Your and My Secret vol. 1

Your and My Secret vol. 1
 Geoffrey Tebbetts  rates it:    

Author/artist: Ai Morinaga
Format: Paperback
Price: $9.95

Watching a T-Mobile commercial recently got me thinking about the whole “body-switch” thing. You know, a monkey and a human wearing metal helmets wired into a machine, a dog speaking and a boy scratching his ear, Fred Savage and Judge Reinhold screaming at each other in Vice Versa– exactly how is that supposed to advance science? How could switching bodies perfect the subjects without disrupting routine and destroying fragile minds? Well, damn the consequences– what worked for Freaky Friday is bound to work for manga, which has been successfully making men women and women men since Ranma Saotome had his first period.

That’s exactly what Ai Morinaga proceeds to do to Akira Uehara and Nanako Momoi, the two main characters of Your And My Secret. Nanako is both the apple of young Uehara’s eye and the antithesis of female charm–her hot temper and crude manners makes her unapproachable, and she would rather pull someone before a speeding car than push them out of the way. Poor Akira, however, is the perfect example of how chivalry is ignored nowadays, a complete pushover and a school nobody. It’s Nanako’s pushiness and offensive behavior that somehow draws him to her, and when she’s absent one day, he is the only one who volunteers to check things out.

Apparently the Momoi household is no different than the average Japanese homestead–Akira enters to find Nanako kicking and screaming, strapped to a machine by her mad-scientist grandfather. Of course, somewhere between Akira’s rescue and Nanako’s attempt to save her own ass, a lever is pulled and the two get zapped into each other’s body. Naturally, Nanako’s grandfather (picture a cross between Dr. Ochanomizu of Astro Boy and Colonel Sanders) is just as unmotivated and conniving as Nanako, taking off for a trip to Hawaii and forcing the two to live each other’s life.

Just like any other virginal boy suddenly endowed with the figure of a girl, Akira is embarrassed beyond words, unable to take a bath without opening his eyes and incapable of coping with the hassles of feminine hygiene. While there may be some joy from inhabiting the body of the girl he loves, Akira’s unable to fight back when Nanako threatens to show up to school in only her socks if Akira does anything lecherous to her “adorable body.” However, things couldn’t be smoother for Nanako, who uses her free time to explore the bad side of the male gender. Considering just how masculine Nanako is and how effeminate Akira acts, their switched personalities actually complete the bodies they now possess. The fey, below-average Akira becomes a stud under Nanako’s navigation, joining the karate club, straightening out Akira’s bratty sister, even dating her best friend Shiina. This spells disaster for Akira, who not only has to convince Nanako to return to her own body, but must also fend off the advances of his own best friend Senbongi.

Your and My SecretThe art is pretty sharp, plenty of puffy-lipped shoujo art with priceless comic reactions, reminiscent of Miho Obana’s work on Kodomo no Omocha. However, the real driving force is the comedy that comes from the sudden switch– yes, most is derived from nudity and hormonal humor, but there are truly hilarious situations, some initiated by Nanako’s selfish grandfather. The translation here is also spot-on, as the conversations feel natural and the comedy doesn’t feel foreign or forced. It contains some of the typical elements of a transgender comedy, but possibly the biggest reason that Your And My Secret should continue to be a good read is the fact that the story is moving well with no obvious ending yet. Morinaga focuses on related situations that should cause the biggest problems, such as homesickness, raging hormones, the sudden change in grades, and coping with a job as a waitress. Best of all, there’s no evidence that Akira and Nanako will be able to return to normal, yet there’s little chance they’ll date each other–I mean, what kind of sicko would be excited by their own face?

Your and My SecretConsidering that this manga only started last year in the pages of Comic Blade, not even up to its third volume in Japan, there’s plenty of potential in Your And My Secret, and an anime run would be interesting to witness. Morinaga’s got a great story here by twisting a familiar one, making future “body-switch” stories obsolete. Too bad, since I was really pulling for Vice Versa 2.


Added:  Wednesday, July 28, 2004

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