Summer has almost made its appearance in India..With the scorching heat playing its part well in draining all possible excess energy, this time is the best (only rivaled by the rainy days, perhaps) to laze around in own room with a fresh juice and a laptop/book.. So, for all those who are planning to spend the summer vacation indoors, I’d like to recommend some books, anime,manga and movies that I think you might want to try. This post is one such recommendation, specially written for all my fellow anime/manga maniacs out there..😉
I was pretty overwhelmed with the kind of response I received for my post on Anime and Manga in India. The polls so far show some interesting variations from my original offline survey. In case you haven’t read the post or participated in the survey yet, kindly do so.
One fascinating finding I made during both the offline and (the ongoing) online survey is that almost no one is familiar with the special manga genre of ‘Gender Bender’. Gender bender is a genre in which the main character cross dresses and behaves or lives as the opposite gender. I absolutely love this genre, mainly because it explores the concept of ‘Anima and Animus‘..the girl in every boy, and the boy in every girl!. Gender benders also tend to have a lot of drama, comedy, friendships and romance, and can sometimes overlap with harem/reverse harem genre. They often revolve around keeping the big secret – the true biological identity of the protagonist, and the many weird and awkward circumstances where the cat nearly gets out of the bag.
Now that the intro is finally over, wanna know some cool gender bender anime/manga? I know that there are quite a number out there, but the ones I’m suggesting here are my favourites that I remember and still enjoy, years after I first saw/read them. I should tell you one thing, though.. They all are from the shoujo genre..well, almost all.
So here are my top three picks for the Gender Bender special :
3. Hana Kimi
Genres : Comedy, drama, reverse-harem, romance, school life, shoujo
Hey girls! Ever wondered what it’s like to live in a Boys’ dorm, pretending to be a boy? And guys..have you ever thought if your cute fellow roommate, or dorm- mate might be a secretly a girl? Are you sure that your effeminate best friend/roomie who had never taken his shirt off before you, is a boy?
Yep! Welcome to the unrealistic world of shoujo..where the most impossible become possible! Hana Kimi starts off with our Japanese American heroine, Mizuki Ashiya, cutting off her long locks before she sets off on her journey as a male high school student in an all-boys school. And the reason for such an improbable, dangerous feat? Her insurmountable desire to meet the celebrated teenage Japanese high jumper – Izumi Sano, who happens to study in the same school. Not only Sano turns out to be her classmate, but as fate would have it (or should I say, as the mangaka would have it?), he also ends up being her roommate..
Now, now..Do not expect sizzling scenarios. This manga is quite pure and innocent, with Sano being an extraordinarily decent guy with a good amount of self-control (shoujo idealism)..So, there are only just a few kisses and occasional cuddles..But it’s very cute and has a lot of innocent ‘doki-doki’ moments..But what really sets this manga apart is the wide array of supporting characters who carve their own place in our hearts. Hana Kimi is as much about friendships as it is about romance. It is all about all- boys’ school life, including its perks and pitfalls. The story centers around Mizuki’s ‘survival’ and the safe-keeping of her secret. In the process, she befriends the guys including the happy-go-lucky soccer star Shuichi Nakatsu (who becomes her best friend), the cool gay school doctor Umeda-sensei, the playboy dorm-head Nanba-senpai, and many others. Our adorable, tomboyish heroine not only finds a special place in the hearts of those around her, but also in the hearts of the readers.
P.S :This manga has been made into live-action drama in Chinese, Japanese and Korean. the Korean version called ‘To the Beautiful You’,starring Sulli Choi of f(x), Choi Minho of SHINee, is pretty popular here. Chances are that you had seen the TV drama version of this manga series.
2. Ouran Highschool Host Club
Genre : Comedy, reverse-harem, drama, slice of life, romance, school life, shoujo.
Oh Yesss!!!! ‘The uncrowned King of Reverse-Harem’..OHSHC was one of my earliest anime, and it still is one of my most favourite. It is the most undeniable example of an utterly nonsensical, keep-your-brain-shut-if-you-wanna-watch, ‘do not think, anything and everything can happen in fiction’ anime or manga that can become pure joy in your life. Simply put, you might want to watch it (for I prefer the anime version due to its superior artwork) with your brain disconnected, and you are very likely to absolutely love it, or hate it, but hardly in between . Watching it will surely make you immune to shoujo stupidity. But it is one anime that you cannot miss in your lifetime..
Now the story is about a brilliant commoner- Haruhi Fujioka- who has become an honor student at the elite Ouran Academy where the super-rich brats study. Finding all the ‘n’ number of libraries noisy, she seeks solace in an abandoned music room to study. But there she is welcomed by rose petals and the (in)famously gorgeous Host Club, where girls with too much free time on their hands are ‘entertained’. A series of incidents lead her to become part of the club to repay a mammoth debt..as a ‘male’ host.
What sets this anime/manga apart is the beautiful chemistry among the main characters. This series is more about friendship than romance. It is a unique mixture of comedy, slice of life, and drama. I can almost bet that anyone who seriously watches Ouran, would laugh his or her heart out. The events are portrayed in the most ridiculously humorous ways. There is also considerable character development that happens as the series progresses. We find a really mature, witty, straight-forward and strong heroine in Haruhi. Then there is the ‘king’ of the club, the epitome of foolishness and melodrama – Tamaki, who is kind and somehow captures your heart despite his silliness; the ‘financial brain’ of the club- the ever meticulous Kyoya; the sweet, cute, yet surprisingly strong Honey-senpai and his silent protector, Mori-senpai ; and finally,the mischievous twin devils- Hikaru and Kaoru (😍)…All of them make the series a memorable watch/read..I must say that the twins are my most favourite..they are the very heart and soul of the series, the ones who never fail to amuse me. It’s always interesting when you have identical twins who live like two bodies and one soul, with lots of psychological and emotional complexities..(Oh well, if I don’t stop now, I’ll end up dedicating this post to the twins😅).
I highly recommend this one if you want to watch silly and laugh silly..and think seriously in between too. My suggestion is to watch the anime first, and then move on to the manga for further developments.
3. 1/2 Prince
Genre : Action, adventure, comedy, fantasy, romance, sci-fi, shoujo, shounen
I’m damn sure that this one is unfamiliar to most of you. Yet 1/2 Prince is arguably the best I’ve known in the ‘gender bender’ genre. The series is such an excellent overlap between shoujo and shounen, such that it can belong to both.
This ‘partly sci-fi and partly fantasy’ story is set in 2100 A.D, when humans have developed virtual reality games with almost 99% realism effects. When Feng Lan makes a bet with her twin brother that she will succeed in the latest virtual reality game, ‘Second Life’, without using the perks of being a female, she becomes the first and the last woman to play the game as a male character. As the series progresses, several other key characters are introduced, each of them with his or her own quirks and charms. The ‘Odd Squad’ (aptly named after its odd and weirdo members) led by Prince (as Feng Lan is named in Second Life) competes in tournaments and has to face several bloody encounters. Meanwhile, Prince has to maintain his real-life identity as a girl a secret.
This Taiwanese manhua was originally a series of visual novels. The one main reason why this is my topmost pick for the genre is that it can cater to the popular audience- those who love action, adventure, fantasy and comedy. Besides, this is the only gender bender that truly makes you forget that the main lead is a girl in reality. Prince is notoriously known as the most bloodthirsty elf in the Second life world. He(she) has every right to be considered as capable, or even more aggressive than all the real male characters. Yet, there are instances where the feminine side of Prince shows up…to guarantee that your favourite ‘Blood Elf’ who has stolen your heart is actually a girl. You see a lot of funny instances where the fantastically handsome Prince is chased by a bunch of girls, totally clueless about his real gender identity.There is just the right dose of romance, with plenty of action, brilliant and engaging story line, good character development,and truly awesome comedy. Second Life becomes a world on its own.
Yes..1/2 Prince is the one manga that really thrilled the animus in me..so much that I wanted to be the bloodthirsty, ruthless elf of the Second Life, slashing the sword mercilessly. At the end of the day, you’ll wish you were a part of the game too.
So, that was my top three picks for the gender bender genre (from shoujo). I understand that all the three have girls cross dressing as guys. There are a few shoujo with guys cross dressing as girls. Tenshi Ja Nai!!, Usotsuki_Lily and Nosatsu Junkie are some of them. You might want to try them too. The first and the last are based on teenage modeling, while the second is a romantic comedy dealing with a cross dressing male who despises men.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this post. Let me know your thoughts on it, especially if you have other recommendations. Also, do not hesitate to comment on these anime/manga if you have already watched/read them. I’ll be really glad to know your opinions too.
Stay tuned for more recommendations.
Have a wonderful summer this year!