Manga-ka: Mitohi Matsumoto
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: July 2012
Synopsis: “A bunch of nerdy guys (without girlfriends) get together to try to catch a perverted predator on a crowded train and decide to run a sting operation. But… how will they do that? Who or what would they use for a decoy to catch this predator? Oh, we know! Let’s dress up one as a girl! He looks so cute! He’s just perfect and anyone would fall for him… including his classmates!”
When I first read the synopsis for My Cute Crossdresser, I knew I had to read this book. As a story about boys loving crossdressing boys, it seemed an odd addition to Digital Manga’s hentai imprint, Project-H. My Cute Crossdresser sounded more appropriate for one of their several boys’ love imprints. Now that I’ve read it, it really is a tricky title to categorize. It’s tone doesn’t feel BL appropriate, but simultaneously this title falls short of earning the blood-spurting logo of Project-H.
My Cute Crossdresser is a one-shot collection of short stories that all share the common theme that a boy will cross dress in girls’ clothes for the majority of the chapter. The book’s title story, and also the first and longest, stars a young man who wants to help catch perverts on the trains who have been assaulting women. Because you need to catch the perverts in the act, he comes up with a plan to dress as a girl and, when he’s felt up by one of said perverts, will have the opportunity to turn them in. He enlists a classmate to help him act as witness and cameraman. The one he asks also happens to have three sisters so he’s able to provide all sorts of advice and magazines about acting and appearing more feminine. Over the course of their escapades, said helper-friend finds his classmate cuter and cuter dressed as a girl. Oddly, the book’s official synopsis is meant to describe this story but falls short on a few important facts – namely that there is no group of nerdy guys. Just two. And one’s the crossdresser.
Other stories in the book include a male kissing booth stand in, a river rescue with only one pair of clean clothes available, a budding actor who’s skilled at playing women and finally a fun but extra silly little story about making a boy forced to cross dress (and cosplay) as bait for alien abductors. Of these stories I liked the one with the actor the most because he was the only one who didn’t have that shiny-eyed, extra cutesy, protect-me personality. He was a little abrasive and just took his acting pretty seriously, much to the pleasure of those filming and watching.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is about this book that makes it read more like a hentai than a boys’ love book, but it definitely does. As a reader and collector of both, I know there’s a big tone difference between the two but I doubt I’ll ever be able to well articulate what that is. It’s one of those gut feeling sort of things. You just know. It’s easy to quickly jump to ‘this is BL!’ when reading a manga title about two boys ‘liking’ each other, but that comes from a familiarity with the genre. It reminds me how most people would pick up a BL title and assume it’s for homosexual men, when in reality it’s male romance generally written by women and intended for heterosexual women. At the same time, there’s also yuri which is female x female romance, and while a bit more broad in audience than BL as a genre, it still caters a lot to heterosexual women as well. Somewhere similar is where My Cute Crossdresser falls in – it’s a title about male characters dressing up like girls, and liking each other sexually as a result (in some cases), but it’s created for heterosexual men. And that’s how it reads. The feeling is different, the character perception is notably more like reading a hentai, or a fan service title, than a boys’ love story. This also includes a lack of any emotional depth, which though not always the core of boys’ love, is generally something you can expect a heaping dose of.
To sum it up, this book is an adorably perverse, mostly chaste, collection of short stories about different boys who – for whatever reason the author concocts for that story – are now cross dressing in the repeat presence of another young man in their lives who likes it. That’s where the point lies, I think, in that the other male likes ‘it’, the cross dressing, more so than really the one doing it. While boys’ love stories aren’t where you’d go looking for any real homosexual identity, they at least romanticize and flourish the fact that it’s about two boys loving each other.
So basically what we have here is a fetish piece. That’s all fine and good, it’s a fetish I’m still more than pleased to see catered to. Still, while My Cute Crossdresser quickly distinguishes itself as something that isn’t BL (yet remains perfectly capable of cross-appealing to those readers also), it still feels out of place with Project-H’s logo attached. What disappointed me about this title was that it’s very tame in nature. When I read this was about cute cross dressing boys in a hentai title, I expected cute cross dressing boys in a hentai title doing hentai-ish things. While this title has the 18+ sticker, it has very few situations that would warrant it. In fact, the only time it really does is a few tiny fantasizing panels and near the end where some tentacle wielding aliens get a little friendly, and even then it’s nothing that wouldn’t be brandished with 16+ in any of Digital Manga’s boys’ love books. “Explicit”? Alas, hardly.
My Cute Crossdresser was just what the title suggests. It has some cute crossdressers, and that’s pretty much it. Those looking for more explicit content are likely to be let down but if you go into this knowing what you’ll be getting (or not getting), it is at least a fun little diversion for a one-time visit.
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Digital copy provided by Digital Manga for review purposes