Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Nothing much happening today. Maureen is working late, actually going around trying to make contacts of her own so that she can be a better concierge. Right now, she basically acts as a middleman between the guests and the head concierge, but if she's able to do more on her own, she'll be able to satisfy guests' insane desires quicker and thus get more favorable reviews. Also, if one of her colleagues leaves and takes her contacts with her, that would leave her starting from zero. So she's spending the week going around clubs, theaters, and restaurants, handing out business cards.
And I'm stuck at home, because I still haven't gotten a new ATM card, which makes it tough to get money during the week, since I'm in and out of town before the banks open. So I was reading some of the comics that have piled up - I am a sucker for a $10 manga but flinch at paying $7.99 for a six-hundred page paperback, which is kind of wrong - and I hit one that surprises me. I try and pick up comics/movies/books with gender-bending themes anyway, because they amuse me the same way the computer dialog on 24 does (it sounded like Edgar was trying to program in assembler on Monday, when nobody but people who write compilers does that any more). I figured, hey, why not make reviews of such products a regular feature, since I figure I've got a unique perspective on it. And, you know, there's store credit to be made if people use the Amazon links (and review copies would be cool, too, anyone reading this).
I wasn't expecting to find anything like that in Instant Teen - Just Add Nuts! Volume 2. The basis of the story is that Natsumi, an eleven-year-old girl, gets hold of some "miracle nuts" that temporarily transform her into a sexy young woman. She and her best friend Asuma (who has a bit of a crush on her) manage to get into wacky adventures.
Admittedly, the concept is absurd. Aside from my usual "conservation of matter" reservations, you've got to wonder about the scientist who was initially angry that Natsumi swiped the nuts but now basically supplies her with them and helps out. She's not what you'd call a good role model. And the lead story in this collection involves someone proposing marriage within days of meeting the grown-up Natsumi, which is kind of a silly plot even without the fantasy elements.
I initally was interested in the series because I saw the potential for fun satire as well as the whole "hey, all of a sudden I'm a woman, with the boobs and guys after me and all" thing. The description had Natsumi becoming a model, and I figured you could do some fun dark comedy about the entertainment industry sexualizing someone who is basically a child. If I were writing something like it, I'd set it in the music industry and try to make the reader feel damn uncomfortable about the whole Britney Spears type of phenomenon. That's not the way Haruka Fukushima went; the rating on the book is "10+"
It's a fun book, though. It's a somewhat busy art style, which jumps from cartoony to super-deformed and back a lot, and uses montage and weird sorts of collage a lot. Still, the artist does have expressive faces when she wants to. There's a fun, madcap style to it once you accept that this scientist is often a terrible influence. The characters are believably kids, too - they're mostly innocent, but they're also capable of being selfish and expecting the grown-ups to bail them out.
The gender-bending thing happens in the second part of the book; Natsumi and Asuma are poking around the doctor's garden, and swipe a few heart-shaped nuts that have the ability to switch bodies. So, of course, while they're on a school ski trip, they do. Complications ensue - Asuma can ski, Natsumi can't, one of the other girls on the trip has a crush on Asuma and so plans to deliberately wipe out so that Asuma can "help" her... It's also fun that the effects of the body-swap nuts sort of triggers the effects of anything else in the system, so Asuma finds himself an eleven-year-old boy in the body of a hot adult girl, and is kind of oblivious to how he affects young men.
I get a kick out of how kids have the concept of "sexy" without the concept of "sex"; it makes for a different perspective. A lot of times, when I read a story about a guy and a girl switching bodies, I don't buy it, but I think these two would act like this in this situation, which is really all you can ask.
This isn't close to my favorite manga - maybe I'll review Ray sometime - but I can see how kids might like it, and it's always a kick to stumble across something that's just a daily part of one's life presented as ridiculous fantasy/sci-fi stuff.
So buy it. Or don't. But if you do, use that link and make me forty-five cents or so.
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