From an outsider's perspective, what they are seeing is a normal meetup between three girls. However, these "girls" are meeting for the first time because of one commonality: they were born as males, but crossdress for various reasons.
Ryousuke "Yui" Kijima pretends to be his deceased older sister to keep her memory alive, Osamu "Parou" Tamura dresses as a girl to attract his straight senior in school, and Yuuta "Marika" Aoki is a transgender female. Despite their similarities, Yui hates how the other two are satisfied with their habits, and leaves quickly. Then alone, Parou expresses his support for Marika, causing her to fall in love with him.
Though their meeting was cut short, the lives of these three people begin to cross. As they grapple with their genders and identities, romantic feelings begin to foster, sharpening the divide between them, yet bring them closer at the same time.
The following review will contain some very important spoilers. For disclosure purposes I should mention I am myself a transgender woman and that many things I will critique about the series have to do with identity issues.
When I first started reading Bokura no Hentai I found myself intrigued. A manga that deals respectfully with transgender and crossdressing characters, without mixing up the two categories? A story that doesn't focus on fanservice but on the actual, real-life problems queer youth faces? Count me in!
"Bokura no Hentai", for the most part, delivers amazingly well on its premise. The characters are very interesting and humane, each one of
them with their own life issues. Even more importantly, the trio of protagonists (Marika, who is the trans girl of the group, Tamura, who is crossdressing for his lover, and Ryousuke who does so for his dead sister) are not the exclusive focus of the story. Secondary characters like Akane and Tomochi also get some of the spot light and the mangaka manages to handle their cases very well.
There is a great deal of diversity among the protagonists and their experiences, so the story doesn't get monotonous. Moreover, the "plot" gives plenty of room for character development. Honestly, one of the most enjoyable parts of "Bokura no Hentai" is watching the characters I've come to love grow and learn from their experiences. It made me feel as if I went to school with them, listened to their worries and shared their concerns. It made me care about them a whole lot.
The art is great, minimalistic yet not simplistic. I especially loved the colored introductions in each volume. I believe that they give a warmer feeling to the story and they work great as a way to further humanize the characters.
So far I've described 99% of what "Bokura no Hentai" is. Honestly, I wish I could stop here. I wish I could just give it a big shining 10/10 and tell you it has earned its place among the masterpieces of our time.
But, unfortunately, there's chapter 40. The chapter where Marika is having second thoughts about her identity. The chapter where she misgenders herself so that a group of irrelevant, anonymous cosplaying male students won't feel bad for not being as cute as she is. The chapter where essentially none of her friends tries to confront her about this attitude, in a way telling the readers that they too thought of her as a cute guy who crosses or, as the series tells us, a boy with a perversion. The chapter where she enters a crossdressing contest, even though from the first chapter of "Bokura no Hentai" she clearly, unapologetically states that she is not a crossdresser but a woman. The chapter where the mangaka managed, in just a few panels, to completely ruin every good thing had been done since the beginning of the story.
There are plenty of reasonable approaches one could take to justify this chapter. One could say Marika is still a teen, one who faced plenty of bullying that forced her in the closet. Perhaps the mangaka wanted to show us another issue transgender people face in our everyday lives (and doubt is undeniably one of them). Perhaps her friends didn't want to push her out of her doubts, perhaps they felt it was not their place to do so.
You know what? None of these excuses stands to scrutiny. First of all, the doubt/misgendering part came out of nowhere and felt completely out of character. Speaking strictly on technical writing grounds, it was the dumbest thing the mangaka could do at this point of the story. It'd be like having Tom Hanks in Philadelphia say something along the lines of "hey, am I really gay after all?" just a few minutes before the movie's ending. Yeah, it is that dumb.
Secondly, we never see Marika get over her self-doubt. Instead, we just get a "who cares?" attitude from the rest of the crowd, which I find outrageous for a story that did its best to convince us that this is an accepting, loving environment for Marika. What am I to make of this? That the ultra-supporting people who surrounded her simply thought of her as delusional? That for them cosplaying and being trans belong in the perversion category? Again, this is not what "Bokura no Hentai" showed us up until chapter 40. It's like the writer forgot about her own work and decided to do a fantasy (more like nightmare) version of this story.
Last, but not least, and this a completely subjective thought, it was not a necessity for "Bokura no Hentai" to deal with the issue of doubt. I am not the sort of reader that demands social justice to be the centerpiece of a given story. I can deal with *very* triggering and disturbing material. For example, I wouldn't care that much if this was a fantasy story where a character is trans but simply decides that it's all just a perversion or that they like to be bullied, etc. I may still dislike it but it'd be more forgivable.
"Bokura no Hentai", however, presents itself as a story that cares about such things, about the pains of real life human beings. And as such, it'd be dishonest on my part to ignore how much it failed to deliver here. Transgender people face doubt on every front of our daily lives. There's plenty of room to talk about that. But Marika's life was a best case scenario situation, quite possibly the most well present of its kind I've come across in any form of storytelling. It's one of the few times we got to see an optimistic view of a transgender life, where acceptance by one's self and the world rule the day. It's exactly because "Bokura no Hentai" gave me hope and joy that I cannot forgive this slip. Perhaps I'd be more indifferent to this part if I were not transgender myself, but honestly, I find this chapter to be indefensible.
*SPOILERS END HERE*
Despite the miserable failure that chapter 40 is, Bokura no Hentai remains an amazing manga, one of the best to deal with gender issues. If one ignores that one chapter, it's almost a masterpiece. It's just sad to look at it when I know that it was just one step away from perfection. Do I recommend reading it? Yes, I do. Just try not to get overexcited until you complete it.
The story is complex with an impacting mixture of dark and light hearted topics and situations. It transitions smoothly between these topics which often strengthens it's individual parts. It often ventures into psychological episodes and these are done with a subtlety that allows them to be scary. The author appears to have done an extraordinary amount of research on the characters as this manga treats its transgender character honestly and accurately.
Many of the scenes within the manga are exquisitely done. It shows an exceptional use of lights and darks with dramatic changes at the right times to instil emotion into its story. Its
greatest flaw is its occasional dips in artistic form when depicting less important scenes.
The characters are dark and complex and depicted with a deep understanding of the real life situations and feelings which people in their situations go through. They are full of surprises and develop thoroughly thoughout the story.
The manga is one that mixes beautifully the darkness of its characters with their lovely personalities. Leading to good and bad people in traumatic or life changing situations which affect them realistically. Happiness comes when things go well but it is quickly offset with fear and sadness. In combination this makes these situations emotionally powerful.
A powerful story about characters which do not typically get this much honesty. This story provides an honest look into gender issues without humiliating or glorifying them. Bokura no Hentai provides a beautiful story and a chance to look into and understanda difficult life others sometimes live.
I'm sorry but this review won't be very long. (It's my first so it will probably be shitty writing- sorry)
Well overall this manga is very good I think.
The story is actually very complex when you delve deeper into it- throughout the manga you are shown the current story and backstory of the three main characters, and occasionally the side characters. The story has a perfect mix of sadness/psychological trauma and happiness- it is well paced, without rushing or taking agonizingly long.
The characters are all very likable and there are no annoying characters- and the 'villains' are suitably detestable. Each and every character
has their own individual traits and the three mains are all very different but still interact well together.
Marika is a trans girl who likes boys. She hasn't had surgery yet and still attends school as a boy. Marika is a very cute girl and extremely likable- but she still has her moments when she shows her more adult side which is always fun and refreshing.
-Osamu 'Parou san'
Parou san is a boy who started cross dressing because the guy he liked said he would only be in a relationship with him if he looked like a girl. It is unclear as to wether he is gay or just bi as he also shows an interest in Marika. Parou san however wins the most fucked up award. To avoid spoilers I won't tell you the main reason but it is shown in the first few chapters that his relationship with his lover is extremely messed up. Parou san, despite antisocial and messed up behaviour is also likeable in the sense that you feel sad for him- like really sad.
Ryousuke is a boy who cross dresses as his dead sister, because his mother won't accept her death and is mentally unstable as a result. To make his mother feel better, Ryousuke pretends for his mother to be his sister. Ryousuke likes girls and at first pretty much hates the other two becausehe is upset that no one else is like him. Ryousuke is extremely likeable and is very protective of Marika.
Okay the art is good- it's really cute and well done. My only problem is they all look like middle schooler's when they are teenagers. So it's hard to tell the age, and rather weird when they act old- I still need to keep reminding myself how old they are.
Overall extremely enjoyable- I like the psychological and romance factors and the fact that it deals with all the different types of cross dressers and gets them to interact.