Boku Girl (Vol.1-2)

I should REALLY stop looking up stuff because I found someone talking about it on /a/. I mean sure, that's how I found out about Tokyo Ghoul, but that's also why I briefly thought Akame ga Kill could be good, and it's how I came across this piece of trash. Boku Girl is the second series by Sugito Akira, who only managed some sort of shonen battle series before this. He's an incredibly talented artist, but good god, he should not be allowed to write his own stories, especially not a gender bender story.

I know I've brought up gender bender manga before, but the past two examples have been on the better side of things. But not Boku Girl! Oh no, now I get to show you why this little subgenre is usually swept away to its own little ghetto of tastelessness.

The series follows a guy named Mizuki, one whom is constantly annoyed that he's mistaken for a girl on a regular basis. He's one in a long line of martial artists and has been raised to be a real man from childhood, but he can only seem to attract guys towards him instead of the girl he has a crush on. The problem is only made worse when Loki (yes, the Norse god Loki) decides to fuck with the guy's life cause why not and casts a spell that turns his sex female. You know where this is headed from there.

Boku Girl is a significantly different creature than Kashimashi or Idol Pretender. Unlike Kashimashi, it's not that interested in drama or emotion, and it also lacks Idol Pretender's surprisingly progressive views on gender. In the end, it's your average rom-com crap mixed with your average gender bender crap, which is a truly disgusting recipe on multiple levels. See, romantic manga tends to fall into a particular structure of will-they-won't-they fake outs and sudden emotional realizations that don't lead to anything final, or when there might actually be a real relationship blooming, some idiotic contrivance will pop up and throw everything off course to wrench out a few more chapters in a story that doesn't really need them (a sin Kashimashi is especially guilty of).

But gender benders are a different disaster altogether. It's a subgenre usually reserved for raunchy comedies, where the joke is "LOL HE/SHE NO ACT LIKE HE/SHE SUPPOSED TO" and that's about it. But the genre also gets really transphobic in bizarre ways, like implying that sex is the absolute decided of gender, or putting the sex switch lead with their male best friend from before they had their sex made female, like it's some over complicated way for the manga to go "TOTALLY NOT GAY!" with absolutely no understanding to how gender works. It's become weirdly popular in recent years, especially once you get into crossdressing stories, which have a similar logic behind them. Don't even get me started on the travesty that was HimegotoIdol Pretender managed to avoid this trap by having some understanding of gender and making the argument that it's not really necessary to act as a base in a relationship, which was at least an interesting angle. This manga not that smart.

But the weird thing is that it almost trips into being subversive. See, Mizuki's background in being constantly told to be a guy and a little moment in chapter one showing that he has some desire to try on women's clothing suggests that he may actually be a transwoman that hasn't realized her own identity yet, but this reading is thrown out pretty fast with other moments showing that the writer is a bloody idiot. I mean, he has one scene in a public bath where a bunch of older women compliment Mizuki on his looks, and then when he explains he's a man while embarrassed, they say stuff meant to tempt him into accepting himself as a her. But the thing is the actual language used by them implies that trans individuals are only in a phase, much like that idiotic belief that female homosexuality is just a thing during one's youth. They see a woman physically and expect Mizuki to be a woman. That's not how gender works. And no, this was not the writer portraying toxic common beliefs, the context was pushing those beliefs on the main character as if it's just leading to the expected outcome.

It's like the writer has a very bare bones idea of what a trans person is, but only in the perspective of a heteronormative viewpoint that chooses to alienate instead of emphasize. Why? Cause FETISHIZING. Of course. Guy characters dressing like girls is the not gay of fetishes in that it lets supposedly heterosexual male readers explore their sexuality without it being "gay." Gender bending takes that further by trying to make the guy character a girl, making it socially acceptable to be attracted to that character, but this has always thrived on the belief that gender is informed mainly by the body and not by the self. It's idiotic and quite a bit destructive for trans causes, spreading misinformation to bend to the desires of people not willing to question their own sexuality. Stuff like Idol Pretender are the minority in this genre, Boku Girl is very much the norm.

Please keep in mind that I'm not trying to personally attack the creator of the series here. I doubt he's aware of just how offensive his work is, most people with xenophobic tendencies don't realize it. But that doesn't take away the fact that this entire series is very, very vile in its subtext. But if that doesn't bug you, don't worry, there's plenty more wrong here that's sure to alienate all but the most masochistic readers. While I'd say the general transphobia and complete failures at understanding gender are the series biggest sins, not far behind is the story proper.

There's really not much going on in the plot. Mizuki has to hide his changed body from the world with help of his manly childhood friend, while also trying to confess to the girl he loves, who in turn loves his best friend. On top of that, the best friend is falling for Mizuki, now that he has a changed body. You may recognize this as literally every love triangle bullshit plot from every single gender bender story ever made. What makes these sorts of stories work when they do are the characters, and NOBODY works here. Mizuki is a gender confused victim in a cosmic prank, so he should be somewhat sympathetic, but he's not. His character is too inconsistent, and a tad sexist, like how he's supposedly a martial arts master, yet most of his time is spent crying or being in dangerous situations around male classmates. Later flashbacks make this worse, as the supposed badass lets himself be easily bullied by some random kids when he's been trained since birth to be a human weapon. Gender confusion could have worked if the writer actually understood how that works and didn't just switch him from uppity guy jerk to passive girl damsel as his only two modes.

The best friend is not any better, as his attraction is strictly physical. He finds Mizuki hot now, and that's pretty much the entirety of his attraction. This isn't also a story that aims to make a point about how physical attraction is a poor base for a relationship, so this is far from an interesting character trait for a flawed person, just an excuse for more love triangle phooey. The girl Mizuki has a crush on is also really, really dull, given a last minute revelation that she used to be a tomboy that ultimately doesn't mean much of anything. She exists solely for the love triangle and a few gags here and there. The only one of the major four character wins out in any way is Loki, who's portrayed as a sadistic little girl that actually has some sympathetic elements to her character. Yeah, I know. She's a monster, but mainly through upbringing and not being taught limits, and she starts to grow as a person after a single act of empathy from Mizuki. It's one of the few moments in the series that works that isn't supposed to be comedic.

The comedy is also where the series constantly walks a line of great and unbearable. A lot of gags work amazingly well, especially with this one guy who had a crush on Mizuki before the sex change. He's hilarious and utterly ridiculous, mostly due to his facial expressions, and it's a shame he didn't get more than a chapter of significant presence. Loki's games are cruelly amusing, and Mizuki's misunderstandings and anxiety moments make good use of over-reaction. There's also great pacing between gags, mixing a lot of visual and written humor. Unfortunately, a lot of gags go into tired sex comedy clichés, or focus entirely on the main cast, who are not likable or interesting in the slightest eighty percent of the time. The worst moments, of course, are when the series goes into trans denial or start saying and doing really sexist shit because that's the expected norm for these sorts of stories. It's both boring and infuriating.

And the worst thing about all this is that I think Sugito Akira is an immensely talented artist. His art explodes with life and energy, and his expressions go all over the map of human emotion. Doing a comedy was a wise idea, because it allows him to use his talents to the fullest. Even his writing has some strong points at times, especially in Loki's characterization and the sheer rapid-fire pace of jokes. The problem is that he's working with subject matter he barely understands, and he's not trying to be particularly original. What makes Boku Girl stand out is its amazing art and nothing else, and once the high of that great art dies down, it becomes apparent that its a huge waste of clichés you've seen time and time again, many of those clichés downright offensive. Good art can save some works, but definitely not this one. No matter how much effort you put in presenting a turd, at the end of the day, it will still look like a turd.

Boku Girl is just another waste of a subgenre that could do something interesting, yet rarely wants to. You're better off just browsing a few pages for pretty pictures and ignoring it from there. But I am interested in what this artist will work on next, he has promise. He should probably find a writing partner, though, because this series does not really make a good case for giving this man the majority of creative control.


Popular Posts