Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
My Androgynous Boyfriend
Wako and her beautiful boyfriend Meguru have been together since high school, and they're the happiest couple – deeply in love and embracing each other's differences. The rest of the world is confused by them, and not sure if they're really a couple or if they're a heterosexual one, but for Wako and Meguru, it doesn't matter. They have each other, and that's really enough, no matter what other people say.
In terms of plot, My Androgynous Boyfriend doesn't have much. It's firmly in the slice-of-life category, following happy couple Wako and her boyfriend Meguru about their day-to-day lives in Tokyo. Wako is a manga editor working long, panicky hours while Meguru is both a model and a clerk in a clothing store with a large social media presence. Because his hours aren't as bad as Wako's, he ends up doing most of the housework, which is perfectly fine with him because he loves being able to take care of her. They're a sweet enough couple to give you cavities, and that's almost more of a draw, at least for some readers, than the elements that give the series its title.
The word “androgynous” means “of indeterminate gender” (well, the dictionary says “sex,” but “gender” is more in keeping with how we use the words today), and the catch to the story is that that's how most people view Meguru. Or at least, that's how we're meant to interpret it; in reality, for most of the volume people simply misgender him, assuming that he's a woman. This is because Meguru likes to dress up, so to speak – he enjoys looking his best, and for him, that means makeup, fashionable clothes that err on the slightly feminine side, and doing something with his hair. Almost none of these are overtly or strictly female (some may argue that makeup is, although that's changing), but they do go against stereotypical notions of heterosexual masculinity. When people do find out that Meguru is male, their next assumption is that he must be gay; likewise people often assume that Wako, who is much more practical in her approach to fashion, is dating a woman, even if they haven't necessarily seen Meguru.
While mostly this is played off as light humor in the book, there's something slightly uncomfortable about it. Meguru isn't bothered too much by the misgendering, but he isn't happy when people assume he's gay or ask him to hide that he's dating Wako. The justification they tend to give – that he's so internet-famous and now gaining traction as a model that it would hurt his career to have a girlfriend – doesn't fly with him, and the fact that it's used over and over in the slim volume begins to grate after a while. Meguru, as is revealed in the flashback chapters, fell head-over-heels for Wako a long time ago, and he repeats numerous times that he thinks she's just as cute and adorable as other people think he is. In a more serious series, this might lead to something about assumptions and beauty standards; here it seems to serve more as a spot of drama amidst the sweetness of their happy homelife. That's fine, but it would be nice to see Meguru take a firmer stand than he does the few times he confronts people about it, because it's clear that being with Wako is a major part of his identity and happiness.
Although the title assumes this to be Wako's story, it really does feel more like Meguru's. We spend more time with him and in his head, and Wako mostly seems to sort of run around on the fringes, being busy at work and trying to take the best Instagram-worthy pictures of Meguru. (She basically curates his social media image.) It's clear that she also loves him, but she's a much less down-to-earth person, and that at times can make her feel more superficial as a character. That's too bad, especially since she does get a couple of moments where the story could have done something a bit more with her, such as when a new coworker thinks she's a lesbian or when she meets a famous, favorite artist only to be mightily disillusioned. That last has the most potential, since she especially admires the way that he draws women; when it turns out that this is from a sexist root rather than any real appreciation of women or the female form, she's shaken, but the story doesn't really explore things beyond that, and the point is dropped by the next, short chapter.
Perhaps the best way to think of My Androgynous Boyfriend is as a light diversion. It skirts around and hints at deeper exploration of its themes, but ultimately isn't interested in being anything but a sweet, slightly comedic story about a couple whose appearances are, to most people, mismatched. While not every story needs to have a deeper meaning or to fully embrace the themes it (perhaps unwittingly) puts forth, this one feels like it ought to have, and that leaves the book feeling a little emptier than a slice-of-life should. It's cute and honey-sweet with art that enhances those aspects, but don't go into it expecting it to be any more than that.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B+
+ Sweet romance and slice-of-life aspects, nice art. Touches on some interesting themes of gender and fame…
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