Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review: Cheeky Angel (manga)

Cheeky Angel (Tenshi na Konamaiki)
Story and Art by: Hiroyuki Nishimori
Length: 20 volumes
American Publisher: Viz Media


Have you wanted to wish a problem away? That is what many people want to do to make like a little easier. Cheeky Angel turns the premise upside down with a magic clown screwing up a wish, with interesting results. In the story of Cheeky Angel, Megumi Amatsuka wanted to be a man among men, instead he became a women among women. Silly premise aside, Cheeky Angel is a really good manga about gender in the modern world. It is a fast paced manga about tomboy tsundere Megumi Amatsuka and her circle of friends. It challenges the notions of what defines masculinity and femininity. The story moves fairly fast, the main cast of characters are endearing and charming, and the manga itself is a great experience for people who don't want byzantine conspiracy theories or dark theological discourse.

Cheeky Angel is a gender bender at heart since it challenges cultural notions of masculinity and femininity. The story starts off with Megumi confronting a thug who treats women terribly. After attacking him to prover her point, her friend Miki scolds her and tells her to act more like her ladylike appearance. Then they reminisce about how a younger Megumi and Miki protect an old guy in a cloak. As a reward, he gives Megumi a magic book. Megumi wishes to become a man among men, but is transformed into a woman. The story moves forward with her meeting the thug in class and kicking his butt again. She enchants the entire school, with a group of guys forming a group together to protect her from thugs called the "Megumi Musketeers." From that point onwards, she gets placed in a variety of compromising situations in which she enchants the cast (and the readers) with her unladylike behavior. The story would eventually follow a formula where Megumi is put in a variety of situations and she either saves her friends or she is saved by them. It can get formulaic, but Nishimori's interesting writing mixes up the scenarios quite a bit.

The heart of Cheeky Angel is the main cast of characters. Megumi Amatsuka is the lead character, she is intelligent, tomboyish, charismatic, and very conflicted. Since Megumi was raised as a boy, she has an outlook that is decidedly masculine in her thought process. When you figured Megumi out, she unexpectedly shows a strong feminine side. She is the main draw for the series, and she is quite possibly one of the best female leads in a gender bending manga. Megumi does exude charisma because she challenges the traditional notions of gender, being extremely masculine at times, and being extremely feminine at times. I also like Megumi's character design because her proportions are very realistic. Megumi's best friend is Miki Hanakain. The best way to describe Miki is that she is the balance in Megumi's life. She is more feminine than Megumi is, yet her appearance is more of a tomboy than Megumi. Miki is extremely inintelligent and her intellect saves Megumi in a variety of situations. Genzo Soga is a punk who was enchanted by Megumi. Initially he is a jerk who treats women terribly and has a horrible attitude. After falling in love with Megumi, he changed into a energetic guy who just wants her affection. Genzo is the human version of my Auntie's dog, Miki, so I do like Genzo quite a bit. Ichiro Fujiki is an admirer of Megumi, he prides himself on being "average." He tries hard to run away from his past reputation as a pervert by being as normal as possible. Ichiro is very relate-able to many people since he is the average guy trying to go after the hottest girl in school (unfortunately we know that average never gets the hot girl). Yasuda is also an admirer of Megumi who is a pervert. When he is serious he also shows that he is extremely intelligent, being one of the few people who can match wits with Megumi. Hitomonji Kobayashi is a guy training to be a samurai, he is a stand up guy who is handsome and cool. Like the entire main cast, he is enchanted by Megumi's personality and looks, but he also is impressed with her fighting abilities.

The manga does challenge traditional notions of feminine and masculine through Megumi. She was originally a boy, so much of her thinking is traditionally masculine. Megumi uses the masculine form to speak and she uses her physical strength to win the scenario. Genzo challenges Megumi at every chance because he believes that he should protect her. Both Genzo and Hitomoji use the traditional definition of masculine, which is someone who is strong and powerful. The definition consists of having the fists do the talking, instead of debating. With Miki, Megumi's idea of femininity is quite complicated. When Megumi tried giving cookies, her body movements were not exactly girly. When talking with Miki she find out that much of her romantic thinking is more in line with what a girl traditionally believes. Completely shattering her goals and ideals to be a man. Megumi is also very old fashioned, getting flustered whenever people point out that she has to wear a bra and dislikes guys for acting girly when they confess. This idea of gender in modern Japan is what drives the main story, is Megumi feminine, is she masculine? It changes depending on the situation, even Megumi isn't too sure where she is on the spectrum.

The story moves very fast for a 20 volume manga since it is heavy on action. Nishimori draws action very well so a kick from Megumi or a heavy punch from Soga feels somewhat natural. Megumi seems to get herself into a compromising situation that involves her and her friends. The manga also has comedy, and it has some very funny moments. It is interspersed with the action in a great mix to move the story forward. The story arcs are short, with the shortest ones ending in the same volume with the longest ones taking several volumes. There are some unfortunate aspects of Nishimori's drawing style. While Megumi is typically drawn well and has considerable presence, other female characters who are considered "beautiful" in the world of Cheeky Angel like Miki and Megumi's spoiled brat rival Keiko don't  have the care that Megumi has. Nishimori is also pretty inconsistent in drawing characters overall, some people may not find his drawing style attractive, but I think it is more that you just have to get used to it. After a while his super deformed characters, especially of the main cast is really funny and I do wish it kind of carried over in other manga. I give him props because all the women are very realistically proportioned compared to other manga out there. They do not have E-cups and they are not unnaturally perfect.

Cheeky Angel is a great manga if you don't want to think too much. It has an incredible cast of characters that are very likable. The pacing of the story is very fast, it doesn't drag on at all. It really is a gender bender because it does touch on the issue of gender quite a bit without dragging itself down to perversion. I highly recommend this manga if you want a fun, action, packed comedy.

1 comment:

Aguness said...

I have grown to like this manga!! The humor is sickkk, haha. Nishimori Hiroyuki-sensei's drawing might not be the prettiest, but i think it suits the content of the manga. The plot is light, no dramatization over things,, and the story is just..well, innocent. I hate it when the girls' boobs are too huge, it's distracting.