Manga Review: Oh! My Brother (vol. 1)

Masago has the best older brother a girl could ask for. Shiro is popular. He’s goofy. He’s good looking. He’s the head of his student council. But most of all, he’s a kind boy and loves his little sister dearly.

But his niceness and his love ultimately leads to his death as he is accidentally hit by a car while protecting Masago from being hit by it herself. Masago and all of her classmates are devastated over Shiro’s tragic death, and while she cries out for her big brother, a gust of wind blows in through the window into her room.

Next thing you know, Masago is her older brother. That is, Shiro’s soul now possesses the body of his little sister, and they alternate back and forth for who controls the girl’s body or not. They believe it is because Shiro left the world with unfinished business. Now with the help of his little sister, they will set out to ensure his soul can finally move on to the other side, all the while trying to keep the fact that Shiro’s soul is inside his sister a secret.

Hold on… you go through that huge, tragic setup just to create a story of two people sharing the same body?! Really?! What kind of contrived plot is that?!  Have we not seen this done a million times before?!

I wanted to hate Ken Saito’s Oh! My Brother on this premise alone, I really did.  But with all of its charm and subtle comedy, I ended up loving this goofy – albeit flawed – shojo story.

I think the reason why this story works is because of the characters. Even while using minimal time or dialogue to set each one up, Saito still manages to create a cast of very lovable, charming, and naturally understandable players in this comedy driven out of a tragedy. The reader becomes emotionally invested in the plight of all the leads, and because of this, you become very interested in what happens next in their cliched story.

I also really thought the CMX adaptation was notably well done. In my review of Ballad of a Shinigami, I had pointed out that their choices with ignoring Japanese politeness levels lead to pages of confusion within that story. In this series, however, the translator finds ways of working politeness and odd speech behavior into the English script, most notably in a scene where Masago talks way too politely to a boy she has a crush on. It conveys the original intent of the Japanese script in a way that any English manga reader will pick up on and understand.

If I could find flaws with the story – besides for the fact its about two people sharing the same body – it would have to be the opening chapter. The narrative quickly jumps around from Masago in high school to a flashback of her in middle school to suddenly the car accident and Shiro’s death and funeral…

Wait… what? Shiro’s dead? When? In the present time? Back when she was in middle school? Was Shiro ever alive in the first place, or has he always been a ghost this whole time?

It was just really confusing, and it doesn’t begin making sense until the end of the first chapter when the big reveal of the “two souls in one body” predicament. But once that reveal happens and the plot stabilizes, the main story really does become good and it will hook you in. There are even the occasional, “hey, I see the way you’re looking at my little sister!” jokes from Shiro in his sister’s body to keep the humor going given the tragic nature of the setup.

The side story that begins at that point, between Shiro and his old friend / rival, is a little less fleshed out, but it slowly begins to come together to something I look forward to seeing in the next volume. Even the little bonus story at the end of this volume, The Magic of Kirishima Tei, suffers from the same sloppy opening as the main story, but slowly works its way to becoming just as charming and entertaining as Brother.

* * * *

The Good: Incredibly charming and lovable characters. Goofy yet subtle humor. Great English adaptation.

The Bad: Sloppy opening chapter. Side story is not as fleshed out as the main story.

Final Verdict: I shouldn’t have liked Oh! My Brother, but I did and you probably will too. Read it!

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