I spent my lunch break browsing manga in Borders. Two of the ones I ended up checking out with more than a cursory flip were the manga Afterschool Nightmare
and manhwa Bring It On
. Both of them, interestingly (and it was pure coincidence) play a lot on gender roles and stereotypes in a very subversive fashion.Bring It On
is a very cute Korean manhwa that is fluffy and funny and also plays on gender stereotypes in a very cute way.
Miha is a high school student. She is also an incredible tomboy. Not only does she have short hair *gasp*, but she can outfight, outrun, and outstamina any guy around. That is the result of her protective older brother’s training. Our hero Seung-Suh, OTOH is a typical bishounen: good-looking in a girly sort of way, with some messed up background and also rather tough. But also stubborn and spoiled, and a bit of a party brat. Their first meeting is a disaster as Miha finds a drunk Seung-Suh in school, assumes he is a perv and knocks him unconscious. (In an awesome, yes, this girl is strong and can wipe the floor with the guy, reversal, she ends up carrying him out on her back to stash him quietly somewhere). Next day Miha finds out the drunk guy is the new transfer student and needless to say, neither one is keen on each other. Each one is strong-willed and hates to lose, too, so it’s downhill from there for them. But totally a delight for us as it’s funny and fresh and OMG, they will so be an awesome OTP. As with most manga, I was doing fantasy casting in my head, and I could totally see King Jeong Hoon (Yul in Goong) as the male lead (he’s got the prettiness and the demeanor) and Han Chae-Young (the female lead in DGCH) as the female lead. Or Yoon Eun Hye, for the Yul/CG shippers :) Actually, I’d want Jang Nara (Patzzi in My Love Patzzi) for the role most of all, but I think she might be too tiny. Awww, hell. That would be awesome anyway. Jang Nara it is.
Did I mention that Seung-Suh is also tough fighting wise, and that the Korean obsession with hero piggybacking the heroine has already appeared in volume 1? Personally I prefer the whole 'hero carries heroine in his arms' a la Shin and Chae-Gyung in Goong
but a good piggybacking is never amiss :) Afterschool Nightmare
is a lot more complicated.
The protagonist of it is a boy and yet not. No, it’s not the ‘she’s a girl, cross-dressing as a boy’ type thing. That would be normal. katranna
mentioned to me, when we were discussing this, how manga alters your criteria for normal :P Frex the thing with FY:Genbu Kaiden where I just accepted Rimudo’s ability to turn into a girl at will to use his powers. It was sort of ‘of course, he turns into a woman in order to use his powers. But he is normally a boy. So?’ and I didn’t even think about it twice until I showed the manga to a friend who is not into manga and she was all o:o and WTF and totally taken aback.
No, the protagonist is a boy above the waist and a girl below. I am not sure how this works (as she gets her monthlys so it’s not one of those hidden organs things). The thing is, normally I’d say just a very flat girl, but the protagonist has a gf, self-identifies as a guy etc etc. So some sort of equivalent of pre-op transsexual (katranna
’s comparison). Anyway, the protagonist, Mashiro, gets drawn into this weird alternate dream-reality he enters when he is asleep where some of the students of his normal, day school compete in violent fashion in order to ‘graduate’ (what that means is unclear but it’s ominous as once they graduate they disappear not only to be seen again, but their classmates forget their existence, in both dream reality and the real world). He can’t tell apart which one of his day classmates corresponds to his night competitors because they look like their ‘inner’ selves.
In addition to that, there is a triangle of sorts. There is Kureha, a seemingly sweet (but as the volumes go on, we find out very damaged) girl who Mashiro is rather sweet on and as the story progresses, the feeling is revealed to be mutual. Kureha knows about Mashiro’s secret (she is in the game as well, and all the participants in the game know) and doesn’t seem to be phased and views Mashiro as a girl. And then there is Sou, an antagonistic, also messed up guy, who is another game participant who becomes fixated on the idea Mashiro is a she and decides to pursue him.
Mashiro’s self-identification is one of the most interesting parts of the story for me. Despite the gender organs, Mashiro clearly views himself as a he. A giant part of the reason he is not interested in Sou is because Mashiro views himself as a straight guy: as in, he is a boy not interested in other boys. Another part is because he sees Sou’s perception of him as a girl as plainly wrong. And it is wrong. Mashiro acts, thinks, and identifies as a guy. And that’s the thing. Whichever way the triangle will resolve itself (I am not decided but think it will end as Mashiro-Sou, as Kureha is seeming more and more unbalanced and Sou does have deep feelings of some sort), if Mashiro and Sou are to get together, Sou will have to accept the fact that whatever the bio organs, his SO is a guy.
Another interesting thing is the severe level of messed-upness exhibited by everyone. Mashiro is actually the (relatively) normal one of the bunch. Leaving aside the secondary characters and their issues, Kureha is much more than the sweet front she puts out: she is very damaged and has borderline phobia of men, and Mashiro is an exception. Sou has an incredibly dysfunctional relationship with his elder sister which is incestuous on her part (at one point she kisses him on the mouth). These people need therapy. But not too soon as they are they are quite entertaining. Here
is a page with a good character list and descriptions.
Oh, and then there was Sensual Phrase
but I really have no intellectual excuse for that one whatsoever. It's a very shoujo story of a hunky, famous band singer (guy) and a new lyricist (gal). It's full of angsty love, and evil rivals, and lots of sex (seeeeex) and glamor and very pretty boys. I have amused self by picturing random JE boys as the characters. And for the OTP? Definitely Yamapi/Maki. Has nothing with me wanting them on screen as a bona fide couple, nope :P
P.S. Is Please Save My Earth