Ai Ore! Vol. 1 (Manga)
Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: May 2011
Price: $12.99
Creator: Mayu Shinjo
Format: 300 pgs.; B&W; Trade Paperback
ISBN: ISBN: 978-14-21538-38-5
Age Rating: Teen+
ICv2 Rating: 2 Stars out of 5

The lead singer of Blaue Rosen is leaving the all-girl band to go live in New York and after a concert the group receives an unsolicited audition from Akira, a boy who looks like a girl.  He has instant friction with Mizuki the group’s lead guitarist who looks and dresses like a boy and the sparks soon lead to an unconventional romance.

In spite of the fact there are zero fantasy elements in this manga readers will still have to accept a bucket full of improbabilities going in.  Chief amongst them being the leads don’t just appear boyish or girl-like; as in a Shakespeare play no one else is able to distinguish them from the genuine article.

Neither Akira and Mizuki are transgendered, at least in the traditional sense of the word.  Mizuki may get mistaken for a boy but she self identifies as a girl and when her surface gets scratched she behaves in decidedly girlie manner.  And Akira is conventionally masculine in spite of his situational cross dressing; Mizuki goes to an all-girl school so even though he hates it he starts dressing in the school uniform to have better access to her.

I wish I could say the story uses its premise as an opportunity to challenge stereotypes or societal norms but sadly it’s just another oddball manga romance.  It’s difficult to take their burgeoning relationship seriously even though it’s solely lacking in both comedy and drama, plus at the end of volume one there’s a dark detour into sexual menace that is as unexpected as it is unwelcome.

--Steve Bennett: Writer and retail services consultant.