Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
Yamada is the school's resident bad boy delinquent, although his chief flaws simply appear to be skipping class and getting bad grades. Shiraishi is the school's top student, a girl who gets top grades and studies constantly. One day the two have a fateful encounter when Yamada slips on the stairs and falls on Shiraishi...and they switch bodies! It turns out that if Yamada and Shiraishi kiss, they can swap bodies until they kiss again. It's not such a bad deal, and they use it to their advantage as best they can. But can they really keep such a secret to themselves?
As far as gender-bending body-swapping stories go, Yamada-Kun and the Seven Witches is one of the nicest. I don't mean that in the sense that it's sweet and happy or conflict free, but rather in that there is a lack of the inherent meanness that seems to happen in other manga released in English where the plot relies on a girl and a boy switching bodies. In stories like Your and My Secret and Ani-Imo, one of the pair (typically the girl in the boy body) takes advantage of the fact by doing things that the body's owner would not do, and that often makes the other party very uncomfortable. Likewise, the boy in the girl body tries his darnedest not to look at the body he's living in, resulting in some very silly situations that make exactly zero sense. Neither of those issues happen in Miki Yoshikawa's series, at least not in the first volume. Shiraishi doesn't use her penis possession to masturbate or have sex and Yamada doesn't mind having a look at some real boobs while he's got them. While we may have an issue with his actions, hers balance things out in terms of the genre while his feel a little more normal. (She does look at his equipment too, which makes sense.)
Plot aside, one of the first things that readers may notice is that it is very clear that Miki Yoshikawa, also the creator of Yankee-kun to Megane-chan, began her career as an assistant to Hiro Mashima of Fairy Tail fame. The art is very similar to his, particularly in terms of facial expressions and the solidity of the characters' bodies. If you like this style, she does it very well, paying attention to how the swapped pair sit, stand, and walk when they're in each others' bodies, although that can at times get a little overdone. The pages flow very well and panels are clear with no order confusion. There is a dearth of backgrounds, which can make some panels seem very blank, but on the whole this is a book that works well visually.
In terms of characters, both Yamada and Shiraishi are more than they appear, which adds depth and interest to the otherwise very simple plot. Shiraishi in particular is not a one-note character, and her reasons for studying and benefiting from the body swap may surprise some readers. Particularly nice is the fierce face she makes when she thinks guys might be hitting on her – when you consider her relationship with the other girls at school, it makes sense that she would want to avoid anything that might call negative female attention to her. The ways in which she and Yamada benefit from their power are specific to each of their issues, and in Shiraishi's case, this really aids in solidifying the pair's relationship. There is an implication that Shiraishi may have had a crush on Yamada for some time, although it isn't clear whether that dates to pre or post swap; it should be an interesting plot thread to watch develop.
The book does take quite a long time, relatively speaking, to reach the point where they figure out exactly how the swapping system works, so there is a question of whether or not the back copy (or the synopsis for this review) could be counted as spoilers. While the book is by no means dull or uninteresting previous to this reveal, it also does pick up steam after it happens, so it does feel less like a traditional spoiler and more like a hint at what's to come. There is more to the story in the first volume than is revealed; it's just that Yoshikawa takes her time in revealing that one particular plot point.
Right now there is no explanation for the series' title; while I can make a guess as to its meaning, by the time the book ends there are only three main characters, not seven. Given what was discussed in the previous paragraph, we can reasonably make the assumption that Yoshikawa is simply not rushing things in order to develop the story; and given the results so far I cannot complain. Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches may not be flying along, but it is fun, entertaining, and features a take on the gender swapping genre that we don't get to see as often. It's lighthearted with some more serious undertones, so if you like your shounen without power ups and epic battles, this is one series that you ought to check out.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : A-
+ Relatively thoughtful treatment of Shiraishi's character, lacks the meanness that other similarly plotted books have. Attractive art, likable characters.
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