Acting and crossdressing as a boy, Yuki "Yoshiki" Ichihara is viewed as a male by her peers. Despite their expectations, she secretly wants nothing more than to be more feminine. On the other hand, all of Mikako Nagao's classmates believe she is sweet and pure; but in contrast to her innocent veneer, she enjoys selling her body to older men while pretending to be 15 years old. Though it may just be a front, her appearance has enchanted the dashing lady-killer Kaito Aiba, who lusts not for Mikako but to be her. To help fulfill this fantasy, he crossdresses as his idol and takes pleasure in impersonating her in his spare time.
Each of these three college students hides behind an identity that is not their own, masking a self that they cannot reveal. Burdened by their hidden lives, they search for who they are and what defines them as their fates begin to intertwine.
I've wanted to write this review for ages, and now that it’s fully translated, I can say with total conviction that Himegoto is one of the most unique and compelling stories out there. This isn’t going to be a standard criterion-based review, it’s going to be more of an analytical write-up. Mild spoilers for character development and plot points.
Right off the bat, Himegoto’s setting establishes that this isn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill manga. We’re following the lives of college students for once. How often does that happen? College is a pivotal time of life. While students are still in school, they’re given a great
degree of agency. Most live independently from their parents in apartments or dorms. Students have to choose their own classes and schedule their own lives. Lastly, there are no more school uniforms, something critical to Himegoto’s plot.
Of course, every single person handles agency differently. For some, college is liberating and they make dozens of friends and party hard. For others, college is an opportunity to mature and prepare for a professional career. But then there are the people who don’t want to move on, who cling to their rapidly fading adolescence.
This brings us to our protagonists. Himegoto isn’t quite a character study, but the main three characters are so complex and varied in their aims that it may as well be. First off is Yoshiki. She is unassuming, boyish, and dresses quite plainly, but she’s got more layers than just her exterior apathy. She’s frustrated by her lack of femininity yet is unable to change, as she doesn’t really have any girl friends who could teach her fashion and makeup. However, she has also fetishized her only distinctly female article of clothing, since she always masturbates wearing her old high school uniform. Yoshiki might be plain on the outside, but her deep self-dissatisfaction means that she can change and develop the most out of everyone in the cast. It also means that the other characters view her as someone to take under their wing and mold to their liking.
Next up, we have Mikako. She’s a 19-year old, just like everyone else in the cast, but she refuses to accept that age. You see, she’s a prostitute, and in order to get the most customers, she wears a high-school uniform and pretends to be 15. On the outside, she acts like a ditzy cute schoolgirl, but in actuality every word, fashion choice, and action of hers is carefully calculated to make clients fall for her and friends to not suspect anything. Mikako is a character wrapped in duality. She’s a college student by day and a prostitute by night. She deceives her clients by pretending to be an innocent schoolgirl and deceives her friends by hiding her true identity. She fetishizes purity and youth but also knows that she’s getting older and less convincing with each passing day. Like Yuki, her appearance sets her apart from other girls, but for opposite reasons. Mikako really wants opposites to attract, and seeks out Yuki’s love while trying to hide her dark side.
Finally, there’s Kaito. Whereas Yoshiki generally represses her gender issues, Kaito displays his right up-front. He’s a prolific crossdresser, and in particular he bases his outfits around Mikako, whom he idolizes from afar. Interestingly enough, he doesn’t seem to fetishize his crossdressing, as he hides this side of himself from his girlfriend and only has sex as a man. There’s a couple of explanations for this behavior. One is that he treats cross-dressing as purely a hobby and wants it separated from his sexual life. This is supported by him just wanting to be “girl friends” with Yoshiki and desiring to do girly but clean things like go shopping together. On the other hand, Kaito mostly hooks up with older women who let him use their credit cards (to buy women’s clothing without their knowledge). It seems like he’s only having sex to acquire the means to become more feminine. Kaito is an effeminate pretty-boy, but like Mikako, he’s got a timer, and he knows he won’t always be able to pass as a woman so easily. Kaito is hyperaware of how constrained his femininity is, and as a result he tries as hard as he can to appear extra girly when he crossdresses. He sees Yoshiki’s lack of femininity and vows to teach her how to be more girly. There’s a lot of coded language every time Kaito talks about femininity, suggesting that he really views himself as female. If the subtext can be trusted, Kaito desires to be a trans woman, which totally recontextualizes his character. Although the characters in Himegoto have fluid sexual orientations, they’re still very much expected to conform to traditional gender roles. Kaito sees himself as a woman and tries to conform to traditional femininity so hard that he views all masculine traits with disdain. This would better explain his actions towards Yoshiki – he has to work so hard to be feminine that he views Yoshiki’s tomboy appearance as insulting, and views trying to change her as the greatest act of love possible. Kaito is a truly deep and multifaceted (and definitely my favorite!) character, and watching how he interacts with Yoshiki and Mikako is one of the best parts of Himegoto.
Now that the character’s identities have been established, let’s take at what extraneous objects in Himegoto destroy, affirm, or otherwise alter their identities. Of course, I’m talking about clothing. From the subtitle alone –uniforms at the age of nineteen- it’s made pretty clear that they’re going to be pretty important. Like any good metaphor, clothes can have multiple meaning depending on their type and context. Some outfits promote agency and liberation, whereas others represent shackles and monotony. And Himegoto manages to subvert a lot of typical symbolism.
In most scenarios, a school uniform would represent conformity and order. However, these are college students we’re dealing with in Himegoto. They get to pick out their own outfits, but sometimes there are still old school uniforms in the mix. Yoshiki uses her high-school uniform as a window to femininity and sexuality, whereas Mikako dons the sailor outfit of a nearby high school when she pretends to be 15 for prostitution. In both situations, school uniforms are inherently sexual objects. Do they represent sexual agency or do they represent being trapped in one’s current situation? I think the answer is both at once, which is pretty cool.
Yoshiki’s outfits change the most throughout the course of the series. She starts off a complete tomboy, not caring at all about looking womanly. In an effort to make her more feminine, Kaito takes her shopping for trendier clothes. However, Mikako sees a raw beauty in Yoshiki’s irreverence toward fashion, and is crushed when Yoshiki starts dressing like a typical girl. By the latter half of the series, Yoshiki has returned to her tomboyish apparel. Yoshiki’s case is interesting because her clothing choices don’t represent her agency, but rather how those around her are manipulating her. Kaito and Mikako are both equally guilty of trying to shape Yoshiki to their own desires, but their methods are at odds with one another.
Kaito’s fashion choices show a character arc as well. He initially desires to be Mikako’s “mirror”, and to accomplish this, he buys all the same outfits as her and has a similar dark-colored wig. Once he actually meets her, his idealized image of Mikako shatters, and so does his desire to mirror her. He eventually tosses all of his Mikako outfits and makes his female personas entirely his own.
Alright, let’s get to the fun part: the Freudian analysis, specifically, the phallic imagery. Kaito’s got some pretty strong insecurity over his genitals. Early on, he gets called out because even though he’s a crossdresser, he only has sex with girls and only while he is dressed as a guy. Kaito’s justification is pretty interesting. Extending his mirror metaphor, he views his penis as a “pipe”. When he has sex with girls, he wants to be them, and he views his male genitals as the pipe connecting him and his ideal self. This feels more like a defense mechanism rather than a true justification, and in my mind, it’s a red flag for Kaito’s desire to be trans. However, Mikako has a slightly different view on the issue. She argues that she, too, has a penis, it’s just a lot tinier (referring to how the clitoris has the same anatomical structure). While she may have just been saying this to comfort an agitated Kaito, this penile self-identification carries some implications. Phallic imagery implies power and social capital, and when you look at Mikako, she is the most assertive, dominant, and manipulative female character in the story. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but you don’t just start talking about dicks unless you have a point to make.
Before I wrap things up, there are some loose ends I want to include in this essay. Upon rereading Himegoto, one notices that early on, the main characters seem a bit out of character. Kaito is super predatory for a few chapters and all around more proactive, and Mikako almost looks like a different character because she’s drawn differently. Because of these inconsistencies, I doubt that this manga was entirely planned out from start to finish when the author began writing. Sometimes it feels like the story is more of an unraveling more than a straight shot from beginning to end, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It definitely means that it’s not a steady rise in tension all the way through, as the drama and tension rise and deescalate wildly.
There’s a fair bit sex and nudity in this manga, but it feels like it’s not drawn in for readers. While the art can be erotic, the plot is so heavy and morally gray that I can’t imagine the author intended it just to be softcore porn. These are horny college students and it feels like the sex is there to add an extra layer of realism more than anything else.
There’s an interesting subplot I brought up earlier of Mikako and Kaito both viewing themselves as ticking time bombs. Mikako knows that as she ages, it’s going to be impossible to keep pretending to be 15, whereas Kaito believes that the older he gets, the harder it’s going to be to pass as a woman. The idea of nineteen-year-olds already viewing themselves as running out if time is a cool theme, and it slots in perfectly with Kaito’s gender identity concerns and Mikako’s fetishizing of youth. However, this subplot kind of falls to the wayside during the last quarter of the manga. It’s still present in the subtext, but I wish it was directly addressed in the story’s climax.
I haven’t spent much time pointing out Himegoto’s flaws, so here’s what I believe could deter your experience with it. The characters might not be likeable. Sometimes their actions can seem irrational or morally wrong, and if you don’t enjoy stories where characters aren’t always great people, you’re not going to enjoy this one. Sometimes the erotic and sexual artwork of the manga feels like a supplement to the character’s current feelings as previously mentioned, but other times it just feels like a distraction. Lastly, the story just may not suit your tastes. This manga felt right up my alley, but if you find yourself unable to identify or even sympathize with the characters, then you probably won’t enjoy it. The current translation has a few spelling errors, but they’re kind of hilarious so it’s OK (“I wonder if this closet is filled with closet just like mine…”). To me these are all just nitpicks at best, but it varies from person to person, as Himegoto can feel oddly personal at times.
I won’t go into spoilery details, but the ending is near-perfect. Every time I re-read it, I stumble upon more hidden implications and symbolism. It’s got a perfect balance of ambiguity and resolution that leaves you satisfied but also fills you with lingering thoughts. It even made me tear up, that’s how impactful it was.
In case you weren’t able to tell, I really enjoyed Himegoto. Rarely does a manga inspire me to put on my thinking cap like this one did. There’s so much to dissect, too. I could keep writing this essay and find more points of symbolism, but it’s got to end someday. The characters are some of the most unique and developed I’ve ever seen in 100 chapters, and its themes of identity, manipulation, sexuality, and possibly transgenderism aren’t often seen in anime or manga. Due to its mature themes, I don’t think this is ever going to get an adaptation, and overall I’m alright with that. Himegoto is a near-masterpiece in its finished state, and I highly recommend it if you were interested by any of the topics in this write-up.
I felt the need to write a review for this manga because the few reviews it has, it seems it was written or by a 12-year old feminist or by a Naruto fan...
So it really saddens me the idea people might get the wrong idea of this manga if based in this incoherent reviews. Of course I won't spoil anything either.
As the plot description already says... the story is about 3 persons with identity / sexual disorders, but the thing is how well they were developed? what is the root of the problem.. and how the story plays out.
After the first 15-20 chapter which are
kinda introductory and necessary to give the basic development of the 3 main characters, this manga becomes very immersive... (maybe I didnt mentioned the fact that I read it just a few days ago when it concluded) their interactions and their relationship becomes very deep, and the explanations given to the reader are very convincing and solid.
Even as someone who couldnt possibly identify with any of the characters because I never experienced anything they went through, I could perfectly understand their motivations ... in the later chapters near the climax when everything about their past is revealed I felt like I wanted to hug them. Thats just how good this story is.
Overall I won't give it a 10 because I disliked with some attitudes of the characters but just like this review.. Im expressing my opinion.
Overall, this manga tackles on different themes and issues that not many other managka trying to implement as an elements. It somehow shows a fresh concept - makes me value the storyline more, and relate to the character more emotionally.
Generally, this manga is obviously not for everyone, unless you love heavy, complicated and emotional content.
Story - 8/10
This manga involve psychological and dark
elements, infused with heavy emotional content on each character backstory. Not to mention the add-on of gender bender, yuri and a bit of ecchi elements filled the overall story plot of the manga.
It started off with each character
darkest secret, their personality characterization and how they felt about it emotionally. At this beginning point of the story, it seems that apart from Mikako, the other two characters seems to still questioning their sexual orientation and also what they really want in life.
The three characters somewhat get involved with each other, and Yuki and Kaito getting close as they both take comfort in their insecurities and secrets. Mikako felt that genuine love she thought from Yuki and thinks that it might a way for her to move on from her past.
The plot of this story progressing accordingly to fill in the answer of every reader curiosity, and yes every questioned that we had in our mind as reader were lighten up with a every revealation. Each of the character backstory and personality were meticulously discussed.
The mood of the manga gave the reader bundle of emotions, from mad, to sweet, to sympathy and happy.
Overall, its a perfect blend of a storyline, although heavily implemented on such dark and complicated contents that might not be for all type of manga reader.
Art - 7/10
The art is beautiful, though nothing much to consider to be special. I felt that its an average art drawing for me (as much as any other manga) , and no unique details drawing.
The drawing on female characters, somehow it shows rather more details and emotions, especially on the body and face features, its light and relatable. However not much impact from a male character, even from Kaito who's crossdress as a female, it always felt that it contains lack of emotion - maybe that just personal view.
Character - 8/10
The main characters really played they part well in the manga and every character contains personal backstory, reasons and in the end solutions they took by the end of the manga.
Character development was obviously seen on Yuki, in which she had moved on from physically being a "boy" or at least considered as one in the past, into a beautiful lady by the end of the manga. It shows that she chose this path as she well thats who she really was after all that struggles on determining who she should be.
As for Mikako, it hards for her to accept the fact that she was sexually abused by her father since she was young and she stuck with that false fatherhood feeling that she was groom to by her father. Her backstory was kinda tragic which makes the readers sympatheze for her more - especially her relationship with her mom, her distrust issues for people and particularly emotional/sexual attachment that she felt for her dad. It started to wear off once she met Yuki, however then she realize that she began to actually enjoy this prostitution life (which she hates herself for) - and felt that this is how she should live from now on. Although by the end of the manga, it comes to her realization that the father love she felt was in fact a sexual abuse againts a minor, which impact her so much as she really genuinely loves her. Though theories might also add up that, he actually planning to take a revenge on her dad - though that was just speculations.
Kaito Aiba struggles as well with his sexual orientation as he felt that he loves being a crossdresser and the thought of him to completely become a girl also ever crossed his mind. However, meeting Yuki shows him that it's okay to have feminine emotions, and but still live like a guy. He felt that Yuki acceptance towards himself makes him learning about himself bit by bit. People expectation and idol role makes its hard for him to open up regarding his hobby. Though he used to thought he had feelings (romantically) for Mikako, now he felt that he probably do so because he idolize her looks and fashion sense - which he tends to implement into his crossdressing. After knowing and spend so much time with Yuki, now he felt that its his obligation to protect both of them, as first he wanted to save Mikako from her dark past and second, by not getting Yuki involved, because genuinely he really cares and love her. By the end of the manga, it shows that somehow Yuki and Kaito end up dating in real life.
Himegoto is a dark/psychological seinen manga, with heavy gender bender and some yuri elements.
After reading the synopsis, I had good expectations for that manga, the thematics are right up in my alley. But with a rating of 3, my expectations were utterly crushed. I dropped the manga after the volume 6 (on 8 total volumes).
I'll go right into the main issue of that manga: the characters.
To put it bluntly, the 3 MCs are manipulative jerks, egotistical, superficial, they think mostly about sex, are over-possessive and lie at everyone.
The only "positive" adjective I can find for them is for Yuki: she's naive, so she may appears
as less bad than the other two, but still.
It is very hard to care about such unlikable characters, in the contrary, the more I read that manga, the more I hated those MCs.
Beside the characters, the manga has two main aspects:
1. Sex and lust.
2. Love-triangle melodrama.
Now entering into details:
1. I was somewhat surprised by how much sex scenes there is in that manga. I'd say that something like 80% of the chapters has a sex scene, and if a chapter hasn't a sex scene, then there is a high chance that it still has ecchi situations, like boobs-grabbing, panty-shots, the guy who fells over a girl by accident, soaked girls…
But like I said, it is a "dark/psychological manga". Meaning that those sex scenes are usually with a gloomy atmosphere and dark background, the characters are doing some morbid faces, and they have "dark" inner monologues.
I usually have little interest into sex scenes, but I particularly don't like that kind of sex scenes, I'm under the impression that the manga try to tell us "See how mature I am?" while in the end the characters can have their inner monologues in different situations and the sex is just here for the fan-service. How mature indeed.
2. As for the love-triangle melodrama.
First I have to say: I don't use the word "melodrama" as a derogatory one. Some of my fav' manga and anime are melodramatic. By "melodrama" I mean complex relationships, over-emotional characters, and more or less exaggerated/improbable situations.
Melodrama is a very "hit or miss" thing. And between the melodrama of that manga and me, it was a total miss.
The reasons are obvious: bad characters + sex everywhere = bad.
So yeah, you'll see 3 jerks trying to manipulate and lie to each others because of "love" or "friendship"… or more exactly because of jealousy, possessiveness and egoism. Seriously, they see each other as a mean into an end, some kind of toys.
Obviously like you can guess, the MCs are such a jerks because they had a sad past, poor them. I don't like that excuse; "You had a sad life? Then don't worry, you'll become a jerk, enjoy!".
Do this manga have a redeeming quality for me?
Yup, the gender bender part is pretty decent. Both Kaito and Yuki are somewhat believable in their inner conflicts, up to a certain point still, but I saw far worse, it's pretty decent.
Though there is better gender bender manga with the same "dark/psychological" approach out there (and with less sex).