Reviewby Carlo Santos, Feb 27th 2007
After spending some time away, Kohanamaru Taki has recently moved in with his extended family. Like many big families, they're quirky and boisterous—but they also have a strange biological secret. If any of them should kiss their "destined one," they'll switch bodies with that person! Kohanamaru is none too pleased to find out that his body-switching soul mate is an obnoxious girl, Nanao, and worse yet, she's in love with his twin brother Konatsu. However, Konatsu is so used to being popular with girls that he's a complete jerk, and Kohanamaru decides to use his body-switching powers to teach him a lesson. What he doesn't know, however, is that there's one little condition that could cause his switch with Nanao to become permanent...
How many ways are there to mess with gender? You've got boys dressing up as girls, girls dressing up as boys, boys transforming into girls, and now, boys and girls switching bodies. Please join us in the collective sigh of exasperation: "Great, not another one." Which is not to say that Sora Omote's entry into this territory is bad. In fact, it's got its fair share of entertainment value, with attractive characters, strong personalities, and a natural flair for comedic situations. But along with such highlights come the usual pitfalls of the genre: cheap plot contrivances, roundabout "rules" for body-switching, and of course, the confusion of having to remember which character is really talking. Metamo Kiss gets off to an energetic start, and delivers exactly what it promises, but no more than that.
Reading through just the first chapter, one gets the feeling that this was one of those "Do a one-shot and we'll decide if we want to continue it" projects. The early character designs are a little off, the pacing is ragged, and it's a struggle just to finish the chapter. Once the initial conditions are set, however, things start to click; the rest of the volume is a romp of switch-on, switch-off madness as Nanao and Hana (that's short for Kohanamaru) try to get the best of Konatsu. Unfortunately, the slick comedic pacing also relies on some of the most ridiculous plot devices known to humankind, with physics-defying "accidents" that lead to inadvertent kisses, as well as tricky rules and conditions about body-switching designed for the sole purpose of complicating the story. Let's just say they get plenty of mileage out of that twin brother relationship.
Plot devices aside, the characters in this series are probably the strongest aspect, with distinct personalities that play off each other well. Not many shoujo series have a male in the lead role, but that's what makes Hana memorable as the central character—he's strong-willed, he's pragmatic, and he's a guy who has to play a girl half the time. Twin brother Konatsu is a suitably moody foil, with his indifference bordering on meanness, although he also reveals a soft side when it really matters. Surprisingly, love interest Nanao is the one main character that lacks a third dimension so far—sure, her obnoxious attitude helps to start conflicts, but beyond that, her portrayal is shallow. It's a minor disappointment among a cast where even the family members are appealing (the switch between the sister and the cat is just too cute).
Along with good characterization comes good character design, as this volume's cover clearly shows. Hana's two-tone hair and Nanao's curly locks are merely the surface of what are distinctive visual traits for just about everyone in the series, and there's not a single character that could be called ugly or forgettable. Bold, energetic linework also boosts the madcap comedy factor; this is clearly not your typical wispy, garden-variety shoujo, but something made of stronger stuff. Even the lapses into super-deformed style are appealing, and Omote clearly has a strong grasp of the visual shorthand for a choke hold (useful whenever someone needs to vent), as well as having a clever little convention for showing when characters are currently switched. Layouts and backgrounds, however, are much more ordinary, following a "draw wherever you can fit it in" aesthetic. Although not necessarily crowded, the panels just don't flow well from one moment to the next, and they fail to use the space of the page to their advantage. Somehow, the comedic beats are there—they just don't show up visually.
The dialogue in this volume is good for a Tokyopop translation, which means nobody tried to go overboard with attitude or rewriting, and at the same time it avoids the stilted incompleteness of "pure accuracy" translations. The overall effect is one of a snappy, contemporary teen comedy. Background words and sound effects are sometimes translated, but apparently it happens on a case-by-case basis, as there are still plenty of untouched sound effects and a few stray kanji characters floating around. Extras are absent from this volume aside from the artist's postscript, and a slightly blurred first-chapter title page is the only letdown in an otherwise sharp print job.
Now, it would be easy to say that this entire story is a steaming pile of cliché and should be burned to the ground, but if one can work within the boundaries of the cliché and still produce entertainment, then sometimes that's good enough. In that respect, Metamo Kiss is good enough. Driven by a memorable cast of characters, this first volume delivers a high-energy romp through the perils of body-switching. That's about all it does, though, and even then it has to be rigged with convoluted rules and plot devices to make the story work. It's fun to look at, and fun to read, but it's got ways to go before becoming first-rate comedy. File it with the other boy/girl switch scenarios and pick it up when you're in the mood for something light.
Overall : B-
Story : C
Art : B
+ Distinctive characters and a bold, appealing visual style.
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