So I was reading older blog posts that I have neglected due to being super busy and I came across one about a Mayu Shinjou manga called Demon Love Spell that mentioned that the heroine was actually competent. Making a comment stating my shock given my experience with Shinjou’s manga, the author brought up another manga, Ai Ore. Curious, I checked out the MAL profile which stated that it was about a boy-ish looking girl in a band and a very girl-ish looking guy. Well with a premise like that, how could I not take a peek at this manga? I’m a terribly curious person after all. I’ve tried many manga and anime just because I heard horrible things about them and given Ms.Shinjou’s track record, I could not believe she would be capable of writing a manga that wasn’t horrible.

Guess who is the guy and who is the girl.

Typical sexy cover for a Mayu Shinjou manga, but not so typical is the gender of each character on the cover.

But she did! I never thought I would be saying this, but I actually enjoyed a Mayu Shinjou manga! It’s definitely far from perfect, but I did like how the heroine, Mizuki, did actually look like a guy; and Akira, the hero, looked like a girl. Now outside their appearances, Mizuki wasn’t very masculine. She was super innocent and naive about love, and she definitely had the Mayu Shinjou touch even if she’s a bit more interesting than most of Shinjou’s heroines. Although what makes her interesting is that even if at her core she is very feminine, and even quite passive, like the typical Mayu Shinjou heroine; Shinjou actually wrote the story and Mizuki in a way that allowed her to have assertive moments and a life beyond just her man. The stark contrast between her outer appearance and her inner self was also another aspect of what I found so compelling about Mizuki. I’m always happy to see manga questioning appearance/gender assumptions. This is true for Akira too. He’s tough and cool even if he’s short and very girl-like.

But I think the most shocking aspect of Ai Ore is that Akira is actually a kind person. He does actually love Mizuki and is very considerate of her; often asking her opinion and backing off when she feels uncomfortable. Not to mention the manga actually makes it a point through Akira’s own words, to show that one’s outer gendered appearance is meaningless. What matters is what gender you feel you are. Mizuki stumbles with this more, but ultimately she arrives at the same conclusion. She lets go of her insecurity caused by the stares and comments she and Akira garner walking hand in hand. These comments are basically people trying to decide what gender she and Akira are, and in turn whether they are a gay couple. It was a rather nice message and one I did not think I would find in a Mayu Shinjou manga. I mean Shinjou tends to write the most traditionally masculine guys and feminine ladies, on top of quite problematic things. It was definitely a pleasant surprise. (more…)

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