by Rebecca Silverman,

So Cute It Hurts!!

GN 7

So Cute It Hurts!! GN 7
Mego and Mitsuru have switched places again, this time to protect others! After Mitsuru witnessed Azusa being threatened, he doesn't feel good about leaving her on her own, and Mego's also feeling uncertain about Aoi now that Uesugi has come to town for mysterious reasons. But Azusa's fast falling for Mitsuru, who's still nursing a heart broken by Shino and Uesugi doesn't take long to figure out that there's something between Mego and Aoi. How far will they go to get to the twins?

As far as cross-dressing characters in manga go, Megumu Kobayashi may be one of the least convincing. Gō Ikeyamada has a somewhat checkered history with that (one of her previous series, Uwasa no Midori-kun!!, has an even less believable heroine), but So Cute It Hurts!! did an okay job at first. Now that Mego and Aoi are officially a couple, however, that's gone out the window, and the bigger question here is not “How does Uesugi figure it out?” but rather “Why hasn't anyone else?” I'll admit that it really shouldn't matter so much in a series as unashamedly goofy as this one, but as the end of the volume starts to take things into more serious (and worrisome) territory, Mego's very clearly female body at a boys' school becomes something of an irritant.

Not that the increasing (relative) seriousness of the story should be a huge surprise – there have been hints about Aoi and Shino all along, and last volume's reminder that a cute young celebrity model like Azusa isn't necessarily totally safe added a little salt to the series' overall sugar. But now with an actual rival for Mego's affections, or at least a clear villain for the story, the jury's still kind of out on Uesugi's emotions and motivations, and things seem set to go in a much darker direction than they have before. The problem presented by the book's end is two-fold: one, Uesugi is either contemplating or planning to trick Mego into believing something unacceptable, and two, it marks a retread of one of shoujo romance's most distasteful tropes by preying on the heroine's emotional well-being. While not much more can be said without flat-out spoiling the issue, it is enough to merit worrying over where the series is headed, putting a damper on an otherwise enjoyably daffy volume.

There's still plenty of Ikeyamada's signature goofiness in this book up until the end. With Uesugi's entrance on the scene, Aoi begins to fret about Mego being at school with him and does his best to drive her off – all the while fretting internally about what a jerk he looks like. Azusa gets totally caught up in her own budding emotions while Mitsuru attempts to be solicitous of her “hatred” of him, and Mego's terrible artwork briefly rears its head again. One of the best scenes comes when Mego has been forced into going out with Uesugi and shows up in full fujoshi mode; it's both a clever move on her part and an opportunity for Ikeyamada to draw silly faces and go into crazy overdrive, which she does particularly well. There are also plenty of bizarre faces from Mego in general as she tries to keep Uesugi at bay, which are not just visually entertaining, but also show her more intelligent side.

Things are also more romantic this volume, with Aoi and Mego growing ever closer. The cover itself is almost a spoiler for events inside the book, but it really doesn't matter because Ikeyamada handles it so well. Part of the draw of their relationship is that Aoi can't bring himself to touch Mego, but as he spends more and more time with her, he is able to overcome his issues with, if not all women, at least this one specific female. His attempts to work around his “allergy” are sweet, and the solution he comes up with this time particularly so, questions of sanitation aside. Meanwhile the developing Azusa/Mitsuru relationship is taking a much slower path. This is a nice counterbalance to Aoi and Mego that also makes sense considering this is the second chance for Mitsuru at love. It was definitely a risk for Ikeyamada to have things go the way they did with Shino, and it truly makes the twins' stories feel separate rather than two versions of the exact same romance. While it is a shame to have the deaf character relegated to supporting status rather than remaining a primary heroine, it's also a risk that seems to have paid off in terms of developing both Mitsuru and Azusa, both of whom were in danger of remaining one-note characters.

Unfortunately, Ikeyamada's art is on a bit of a downslide. As I mentioned before, suddenly Megumu's “disguise” as her brother is more than paper-thin – her breasts, hips, and thighs are all markedly female in this volume. While her Mitsuru has always been cuter than the real thing, now she's basically just wearing a wig to disguise herself. Her height also fluctuates throughout the volume, sometimes even between panels on the same page; the same happens to Uesugi and Aoi. (Mitsuru and Azusa appear much less frequently and are therefore more stable.) Pages are also getting more crowded and toned, although Ikeyamada does a very good job with full and two-page spreads, and she does experiment with different panel shapes and sizes, which at least keeps crowded pages interesting.

So Cute It Hurts!! is still likely to send you into sugar shock, even though its final pages are taking things in a disturbing direction. Despite that, Ikeyamada does keep the story as fresh as possible, even if her twists aren't always desirable, and I'm hard-pressed to think of another shoujo romance that moves at such a rapid pace in terms of actual plot developments. As long as she doesn't go too far with this one, this should continue as it began – a goofy story about twins who take advantage of their resemblance in order to find love, so sweet that it makes you feel the need to brush your teeth after every reading.

Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-

+ Some very good faces and silly outfits, the story never stalls even for a moment
Mego makes a less convincing boy than ever, worrisome plot twist at the end of the book, Uesugi's a pretty one-note villain

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Gō Ikeyamada

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So Cute It Hurts!! (GN 7)

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