The constant cry of the modern josei manga fan is "where's all the new josei titles?" They are out there, but like today's review a lot of them tend to fly under the radar.
MY ANDROGYNOUS BOYFRIEND (Genderless Danshi ni Aisareteimasu), by Tamekou. First published in 2018 and first published in North America in 2020.
Wako is a hard-working editor at a publishing company. Her long-time boyfriend Meguru is increasingly demand as an influencer and model thanks to his colorful, androgynous style. Together the two endure a lot of the challenges of living together, working long hours, and people making assumptions about their orientations.
My Androgynous Boyfriend must have been a hard title for Seven Seas to market. The title would suggest a series that's more about LGBTQ identity, but that's not really true. While people around him tend to make assumptions based on his look, Meguru is both cis and straight. If anything, it's a very sweet, low-key slice-of-life story about a working couple, but that's not exactly the sort of plot summary that moves lots of books.
That's a shame because I really loved how supporting and well-adjusted Wako and Meguru are as a couple. Wako is incredibly supportive of Meguru: she helps run his Instagram account, takes photos, and she is genuinely interested and supportive of Meguru's style. In turn, Meguru does his best to help around the house whenever Wako is busy or tired, helps with her makeup before big meetings, and tries to boost her self-esteem whenever she starts beating up on herself. As we learn from the flashback near the end of the volume, this sort of give-and-take has been part of their relationship from their high school days. Wako defended Meguru from bullies and helped him make friends via social media. He in turn was won over by her strength, kindness, and how much she loved his particular brand of cuteness. This is the sort of heartwarming romantic content I love to see.
Since these two are so well-adjusted, there's not a not of conflict to be found here. Most of has to do with Meguru's androgynous presentation, as his fans and some of Wako's coworkers jump to conclusions that he must be gay or a woman. Others try to encourage Meguru to hide his relationship for the sake of his (largely young, female) audience or fabricate a relationship with another friend and fellow model. Meanwhile, Wako sometimes feels insecure about Meguru being more conventionally attractive than her. Meguru does his best to boost her mood and doesn't try to hide their relationship, but that doesn't stop her from editing herself out of his selfies before posting them. While the specifics may be particular to their relationship alone, a lot of it stems from everyday insecurities that are relatable. Still, so long as these two are together, it feels like they can manage in a way that's enjoyable to read.
Tamekou set a high bar for themselves when it came to the art. They not only had to make Meguru believably androgynous compared to others, but also believably stylish enough to have a following. I feel like they managed to succeed on those fronts. The characters remind me a lot of those in Sweat and Soap, but there's a decent variety of face shapes. More importantly, this is one of the few manga where's a noticeable difference when characters are or are not wearing make-up, so I feel like that has to count for something. As for Meguru's sense of style, it's not too outrageous. Mostly it's pretty casual, albeit a higher-end version that employs a lot of layers, bright colors, and patterns. It definitely stands out compared to Wako's business-casual look or the more extreme looks of his fashion friends.
This series is published by Seven Seas. This series is ongoing in Japan with 4 volumes available. 3 volumes have been released and are currently in print.
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