by Rebecca Silverman,

So Cute It Hurts!!

GN 1

So Cute It Hurts!! GN 1
Twins Megumu (girl) and Mitsuru (boy) are close despite how opposite their personalities are: Mego is a history otaku who's uncomfortable around boys and Mitsuru is a total ladies' man and kendo champ. When he ends up having to take extra history classes, he tries to convince his sister to swap places with him and go to his all-boys school for a week while he fills in for her at her co-ed school. Mego emphatically says no, but Mitsuru takes her clothes and leaves her his anyway. Can they make it through the week at each others' schools? And what will happen when both of them fall for someone at their sibling's school?

Go Ikeyamada has been writing shoujo manga since 2002, but So Cute it Hurts marks her English-language debut. The story, her latest, follows semi-identical twins (technically they'd be classified as fraternal twins, but they look alike) Megumu and Mitsuru who switch places with each other when Mitsuru fails a history test. Unlike his sister, Mitsuru is much more interested in pursuing the ladies and playing kendo, sort of flitting and flirting his way through life. Megumu (who goes by Mego), on the other hand, is a bona-fide history otaku, intimately familiar with Japanese history and happily geeking out with her otaku buddies. She tells her brother no way when he proposes the switch, but Mitsuru blithely ignores her and forces her into the deception anyway. He heads off to Mego's normal high school where he immediately runs afoul of the school's queen bee and falls for a new student...who happens to be Deaf. (As a point of interest, A Silent Voice dates to 2013, a year after So Cute it Hurts began its run.) Meanwhile Mego discovers that her brother is the number seven thug at his yanki high school and quickly finds herself embroiled in a battle because he dated someone else's girlfriend. But she also meets the gorgeous eye-patch wearing Sanada, whom she had met briefly on the street the day before and who she's been dreaming about ever since. With both of them experiencing their first loves, you can practically see the love geometry writing its equations on the page.

So Cute it Hurts, a title which Ikeyamada seems determined to pound into our heads through repetition, is not her first foray into the cross-dressing genre; her 2006 series Uwasa no Midori-kun featured one of the least convincing cross-dressing heroines I've ever seen. Practice makes perfect, however, and that, luckily, is not a problem in this series. Ikeyamada makes good use of body language for both Mitsuru and Mego and both look convincing in their swapped roles. Mitsuru is at this point the more interesting character, both in terms of his experiences at Mego's school and his romance plotline. When he's dressed as Mego, he ties his hair back so that we can easily tell which twin we're looking at, and he also continues to sit and move like a boy. Almost immediately he discovers that Azusa, the school idol, is not nearly as nice as she is pretty, and he stands up for the girl she's bullying, a recent transfer student named Shino Takenaka. When he learns that she is Deaf, he immediately goes out to buy a book on sign language, showing us not only his devotion to his budding crush on her, but also that he's a really nice guy despite the fact that he goes to what appears to be Delinquent High. Mego, on the other hand, shrieks and simpers her way through her chapters, and while there is definite entertainment value in watching thugs fall for her (as her brother), her storyline is simply more cookie cutter than her brother's, as well as devoid of the touches that make his grab us more, such as Shino or the bullying. While it seems that things will change, since Ikeyamada has specified that the twins are only switching for a week, she's going to have to make Mego's romance stand out more somehow, because right now it feels like the annoying subplot to a much more interesting story.

Story aside, Ikeyamada's art is perhaps best described as “fun.” It has a soft quality to it that makes all of the characters look young, and she makes good use of chibis and facial expressions in silly scenes. Despite the crowded pages, the book is easy to follow, and the occasional unusual panel arrangement keeps things from feeling too muddled. As I mentioned before, body language is used to good effect, particularly while the twins are switched, but also in Azusa and in Mego's everyday life, where she looks like she's trying to disappear into herself. Oddly Shino has the least expressive body language, although all sign language conversations are drawn very clearly, complete with directional information. The writing isn't terrific, often feeling clichéd, but Viz has done its best with the translation, which does flow well. There is a tendency to write “lol,” which may offend some readers' sensibilities (I'm not a fan), but there's also thankfully a lack of cutesy slang.

So Cute it Hurts is, in its first volume, a fun story. Easy to read in both art and text, it has moments that rise above its fairly basic shoujo love story and make it stand out, primarily when Mitsuru is the main character. The sense of humor and romantic turmoil combine to make this a good light read, so if you're in the mood for a little shoujo silly sweetness, this book has got you covered.

Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B+

+ Mitsuru storyline is interesting and fun, good body language in the art. Sign language is drawn very clearly.
Mego's story is much more typical and pales in comparison to her brother's, too much repetition of the title in the dialogue. Narration is annoying.

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Story & Art: Gō Ikeyamada

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