Shoujo – Romance, comedy, gender bender
6 Volumes (U.S. release suspended), 16 volumes (Japanese, complete)
To get back at her crush for rejecting her, Naka wants to be a model like the popular Umi. But Naka has a problem: her smile comes off as a horror expression! And while Umi seems like the ideal girl, Naka ends up discovering Umi’s secret. In exchange for keeping the secret, the unlikely model Naka gets to work with Umi.
This fun gender bender deserves more attention. Too bad it will probably never finish its English release.
The first chapter reads like a one-shot. Then the next few are still a bit shaky as the author starts to extend the story. Once it finds its groove, the romantic comedy goes into full swing. While some shoujo (particularly gender benders) focus heavily on either the romance or comedy, Nosatsu Junkie balances the two quite well. It’s not a lot of laugh-out-loud comedy, but it’s definitely entertaining and will make you smile. There’s several running gags like Naka’s rubbing against the wall or photographer Tsutsumi’s strawberry obsession, but the highlight for me is the dialogue. The text is full of sharp comments (“cross-dressing perv”) and funny ones (“you may not use my chest”). The romance includes cliched scenes like the accidental kiss, but it includes several unusual plot devices to cover them up.
For example, in a world dominated by violent female tsunderes, we get a male version here. Umi will kick and throw Naka when he’s embarrassed or mad. (Yes, nobody in real life should hit someone, but I’m talking about the traditional manga tsundere comedic violence here.) Umi acts like an ore-sama type, but he’s the funny type: he’s the kind who doesn’t get any respect. The others won’t just roll their eyes. They’ll counter Umi’s bossiness with a sharp comment. And unlike most characters disguised as the opposite gender, Umi cross-dresses for the thrill of deception and for the female fans; he’s not doing so because of a bet or family issues. And his male (true) self is seen by others as scary. He’s definitely not known as the school prince like other male leads.
As for Naka, she initially joins the modeling world out of revenge. Unlike a lot of heroines, her motives are not because she’s always admired Umi or anything. While many couples feature a cool or dominate lead to balance out the tsundere, Naka is easily agitated and prone to sulking in the corner. But while she can seem weak-willed next to the forceful Umi, even Naka has times when she snarkily refers to him as a cross-dressing perv.
Other main characters include the strawberry-loving Tsutsumi, model sisters Mihane and Azu, and friendly male model Chihiro. These characters are given plenty of screentime to help tangle and untangle all the romance. Umi’s family and the student council appear to harass Umi in various ways, and the agency president keeps the story moving by offering new job and warnings.
Lots of showbiz manga have the romantic leads trying to balance time as a couple with their jobs. Here, the two leads want to be together all the time (they are only in middle school), but they recognize that remaining stuck to each other will restrict their careers. They aren’t always successful at being independent, but at least they try. Besides Naka and Umi, all the main characters are involved in industries like modeling and photography, but they do not all have their futures set. With all their connections, they do not struggle as much as some other characters in showbiz manga, but they each have their own issues rather than wanting to be the best idol in the world.
Fukuyama does a lot of world building — almost too much. Even one-off characters like Chihiro’s manager or teachers are given a name. The Junk photographer’s crush on Boom Agency’s president is brought up. All of Umi’s siblings appear several times, and Naka’s family is also seen. I know the characters have their own lives and many people are necessary to make a successful project, but it’s distracting to have so many people introduced. It’s information overload. To me, this is the worst part of the manga. Text and characters everywhere.
The art style is rather unique. One of the key plot points is Naka’s scary face, so Fukuyama uses plenty of SD faces. Her eye style is rather unique: eyes are basically dark on top and light on bottom. Panels can be quite busy. Side comments are quite common, and even unimportant and random characters will be shown talking about the main cast’s strange behavior. Ironically, this is one series where I felt the closeups were the artistically weak part. The lips just look odd when the artist zooms in, and even the shading is strange. Lack of shots of the characters standing side-by-side make it hard to gauge how tall everyone is.
Honorifics are used. I know some people are anti-honorifics, but I think including them helps differentiate Umi’s two speech patterns. Well, “pyon” isn’t really a standard honorific, but I think it would look odd to include that but nothing else. I guess others might have gone with something like “cute li’l” or something? And honorifics help identify when characters mean Umi-kun or Umi-chan, although I’m sure many would like Mr./Miss Umi.
Sound effects are untranslated. There are some typos like double dashes. One fashion brand is adapted as “Knox” before the actual spelling is revealed. Some of the dialogue is pumped up, but it actually fits the high pace of the manga and the sarcastic nature of the characters. I also wonder why the word “nosatsu” was kept in the title. Almost every splash page and cover has the phrase “Charming Junkie” written in English. All in all, this is above average for a Tokyopop title.
While this series initially suffers from “first big hit” syndrome, it is a good romcom. It’s one of my favorite gender benders.
Viz Media rescued Maid-sama, another Hakusensha title formerly released by Tokyopop, so there’s always a chance for it to be picked up again. Please?
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