Title: Penguin Kakumei (Penguin Revolution)
Author: TSUKUBA Sakura
Japan ISBN# 4-592-18241-3
US ISBN# 978-1-40121130-1
Hana to Yume Comics, 2005
CMX Comics (USA), 2006
I know that this one has been licensed and available for a while now, but I only just this past weekend picked up a few volumes of it in Japanese. I enjoyed what I read so much that I ended up going back for more 🙂 This is a cute shoujo series that spans at least 7 volumes. It has cute, simple artwork with moments of great detail, and likable characters. Actually, something I really enjoy about this series is the strong heroine. She may be small, but she is very resilient and adapts easily to various situations without going into hysterics or needing to be rescued all of the time. She is also strong physically, and can take down people three times her size 🙂 This is yet another idol story, in this case, idol actors. And, wouldn’t you know it, it involves cross-dressing. Seriously, 90% of my idol manga involves cross-dressing and has made me very suspicious of the Japanese entertainment industry!
Our heroine is a cheerful girl named Yukari. She may be small and her looks are more along the lines of average-cute than gorgeous, but she is strong (black belt in Akido!) and smart (can space out in class and still answer questions from the teacher in a split second!). However, her family situation kind of sucks. Thanks to her flaky father who can’t seem to hold down a job for very long, and who takes huge gambles on risky ventures, Yukari has had a roller coaster childhood. At some times she is wealthy, and at other times she lives in poverty. The unreliable extremes even caused her mother to run away, stranding Yukari with her hopeless parent. Thus she has grown up into a person who is not ruffled by sudden changes and is willing to work hard to get ahead. Her main dream is stability. She wants a government job, something that is known to be a very reliable and stable occupation. To achieve this, she has studied hard, earned top marks, and strives to get into a good university.
Naturally, things will happen to alter her steady course. It all begins when Yukari meets Ryoko, the beautiful and elegant student council vice president. Yukari is stunned when she sees huge wings sprouting from Ryoko’s back. Wings? Oh, that is another talent Yukari has. Back when she was a child, her mom took her to a play. Yukari was amazed by the performance, especially that of the lead actress, who appeared to Yukari to have huge wings of rainbow light spreading around her. Ever since that time, Yukari has been able to see these normally invisible wings on people, and has found that the size and beauty of the wings corresponds to that person’s talent for acting. Their potential for greatness. Ryoko appears to be a very talented person!
Ah, but Ryoko is not what she seems! After an accident involving being drenched with some water and a change of clothing, Yukari discovers that Ryoko is actually Ryo, a BOY! Why the heck is a boy going to her school disguised as a girl? Well, turns out that Ryo is an aspiring idol talent for a popular company called “Peacock.” The company only represents male talents, and they are divided into three groups and then ranked. At the top are the Peacocks 1-10. This is followed by the Crows 1-10. Everyone else is just a Penguin, a bird who can’t fly. Poor Ryo (even though he is very hot) is just a penguin, someone considered a new talent who has not had much exposure or few jobs. Thanks to the weird fetish of the company president (seriously, are all company presidents in manga totally insane?) all talents who work for Peacock must keep their private lives very secret and mysterious. Most of them wear disguises in their daily life. Thus, poor Ryo is forced to dress like a girl if he wants to continue working for the agency. Oh, and they are not supposed to let anyone find out about their secret disguise. Oops.
Now that Yukari knows about Ryo, something must be done. He doesn’t want to have to quit the company, so he drags her over to Peacock and manages to convince the crazy president to let her work as his manager! But guess what, Yukari will have to cross-dress too! And because she is currently homeless thanks to her father’s latest job failure, she will be moving in with Ryo and his roommate! But the roommate can’t find out about the arrangement! Ahh complexity! So we have a bit of a Victor/Victoria setup where Yukari dresses as a boy who is dressing as a girl! And Ryo continues to dress as Ryoko!
So begins Yukari’s crazy new life, one she was not planning, and one that is definitely not the secure, stable existence she dreamed of. Now she must run around doing her best to promote Ryo. She must face an awkward relationship with Ryo, deal with his unusual roommate, do her best to handle challenges from other Peacock talents who are scornful of Ryo’s penguin status. There is a lot of family angst, comedy, and a bit of romance. Yukari is a remarkably strong and supportive girl who takes life as it comes, and is a good, stable influence for Ryo. She had a keen insight and is very smart. The story takes a little time to build, but with each volume, new characters are introduced, and new complexities are added to the back story.
Can Yukari guide Ryo to success? Can she juggle her schoolwork, being poor, her strange new job, and all the cross-dressing?
Support the release of crossdressing idol manga in the US (because we can never have to much of it!) by purchasing the series HERE!