather frequently, whether they be hours or weeks. The story did not need to rush through the seasons. And even time flows strangely in the chapters. We see the end of a fight, but have to wait for the beginning to be presented in a flashback. This technique can be used effectively, but this was not one of those times.

I had issues with the overall plotline as well. The author puts in a twist to make the story come full circle, but I didn’t like it because it felt rather forced. Even things like the characters going on vacation to an inn which just so happens to be a friend’s home while also being the set for filming was just eye-rolling. It was just an easy cop out to get everyone in one location.

While gender-benders often involved keeping a secret, Hikaru is easily one of the most unfortunate blackmailed victims. Izumi’s harshness is most apparent in the first volume, and I actually thought the “other guy” in the love triangle was going to be his friend/family. I wouldn’t have blamed Hikaru, as he is rather kind to her. I will say one of the most interesting aspects of the story is that the guy has feelings for the girl first. Even more surprising is that his feelings aren’t immediately reciprocated.

In addition to the gaps in the story, I felt like the author could have laid out the art better. The panels reflect the holes in the story and needed some clarification. Surprisingly, pages could be quite busy. Izumi is, artistically, one of the more masculine female cross-dressers. I don’t mean Takarazuka male. I mean male male. I get that he has a full-time assistant who even sews silicone into bras, but nobody even comments on it. He also walks around dressed like a man fairly often. I really couldn’t tell if Hikaru was supposed to be a plain Jane or a female prince type. Most of the character’s body types looked the same. All in all, it was nice looking, which is to be expected of shoujo, but I wouldn’t rate it as one of the best I’ve seen.

Translation:

Honorifics are used. The translation feels a bit dated. Words like “ga-ga” are just not used as much. Although it once was popular, the translation also uses an offensive term for “idiot”. Terms like “manzai” are kept with translation notes in the back. Izumi is a “pop idol” even though no singing is ever involved. I will give this adaptation a lot of credit for not using the “wrong” pronoun. So many gender benders use the correct pronoun for a character, even though the person speaking believes the other is of the opposite gender! This makes it hard sometimes to gleam who actually knows the truth and who is just a victim of a crappy translator/adaptor. No attempt is made to distinguish Kansai-ben from standard Japanese. (Most adaptations will incorporate at least some aspects of a US Southern accent.) Izumi’s speech doesn’t really change between his guy and girl forms.

Final Comments:

An okay gender bender, but I think readers can find better. Off the top of my head, for gender benders in show business, there’s W Juliet, Penguin Revolution, and Nosatsu Junkie (incomplete). Gender benders are even more readily available.

Since the publisher is defunct, you must buy this series on ebay or other used book marketplace. It can be bought for about $25 for the complete series.

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