Your & My Secret 7

Ai Morinaga – Tokyopop – 2010 – 7+ volumes

Yet another series left hanging by Tokyopop, but maybe they would have finished it had the last volume existed. I… I think volume 8 might be the final one, but it’s not even out in Japan yet, so it’s hard to say.

I forget between volumes just how much I love this series. It’s so funny. The jokes do chase themselves around in circles, but with only 1-2 volumes a year, who am I to say it’s too much? They’re still funny jokes, and I’m not sure I can ever get tired of Ai Morinaga drawing the most repulsive things in such a sparkly, girly manner. A good example is the cover. Every cover features a couple from the series, and each of the six covers so far has featured the four main characters paired in different ways. Lacking any more couples to draw, Morinaga’s featured couple on volume 7 is Momoi’s father and grandfather. Dressed as students. The short, rotund grandfather is wearing a schoolgirl uniform. And did I mention that Momoi’s dad is supposed to resemble Spock? They are dancing. It’s horrifying. Does it sell books? Uh… probably the opposite. But it is amazing, all the same.

It really is the gags that carry it, too. The story is winding down here, as the grandfather puts the finishing touches on the switchback machine and Akira has to decide whether switching back is really what he wants. The hangup is that Senbongi wants him to stay in Momoi’s body, presumably because they can’t go out if they are both boys. After reading Strawberry-chan, I know that Morinaga is up for bizarre forays into yaoi, so I’m not sure how that will turn out if Akira switches back into his male body. But for the time being, grandpa’s machine still doesn’t work (in fact, it backfires hilariously on Momoi’s dad), so Momoi, Senbongi, Shiina, and Akira go for one last date to “Mouseland.”

Honestly? My favorite joke in the book is one where Momoi’s dad does a deep bow while asking something of Akira, and the next page shows it in the context of… the machine backfiring. It was very subtle, and it cracked me up pretty hard. There’s also the reliable repulsive jokes, like the one with the drooling toddler featured on one of the illustration pages that open the volume. There’s also good ol’ reliable jokes about guys getting kicked in the crotch.

Stay classy, Your & My Secret. I love you dearly just the way you are. I doubt this series is going to get a third chance at life, especially since licensing anything by Ai Morinaga seems to kill publishers, and that’s a shame, because she has a gift with comedy. Hopefully volume 8 will be the last, and I think I’m just going to buy it in Japanese. I’ve been reading this series for years, and I need to know what happens, even if it does turn out to be some sort of bizarre gag anticlimax.


Your & My Secret 6

Ai Morinaga – Tokyopop – 2010 – 7+ volumes

I’m still a volume behind on this series, which is a tragedy considering how much I like Ai Morinaga. I was a little worried that this series wasn’t going anywhere, but new characters in this volume make me think we might begin to see some very slight forward momentum. And while we’re waiting, it’s still full of funny stuff. This one wasn’t one of the better volumes, but Ai Morinaga always makes me laugh out loud at least a few times per volume.

We get to see the return of Momoi’s parents, who know immediately that Momoi is not herself when she greets them politely. They are even more shocked to find that the person inhabiting her body is a boy, since he seemed so much more feminine than Momoi. They, of course, insist on the switch back. Honestly, this would seem to spell out the end of the series, but after certain events that take place this volume, and considering where all the relationships are, I think dealing with the aftermath will be interesting, too.

On the other hand, there are some wordless panels where Momoi’s father is enjoying Akira’s feminine attentions, so it’s possible that Momoi’s father may break the machine himself when it’s fixed again. Hmm. Not cool.

Let’s see, what else… there’s still a lot of funny character interaction. It’s toned way down this volume since Momoi’s parents coming is a major plot point, and we get movement in the Senbongi/Akira relationship that takes a lot of story time, so there’s less of the one-shot gags. But there’s still great panels of Senbongi and Momoi clasping hands with a promise of borrowed porn, or Momoi pointing out her father looks like Spock because he was clearly drawn to look like him for no reason. But I don’t mind taking a break from non-stop gags in order to move the story forward. As I said the new plot points don’t move the story forward a whole lot, but for a series that has been mostly one-shot gag stories and minute character/relationship development since volume one, having the elements in place to move the story forward is pretty serious business.

Also, even if no story had actually taken place here, this volume would be worth reading for the short “what if” story in the back about Akira swapping bodies with grandpa instead of Momoi. That story… it was wrong on so many levels. It had me absolutely howling. It’s a different set of jokes than the normal gender swap stuff, too. Pure gold.


Your & My Secret 5

Ai Morinaga – Tokyopop – 2009 – 7+ volumes

Have I mentioned how much I like Ai Morinaga? It really does border on the obscene, especially since the two longest series I’ve read by her (Your & My Secret and My Heavenly Hockey Club) tend to get stuck in plot ruts, favoring jokes over development.

I say this every time, but the jokes are funny. I wouldn’t come back every time if they weren’t, and I love the fact they tend to build on each other and somehow get funnier. The doujinshi circle we saw drawing books about Akira/Momoi and Senbongi a while back return, in the form of Akira’s lovelorn sister finding one in her brother’s room and becoming obsessed. This was in a side chapter about how she had a huge crush on Akira/Momoi since he’d gotten manly and turned into a huge jerk. There’s some abusive undertones to this, since she still blushes whenever he mistreats her, I thought that was a little disturbing. She obviously can’t act on it, and is a lot younger to boot, so it’s less disturbing than it sounds and easier to laugh about.

This was mostly a class trip volume. Morinaga seems to have a strange obsession with food, as Hockey Club is a series about characters that travel around for games and wind up eating local delicacies, and that’s more-or-less what happens here. Lots and lots of eating. There is some plot development, too, and this one isn’t as stagnant as Hockey Club. Momoi/Akira and Shiina are growing closer, and Momoi is struggling with her desire to have sex with Shiina versus what will happen when she gets her old body back and Akira doesn’t want to date her anymore. Similarly, Senbongi starts to get more serious about Akira/Momoi, who is finally growing more attracted to Senbongi himself despite the fact both of them know the secret.

Standard shoujo exposition, but again, the jokes prop it up nicely. Akira/Momoi struggles with his desire to go to the women’s hot spring, and is finally forced into it both as a kind of therapy for curing his sadness and because its expected of him. Hilarity ensues, which is better than I expected since I hate hot springs gags with a passion (Morinaga’s hideous depictions of the elderly might have something to do with this). Akira also finds himself more and more attracted to Shiina, but also struggles with jealousy, since Momoi/Akira is far kinder to Shiina than she ever was to Akira.

There’s even some greatness inside the front cover, which has an illustration of Senbongi and Grandpa embracing lovingly for no real reason.

I’m not really doing the humor justice, but it’s quite good. This is more-or-less what I’ve wanted from every gender swap story I’ve ever read, and Morinaga continues to deliver the greatness with every volume. The sixth just came out, and the seventh’s scheduled for later this year. It makes me very happy that this keeps showing up on Tokyopop’s schedule. Morinaga seems to take slightly longer than a year with every volume, so I hope both she and Tokyopop can see this through to the end, whenever that might be (the jokes could seriously go on forever).

I am sad to see that Del Rey hasn’t scheduled a new volume of My Heavenly Hockey Club in over a year, and with their recent cancellations (I got notices myself for Gakuen Prince and Pastel), that may mean the future is not good for that series. I’m sad that Morinaga is like a curse for US publishers, because I love her so very much. Maybe the real reason behind CMX’s downfall was that they were considering the license to Yamada Taro Monogatari.


Your and My Secret 4

I reviewed this for this week’s Manga Minis column, so head over to Manga Recon to check it out.

What can I tell you?  I love Ai Morinaga, so I loved this volume.  I actually much prefer this series to My Heavenly Hockey Club since it has a little forward momentum and works a little better for gags.  She’s guaranteed to make you laugh at least a few times in every volume.


Your and My Secret 3

I really, truly love every volume of Ai Morinaga’s manga.  I know I sometimes say bad things about My Heavenly Hockey Club not having a plot, and these things are true, but they don’t override the Ai Morinaga awesome value.  Every volume of Ai Morinaga is full of disturbing things that I will never be able to unsee as long as I live.  I don’t know how she does it.  I don’t want to know how she does it.  But it is a very special skill, one that every single other mangaka lacks.  I truly want to be disgusted in that special Ai Morinaga way every time I read a volume of manga.  It’s rare that I get the privilege, and I’m so lucky that four of her series have made it into English.  Here’s hoping for Yamada Taro Monogatari sometime in the future.

The thing that made me laugh hardest in this volume was when Senbongi figured out what happened to Akira and Momoi… and didn’t care.  He had zero reaction to the whole body swap thing, and had no problem doing it with his childhood friend in a girl’s body.  Akira really is the only one who sees a problem.  This whole situation is highlighted later when the art students misunderstand the tension between Akira-who-is-really-Momoi and Senbongi (Momoi wants to keep Senbongi from defiling her body) and draw yaoi manga about the two.  Once again, only Akira cares about these disturbing developments.

The more disturbing content in this series revolves around the grandfather.  The grandfather is truly upsetting in most things that he does.  In one instance, he is driven to finish his machine when he is promised that Shiina will clean his ears like a proper young lady if he finishes, which prompts the grandfather to have a plethora of sparkly fantasies of Shiina being a good granddaughter to him.

Shiina delivers.

The best thing of all about this series is that it does have plot development, unlike My Heavenly Hockey Club.  Sure, we get stalls like the whole Romeo and Juliet story in this volume, but good things usually come of this.  Things like manga slashing the characters.  So there you go.


Your and My Secret 2

Wow, how long have I been waiting for this?  The review for volume one was one of the first reviews I wrote for this site over four years ago.  And with all the Ai Morinaga I’ve been getting lately, it felt great to go back to this one.

The jokes at the expense of the genders of the pair continue.  Akira still makes a better girl, and Nanako still makes a cuter girl.  In this volume, Nanako pretty much admits that she likes being a boy better and isn’t all that interested in switching back, and by the end… well, Akira may feel this way too, but he doesn’t seem ready to admit this to himself yet.  He’s still working himself raw trying to make enough money so Nanako’s grandpa can switch them back.

Sadly, grandpa isn’t in this volume.  There are some really weird/awesome vacation chapters to make up for it, though.  I would hate vacation/beach chapters like this in any other series, but the number of really weird and wrong jokes that can be made at the expense of the characters is only enhanced by putting them in stereotypical settings.

The plot doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, but I’m pretty satisfied with the gags for the time being.  I’ve read several series by Morinaga at this point, and I think it’s safe to say I read them because they’re funny and not for their ongoing plots.  My Heavenly Hockey Club still doesn’t seem to have much of a plot, and Strawberry-chan never had one, but was still her magnum opus, as far as I’m concerned.


Your and My Secret 1

Ah, the genderbending manga, they call to me. In this one, we get a mellow, sweet boy and the rather nasty girl he has a crush on switching genders thanks to the girl’s scientist grandfather. Another plus to this volume (aside from the gender swap) is that it features a color picture of said grandpa on the back in a maid’s uniform surrounded by hearts.

I was rather excited to get my teeth in an Ai Morinaga manga, as this was my first opportunity. The art style was appropriately shoujo-floaty, but not in the sickeningly sweet way, in the way that emphasized the crying moments for the boy. It’s probably a bad sign that I don’t remember anyone’s name, but who cares, the manga was still awesome.

Probably the best part of it was that the two personalities were better suited for the opposite bodies, and the mangaka never stated this blatantly. Ahh, someone who trusts the reader to draw obvious conclusions, I like that. The humor from this never got old, and it was slightly off and raunchy, so I enjoyed it greatly. Yes, I enjoyed every single minute of this volume, and I want MORE. Unfortunately, the biggest drawback to this is that there’s only one volume, and there’s obviously more story since it stops in the middle of something. ARGH. MORE. I WANT MORE.

EDIT: bizarrely, this was one of the first mini reviews I posted, and it had the good luck to be picked up and continued by another company.  I just finished Tokyopop’s version, and the series is still good after four years.  Somehow I totally forgot about the weird breast-touching fortune teller when I did this review, but that’s why things like this happen, I suppose.  I’m pumped now that volume two and beyond will be coming out.


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