The Fall 2020 Manga Guide
I Love Yuri and I Got Bodyswapped with a Fujoshi!
What's It About?Meet Reiji Yoshida: a yuri otaku that loves yuri more than anything else in the world. All he wants is to enjoy his hobby in peace, but trouble ensues when he crosses paths with Mitsuru Hoshina, a fujoshi who is obsessed with boys' love. Hijinks ensue, and a vengeful ghost residing in their school's manga club swaps their bodies.
Is It Worth Reading?
This book comes to us from the same creator as Failed Princesses, one of my favorite yuri titles to come out recently. In fact, this is Ajiichi's first book, so it makes sense that it's a little less polished than Failed Princesses. Though it has some issues, it's actually a lot of fun, playing up to the stereotypes of fujoshi and yuri otaku while not leaning too hard into the tropes of body-swap stories, which lands it somewhere in between Star Crossed and Kiss Him, Not Me in terms of feel.
If there's one thing that should have been explained earlier in the book, it is the name of the ghost who haunts the manga club room at the characters' high school. Her name is Manko, which, as some of you may be aware, is a slang word for vagina in Japanese. Manko was an otaku in life who died without ever having a “normie” relationship, so when she sees our protagonists doing what she thinks is flirting (it's really not) she gets mad and curses them to swap bodies, meaning that Reiji, a mad yuri fan, is now in Mitsu, a fujoshi's, body, and vice versa. While that's relatively standard, Ajiichi manages to play with the tropes a bit, with Reiji being the more creeped out (Mitsu promptly takes a nude selfie, because when else is she going to get to see a real live penis) and pretty much no “I'm going to do ___ with your body” garbage beyond the photo. Things come closest to being a problem when Mitsu's best (female) friend confesses to Reiji in Mitsu's body and Mitsu wants him to turn her down hard. But even that is less that she's homophobic and more that she just isn't attracted to girls.
The book's stumbling blocks are in the fact that neither Reiji nor Mitsu can differentiate between real homosexual relationships and yuri and BL. We see more of this from Reiji simply because we're in his head; he keeps talking about real-life yuri and how he'd rather be on the outside looking in than actually participating, although later in the book he does differentiate between yuri and lesbian stories, with the latter presumably being less fantasy-based. It still makes parts of the story feel at least a little uncomfortable as Reiji and Mitsu go into the forbidden grounds of the opposite sex locker rooms and when they talk about just wanting to watch. The humor tries to make up for that, but it only kind of works.
It's not ill-intentioned, however, and for the most part, this volume is a good time. The extra chapter where Mitsu declares that she's going to finally settle the question of which hurts more – getting kicked in the balls or period cramps – is pretty funny, and any time either of them go off on why their preferred series is the best is great, with actual scenes from both being veritable trope fests that show that Ajiichi knows their stuff. It's not Failed Princesses, but it is worth a read, issues notwithstanding.
For decades, the subject of fetishization and same-sex relationships have been of major debate, particularly in fandom-oriented circles. When a girl reads about two boys kissing, is she finding a safe space for her to explore her sexuality without having to confront the fraught nature of female sexuality in patriarchal cultures, or is she doing material harm to the queer community by treating their oppression as a vehicle for her pleasure? When games and anime like Love Live! feature worlds when men are incidental at best, are they creating an environment where girls are free to be themselves, or one designed for the male gaze to be unimpeded by masculinity?
The answer to all these questions is, “It's complicated,” but I Love Yuri and I Got Bodyswapped with a Fujoshi! doesn't answer to these complexities. Here, it's fetishization all the way. Yoshida is a yuri otaku, and Hoshina is a fujoshi, their bodies get swapped because of an angry ghost and contrivance, and shenanigans happen. That's pretty much all there is to it.
Whenever they start discussing what it means to be an otaku, my skin would start to crawl. Yoshida is particularly bad, since his yuri obsession means longing for a world where men don't exist, including himself. When Hoshina's friend starts hitting on him in Hoshina's body, he calls her a “yuri girl”, which made my skeleton just jump straight out of my body and go running for the hills because of how uncomfortably dehumanizing it was. Hoshina isn't the point-of-view character, we see fewer of her skeezy thoughts, but her taking nude selfies in Yoshida's body with plans to use them as reference for her doujinshi, or shipping student council members, make her unlikable as well.
Don't ship real people, y'all. Just don't.
Listen, I like yuri. I like BL. That's one of the fun things about being attracted to people across the gender spectrum – nothing gets disqualified because of the gender of the people involved. Sometimes, albeit more rarely, I like otaku comedies. But I Love Yuri and I Got Bodyswapped with a Fujoshi! highlights the absolute worst parts of the fandom in all those respects. I think I'll stick to my side of fandom, where the squeeing always comes with a side dish of critical discussion and thought.
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