Mizuho Kusanagi – Tokyopop – 2009 – 9 volumes
So. This author. I loved, then hated Game x Rush, and really liked Mugen Spiral. I was a little hesitant in picking this up, since both past lives and genderbending can go south quickly. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have if I had realized it was 9 volumes long. As of volume one… it’s all right. The biggest strike against it is that it continuously repeats the past lives story, but that was due to its serialization schedule. As of the last couple chapters, it looks like it was serialized regularly in… Hana to Yume (surprise, surprise), so we no longer get the whole story of Keidai’s past life and everyone’s identities with every chapter.
It’s more interesting than the typical past life story since the past is in Pompeii, right before Vesuvius erupted. Keidai is a gladiator with a best friend and a wife. In the present, his best friend was reincarnated as a girl named Serizawa, and his little sister and rival in romance were reincarnated as his mother and father, respectively. He’s been waiting for his wife Serena to show up, and she finally does… in the form of a young, foul-mouthed effeminate next-door neighbor named Yuuma who hates being mistaken for a girl. Keidai is the only one who can remember his past life, and as a result, we see a romantic triangle in Yuuma’s crush on Serizawa, Serizawa’s crush on Keidai, and Keidai’s crush on the soul of Serena (this is avoiding BL territory as hard as it possibly can, which is fine by me, so I can’t ever see Keidai actually falling in love with Yuuma, or vice-versa).
Aside from the Pompeii setting for the past lives, the other great part of this series is Keidai. He is completely wrapped up in thoughts of his past life, to the point of almost ignoring everything around him in the present. He only shares this with Serizawa, so to everyone else, he’s a bit of an absentminded loser. Except he’s exceptional at everything, including academics, sports, and looks. He really doesn’t care, since all he wants is his beloved Serena, but it makes his frequent and very public outbursts about his past and current life that much more funny, since he’s completely acing whatever it is he happens to be doing. People root for him to make it through his weirdness to succeed, which I hope plays more of a role later on. I also like that he seems to completely loathe his parents and/or father, since to him, it looks like his romantic rival went behind his back and married his sister. They aren’t in it that frequently, and when they are, Keidai just snaps at them and disregards their advice. It’s played for laughs, and I think looking at it more deeply would probably spoil the weirdness, but it’s just one more point for Keidai right now.
Everything else is pretty lukewarm right now. Serizawa is a really good character that could be developed further (very supportive, indulgent of all the past life stuff even though she’s not convinced, keeps her crush to herself), and Yuuma is a little annoying, though seems to be making friends with the other two pretty fast. The chapters are mostly one-shot stories… one is about a trip to an amusement park, one is about Keidai accidentally getting a girlfriend, and one is about a play Serizawa writes based on Keidai’s past memories. None of it is really blazing any trails as of yet. Toward the end of the volume, we get hints that Keidai might begin to see Serizawa in a more romantic light in the future and forget his past ties, which I’m guessing is the direction the plot will eventually take.
There are better shoujo stories about past lives (Oyayubihime Infinity is really great, actually), and there are better romantic comedies and gender confusion stories. It had its cute moments, but for the most part, the first volume was fairly middle-of-the-road. There were enough good elements mixed in that I will probably wind up sticking with it to the end, but people who aren’t shoujo nuts will probably have a hard time making it through the first volume. The author herself says it’s a light read, and that’s pretty much what it is.