“Everything I do…is for you.” Azusa, as she applies her make-up, getting ready at 4 a.m. to go to the latest concert and see her beloved idol Chikashi Chida performing live.
Azusa Azahina is a devoted fan of Chika-kun, the most charismatic member of idol group Prince4U. And like all devoted fans, she supports the group in every way she can, buys all the merchandise, learns all the songs and routines, and goes to all the concerts. But something goes wrong on stage during the latest live concert and, as a piece of equipment comes crashing down on her beloved Chika, she throws herself forward to push him out the way – and when she opens her eyes again, she and Chika are in Heaven. They’re dead?! But then God tells them there’s been a mistake, it’s not their time to die yet, and that He will return them to Earth. Next moment, they’re back on Earth – but their souls have been switched; they’re in each other’s bodies! What a good thing that Azusa’s such a P4U fan, as she knows all the songs and dance routines… although that’s the least of their worries as neither wants – understandably – to have to go to the toilet.
The two swap in and out of their own bodies, including the inevitable trip and fall that ends up as a kiss (so embarrassing!) but nothing works the same way a second time. To add to the complications, Fumi, Azusa’s faithful, long-suffering childhood friend immediately senses that something is far from right about his classmate. But as the body-swaps continue to occur randomly, God sends the two a letter which basically says, ‘We still don’t know what triggers it, so you’ll probably switch places again. Sorry.’ And there’s only so many times that Azusa (in Chika’s body) can replace him convincingly in a performance…
Body-swap stories between boy and girl have been popular in manga and anime for a while now (a particular favourite of mine is Your and My Secret by the very talented and funny mangaka Ai Morinaga, who sadly died far too young in 2019). There’s even an anime film with a boy-girl body swap that has caused quite a stir… So apart from Your Name, in which the two protagonists don’t know each other before the swap occurs, it’s a more common plot device for the two main protagonists to be classmates. Junko’s variation on this theme means that Azusa (the fan) knows all about Chika (the idol) but not vice versa, leading to plenty of room for mishaps and misunderstandings. Junko is best known in the West for her popular manga series (turned into an anime) Kiss Him, Not Me! (also from Kodansha) and for her BL manga (published by June). Intriguingly, she thanks Eiki-Eiki in the acknowledgments at the end of the book as ‘Special Adviser’ – and Eiki-Eiki, a fellow mangaka, is best known in the West for writing the story of Love Stage!! (the BL manga that also became a very popular anime series).
Junko has an attractive and easily recognizable style in character design and she tends to favour a light-hearted, comic approach to her subject matter, so that the story zooms along, hardly pausing to draw breath. This makes the first volume of Star-Crossed!! a fun and fluffy read – for the most part – with the added spice of an idol group with three other hot boys to add to Azusa’s confusion. But this isn’t an in-depth exploration of the phenomenon of male idol groups and why their female fans adore them, although it offers a few insights along the way.
For Kiss Him, Not Me! fans there’s the added bonus of a short story about Kei and Mutsumi and three translation notes from translator Barbara Vincent for amimaru, the company that did the work on the digital version for Kodansha Manga (the series was originally released on their digital-first list). And a special word of praise for letterer Mohit Dhiman for amimaru for effectively delivering a bewildering variety of fonts and sound effects to bring the madcap antics of the characters to vivid life (aided ably by Sara Linsley). Six glossy colour pages are a bonus at the beginning, with one double-page spread of Azusa and Chika-kun. There are three more print volumes to come – but for those keen to find out what happens next, the whole series is already available in digital. (Fans of Kae Serinuma and her friends will be please to find two more bonus stories in Volumes 2 and 4!)
If you’re looking for a light-hearted and fun gender-swap manga, then you’ll enjoy Star-Crossed!! Junko’s experience in writing same sex and shojo romcoms, coupled with her attractive* character designs makes this an undemanding but amusing read.