Shojo manga is known to sometimes take on gender bending ideas, and Ai Ore! is another example of this. Mizuki is a girl who looks like a boy and Akira is a boy who looks like a girl, and the two of them end up in a romance.
Mizuki is part of an all-girl band (and coincidently, all the other girls also look like very pretty boys). One of the bandmates is leaving, and someone they believe to be a girl says she wants to take her place. Well, the girl is actually Akira, a boy, and he believes he’s turned down out of prejudice for being a guy.
Still, he doesn’t give up easily. He’s in love with Mizuki, and Mizuki, in turn, used to be friends with him when they were kids. (Kind of cliché, I know.) She doesn’t remember that for a while, though, and by then Akira has already been putting on the moves. Eventually Akira does join the band, and he’s more than willing to crossdress as a girl in order to get the part. His voice is additionally in the range of the previous singer, making him work nicely as a replacement. Mizuki keeps trying to deny her feelings for Akira, but you know that can’t last long. There are some very emotional and intense kissing scenes between the two.
When I say Mizuki looks like a boy and Akira looks like a girl, I mean it. It’s not that Mizuki is a boyish girl or Akira is a girlish boy. I mean that, unconsciously and accidentally, I kept automatically think of Mizuki as a boy and Akira as a girl while looking at the pictures. I like how they break out of traditional gender roles, but I think it could have gone further. For instance, I wasn’t so into the parts with Mizuki sobbing and acting frail and in need of Akira. That felt too old fashioned for me.
The manga did make a major change by the end. It started out as a light, fluffy fun read; nothing sophisticated, but something enjoyable to pass the time. By the very end, it had gone dark and creepy and into the world of rape. I don’t know what to make of that, but it was unsettling. I don’t know if this is a bump in the road for Ai Ore!, but I hope the next volume isn’t as disturbing as the end of this one.
Publisher: VIZ Media
Story & Art: Mayu Shinjo
Danica Davidson has written for MTV News, Booklist and Publishers Weekly, among other places, and is currently seeking to publish a YA novel. She can be found at www.danicadavidson.com and Twitter: @DanicaDavidson.