The Bride was a Boy
花嫁は元男子。(Hanayome wa Motodanshi.)
1 Volume (complete)
Chii is living happily ever after with her husband. It’s a future many people dream of, and one that could have been out of reach for Chii. Why? Because she was born a boy! Chii recounts some of the key points in her life story and describes the laws and misunderstandings of being a transgendered person.
The Bride was a Boy is an autobiography that blends traditional manga, 4-koma, and brief knowledge sections. Each chapter focuses on a specific topic: Chii’s first meeting with her future husband (who is only known as Boyfriend/Husband-kun), getting surgery, getting married, etc. Then she provides a little bit of information providing facts and clearing up misconceptions about transgendered people. Chii and her husband also look back on Chii’s life in a breaking the fourth wall-type of way.
No doubt that The Bride was a Boy will be compared to My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, which was also based on true events. LGBTQ+ manga are still fairly rare outside of boys’ love and girls’ love comics, which are often created for excitement or titillation rather than for plot, education, or acceptance. But while My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness detailed the author’s struggle with her sexual identity and has her still facing a harsh reality, The Bride was a Boy is about as fairy tale-ish as you can get considering the subject matter. Yes, Chii questioned her gender growing up and panicked about coming out to her loved ones, but the back cover isn’t lying when it calls this story “a diary comic with an upbeat, adorable flair”.
On one hand, this makes the volume as sweet as sugar. Some fictional manga can’t come close to this in terms of putting a smile on your face. The husband wears his heart on his sleeve, and Chii is revealed to be a crybaby. It’s a caring relationship most people try to aim for. Plus, the autobiographical nature of the story has more impact on readers. It’s a positive real-life story, one that I wish more close-minded people would read, as it shows that people who are LGBTQ+ are just that: people.
The cheerful tone of the manga also gives the story a fictional feel. It makes it feel like a story created to be family-friendly even though the concepts may be hard to understand for younger readers. It’s rated Teen, but the ideas are almost too important to wait until readers are 13 or older. People are sometimes born in the wrong bodies, and it can be emotionally, physically, and financially difficult to ensure their happiness and psychological well-being. I did learn a few facts as well, so this works well as a primer for those who want to learn more about this subject.
If you’re a transgendered person with a strict, old-fashioned, close-minded, and/or fundamentally religious community, though, you might be disappointed that The Bride was a Boy doesn’t show a lot of these negative or bigoted beliefs. LGBTQ+ persons often have higher-than-average rates of suicide, depression, or self-hatred, and if you’re looking for a real or fictional manga with these issues — or even just a gloomy tone — The Bride was a Boy is going to miss the mark for you.
As the cover describes, this is essentially a diary. Most of the chapters are centered around Chii and her husband, but we also meet Chii’s family, particularly her mother. Unfortunately, we never meet the husband’s family. Had this been just a story inspired by Chii’s experiences instead of based on, it might have been interesting to see more reactions and let the story continue. The two decide not to tell people who don’t know, as it’s none of their business. Since this is a stand-alone volume, I guess we’ll never know if the pair ever faced prejudice from someone they know or strangers who learned the truth. Chii mentions feeling guilty discussing her wedding with a gay friend (same sex marriage is illegal in Japan), and it’s these sort of topics that a fictionalized The Bride was a Boy world could have delved into.
As I have said, the sugary sweetness isn’t necessarily a negative, but for people who are often marginalized, they may have wanted to feel a little more like they’re not the only ones struggling. The Bride was a Boy is a blend of inspiration for people in similar situations, a lovey-dovey couple recounting their romance, and education. Of the three, #2 does seem like the biggest focus. I do hope there’s a time when all people can be as accepting and supportive as those in Chii’s circle though.
The chibi characters featured on the cover reflects the style used in the manga itself. It fits the positive tone perfectly. The first chapter is in color, and this is really the type of manga where I would have loved to see in full color. The color pages give it an anime-like feel, a series that would have been presented in 5-minute shorts. Of course, the chibi characters make the overall story feel less realistic, but it adds to the happily-ever-after feel.
Honorifics are used. A blend of English and Japanese are used in terms like “Bride-chan”, which I know irritates some people. Technical terms and definitions are often given in both English and romanized Japanese.
The Bride was a Boy almost outdoes shoujo manga, Disney movies, and fairy tales in cuteness. It’s informative, but it may not represent many transgender people’s struggle to be accepted by society — or even themselves.