We all are well aware of my love of the magical girl men, I hope. So much the better if the magical girl man is a burly chainsmoker. So my hopes were obviously high when I spied Mahoshojo Ore in the BL section of my local bookstore. It was only a matter of time, I thought, before the magical girl man made his way to the relative mainstream of BL. And let’s all be honest here, the idea of magical girl man BL is so obviously awesome that I was amazed that no one had done it before. Basically, I was thrilled at the picture of the burly magical girl on the cover of the second volume of this two-volume series and confused at the regular magical girl on the cover of the first. After all, a real girl has no place in the love between a magical girl man and his chosen manly partner.
The fact that I was expecting more of the man part of the magical girl man and less of the girl part could explain why I felt let down by this series. It’s still fun and clearly incredibly popular since there are displays in every bookstore I go to and they’re making it into an anime. But the whole thing is queerbaiting of the highest order and thus a crashing disappointment in that respect. If nothing else, I wish booksellers were not propping this one up in the BL section. It’s disappointing in other ways, but the expectation that I would be enjoying a rather unusual BL story was an artificial one created by the shelving of the books in the bookstore.
Basically, Saki Uno is this teenage girl who really wants to make it as an idol. She formed a duo with her childhood friend Sakuyo and for some reason, they have a manager, even though they can’t get anyone to show up to any of their shows. (They also have CDs. Another mystery.) Saki goes home after one such failed show to find a very yakuza-y type of man banging down her front door. It turns out he has business with her mother. And it further turns out her mother was once a magical girl. The yakuza type was her mascot and he is there to bring her back out of retirement to fight the monster threat. But he is quick to realize that Saki, being the daughter of his former magical girl, will be perfect to fight the current threat. And so he teaches her that she just needs the power of love and she too will transform into a magical girl.
Except when she embraces the love in her heart for Sakuyo’s brother, she turns into a man in a magical girl type costume, much like our friend Musashi, except she is really a girl and therein lie all the jokes. Because she is a man now, but she loves a man! And her childhood friend Sakuyo also turns into a man through her love of Saki. So she is a girl who loves a girl who turns into a man who loves a man. Ha ha! Gays! Seriously. This weird triangle didn’t have to just be played for laughs at the expense of actual same-sex loving people, but that is pretty much how the author plays it. Which is especially frustrating given its positioning in the BL section of the bookstore.
The object of Saki’s affection is deeply oblivious and ready to fall in love with the magical girl man who saved him, which might make it slightly BL and less of a giant finger pointed at any queer person, but he is so deeply oblivious to anyone and everything that his infatuation with the magical girl man who continually saves him comes across as just one more way he doesn’t understand what is going on. After all, he is a handsome man. Why would he honestly be interested in the strong man in a dress who constantly saves him from weird danger?
There are a lot of silly jokes in these two books and I won’t deny that I laughed at a lot of them. This is a fun read. The monsters threatening the land are muscular teddy bear creatures who are basically only threatening Saki’s love interest. Saki’s animal mascot is a plushy with a gangster’s head on top. Saki’s magical girl mom retired because of back pain. A gang of cyborgs is determined to out-do Saki in saving the world. Saki becomes a pop star, but as her magical girl man self. There’s no fluffy destruction of the baddies with stars and rainbows and clouds; Saki has to pummel the monsters into submission and collect their blood in her magic staff. Which is not magic at all. It is just a stick to beat people with.
So much of the story is poking at the magical girl trope like this, and I really wanted to like it more than I did. But unlike my girl Musashi, which I picked up as a joke and which ended up proving itself as something more interesting than that, Mahoshojo Ore presents itself as something other than a one-note joke and proves to be actually nothing more than that. The constant undercurrent of ha ha isn’t it funny that a man loves a man (but don’t worry he’s really a girl!) wore thin, and I was pretty much done with the whole thing by the end of the first book. The second book with its end boss threatens to offer up some kind of deeper meaning, a commentary on the idol system in Japan, but undoes that a few pages later by sending Saki and her best friend back to the bottom of the ladder, trying to climb their way up into pop star territory.
All of which just proves that there is really only one magical girl man. Fortunately, I picked up the latest volumes of that doujinshi at J-Garden a couple weeks ago, so a story in which a man in a dress is not the butt of the joke awaits!