In some ways, Ai Ore! is difficult to pin down and I had mixed reactions to it. It’s a relationship story, and the main boy in it (Akira) looks like a girl and the main girl in it (Mizuki) looks like a boy. It’s a gender bending story, but not as much as it could be. The gender bending is mostly about how characters look, and not so much about them breaking out of traditional gender roles in their culture.
Akira wants to be more masculine, but the problem is that sometimes he mistakes “masculine” for “dominant.” For instance, Akira says a few possessive things to Mizuki that would not fly if he were my boyfriend. Things like, “Hurry up and become mine.” Akira seems to think this kind of talk is sexy or macho or something, but I think it’s just creepy. I wouldn’t put up with someone speaking to me like that, and I think Mizuki needs to speak up for herself.
Despite my issues with things like this, I will say that overall the second volume of Ai Ore! was entertaining. It’s something of a long manga, and Akira’s stupid comments are outnumbered by more amusing scenes, but the comments were unsettling enough for me that I couldn’t just brush them off. I thought the first volume started off fine and went downhill, getting to an-almost rapey end. The second volume starts out with the rapey stuff, but then moves on, making it a marked improvement over the first.
It’s a good escapist read with more funny scenes than the first one. Mayu Shinjo is always having characters mess up Mizuki’s and Akira’s sexes, which might sound inane, but the way she does it is often funny. In one scene Akira takes Mizuki to buy skirts to show her how good she’ll look in them, only for the sales people to be ready to try the skirts on Akira, assuming he’s the girlfriend.
Mizuki has a few dreams starring Akira, and those are interesting. In one dream, he’s the “woman” and she’s the “man” in bed. (Don’t worry, concerned school librarians and parents: they don’t actually show anything.) In another dream, Akira is much more of the stereotypical muscular hero. I want to take scenes like this and analyze them for meaning, but, really, I think Shinjo just puts them in because she’s hoping for laughs. Because of the subject matter, I think readers like me are trying to find more meaning than there actually is in this series.
Publisher: VIZ Media
Story & Art: Mayu Shinjo