Ani-Imo, Vol. 1

By Haruko Kurumatani. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Aria. Released in North America by Yen Press.

The inside color pages of this book helpfully reveal that the title is short for “Big Brother Becomes Little Sister, Little Sister Becomes Big Brother”, which should help to explain why Yen went for the shorter version. The author, Haruko Kurumatani, has bounced around the shoujo world for many years, usually in Shogakukan’s Shoujo Comic, but I believe this is her first North American license. A quick visit to a page listing her works might tell you why – they’re all riding the edge of what’s appropriate for that age group, and they all seem to focus on ‘forbidden’ passions, particularly between siblings. And that’s what we have here, even though the story makes it clear right away that they are only stepsiblings – in fact, that’s the discovery that drives the plot.


But there’s a twist, as this isn’t just a romantic comedy about pseudo-incest, it’s also a bodyswap comedy. We meet our hero, Youta, as the older brother of a set of “twins”, and he’s the sort of over-the-top “I love my sister so much” type we’ve seen time and again in these sorts of manga. His sister Hikaru is another type, though they aren’t usually paired together – she’s introverted to the point where her mere presence terrifies her family, and seems a bit overattached to her brother, the only one who “gets” her. The twist is that when the stepsiblings reveal comes, Youta is the only one in the family who didn’t know about it… and Hikaru is horrified to find he really *does* only love her like a sister. She then runs off to get hit by a car, he tries to save her, they end up in the hospital, and well, yeah. Bodyswap.

If you’re thinking this sounds out of place in a shoujo manga, you’re not alone, but pseudo-incest in shoujo has been around forever – anyone remember Marmalade Boy? – and Aria is somewhat ‘edgy’ for a shoujo title. In any case, that’s all in Chapter 1, and the rest of the volume is the fallout from what turns out to be the actual big reveal: Hikaru, now in Youta’s body, doesn’t want to switch back, really wants to have sex with her “sister”, and is something of a sadist (in other words, Youta’s personality now matches the character design he’s gotten). He’s helped along by a somewhat perverse doctor (who reminds me of the doctor from Excel Saga in some ways) and the girl in school that Youta always had a crush on, who turns out to be sadistic as well – and gay, with designs on Hikaru’s body. (The character design is also worth noting – the girls look extra young, appearing to be in elementary school even though they’re all high schoolers.)

How much you like this depends on how much you like comedy with overtones of creepy humiliation. I won’t deny there are a few situations here where the sheer ridiculousness of what was happening made me smile, but in the end, I couldn’t help but feel that everyone in the book bar Youta was terrible – and Youta’s a siscon! (I was highly amused at the girls in school noting he’s attractive and nice, and they all just avoided him as his obsession with his sister was beyond creepy.) Take these terrible people and turn them loose in a manga which once again has the offputting “once siblings find out they’re not related, it’s totally OK for them to bang” vibe and you have, oddly, a shoujo manga that I would only recommend to young men who like this sort of vaguely sexual comedy.

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