Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Underappreciated Manga: Fudanshism - Fudanshi Shugi

Artist: Morishige
Magazine: Young Gangan
Volumes: 7 (but the storyline continues under Fudanshi Full)
Licensed? Fat chance

Amane, Nozomi, Tamatan, and Sohara
Morishige is a well known manga artist who has a reputation for having a male lead surrounded by a bevy of beautiful girls. His previous works, Koi Koi 7 and Hanakuyo Maid Tai are fairly dirty harem manga. Which is why when his new project was announced, it was shocking to his fans because it was not a harem series and it was a Seinen manga (manga for male adults) aimed towards a much older audience than his previous works. It also delved into the Fujoshi culture (referring to female Yaoi fans) in a level of depth that is not really explored by manga artists.

On the left is Amata, on the right is "Amane"

To explain the franchise in a nutshell, the manga centers on the "perfect prince" Amata Miyano. He has good looks, grace, style, charisma, athletic, and is very intelligent. Even a perfect prince like Amata has a problem we all share, and that is love. In the story, his main love interest is Nozomi, a girl who doesn't even look his way. One day, his sister Tamae (nickname: Tamatan) is sick, and Amata takes her place. His sister was supposed to be selling dojinshi at a convention, and he is forced to crossdress. While selling Yaoi dojinshi he finds the girl he loves in there. After that he goes into a journey into fujoshi culture to understand the world of the girl he loves.

Throughout the seven volume saga, Morishige presents a large cast of interesting characters, including a show within a show anime "Omakase Tenteru" that everyone is a huge fan of. Amata Miyano is the lead character who crossdresses into "Amane." Amata's big sister Tamae Miyano is a Yaoi Fan who draws her favorite Yaoi pairing from Omakase Tenteru. Assisting her is Sohara, who also happens to be the school nurse in Amata's middle school. Nozomi Konishi is the girl Amata has a huge crush on, and she becomes best friends with Amane. Michika Toumine is a rich girl at Amata's school who has a crush on Amata. The closest that Amata has to male friends are Kiyokawa and Matsumoto, who are both anime fans and also forcefully paired together in the yaoi parings by the girls of the manga club. Kiyokawa crossdresses in volume 4-6 as Matsumoto's favorite magical girl (so you can imagine Matsumoto's trauma). Matsumoto is a very hardcore anime fan but dislikes fujoshi because of the girls in the manga club and his twin sister. Kanae Ritsutoku is a shy, well-endowed girl who has a huge crush on Amata. It gets even worse, later on she develops a huge crush on Amata and his crossdressing counterpart, Amane. As you can tell, the character relationship is very complex. They even included a colorful chart detailing their relationships.

The manga is very unique because at the end of many chapter is "lectures by big sis" where Tamae would teach her brother Amata everything about anime culture, from cosplaying properly to explaining the nuances of yaoi culture. It is actually quite educational and it shows the manga artist's ability to go out of his comfort zone and teach the audience things that can help their understanding of anime culture.

The manga art is very easy on the eyes. True to his reputation, the female cast (and the male cast) are quite good looking. This manga is quite unique because of the preponderance of characters with glasses. This is probably the largest cast of glasses wearing characters I have ever seen in a manga. Of the main cast of 8 characters, 7 of them wear glasses or contact lenses. Lots of anime fans have bad eyesight, so it is quite refreshing to see a manga that accurately represents that fact. As the manga moves along he develops a consistent art style in Fudanshism. The art in volume one is quite different than his art in volume seven. The backgrounds are simple but effective, with the Japanese volumes having lots of color pages to showcase it.

The pacing of the manga is one of its weak points. Volume one moves comparatively slow compared to many manga series out there and volume two and volume three move even slower. From volume four onward the series moves at a very frenetic pace to volume seven. One of my favorite story lines in the manga was in volume five, the school festival arc where Amata does a crazy balance of running their maid/cosplay cafe and attending the school festival as Amane.

This manga is aimed towards men, which is why it shouldn't shock the reader that the Yaoi that they present is fairly sanitized compared to the rampant female fanservice. If you want to learn about Anime Culture and Yaoi Culture and have fun while doing it, Fudanshism is the place to be. The series has an interesting cast of characters, amazing art, and interesting situations. This series is not licensed in America and I have no reason to believe that it will be since it appeals to a very small market. I am looking forward to more adventures of Miyano and company in Fudanshi Full.

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