Manga-ka: Ken Saito
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: October 2009
Synopsis: “Masago is an average high school student who not only doesn’t stand out in a crowd, but who also has to live in the shadow of her very popular and charismatic older brother. Then one day, tragedy strikes when Shiro sacrifices his own life for Masago and gets hit by an oncoming truck. Not too long after — to her shock and confusion — Masago finds herself sharing her own body with the spirit of her deceased brother. Needless to say, life is about to get very complicated for Masago!”
In Oh! My Brother, a sudden accident leads to the death of Shiro, a well-beloved student at his high school renowned for his talent, intelligence and charisma. Left behind is his younger sister, Masago, who shoulders the guilt of his death. But, she soon realizes she’s shouldering much more than that when the spirit of her deceased brother inhabits her body to fulfill his unfinished business. A series that’s both entertaining and endearing, Oh My Brother! takes what could be a creepy premise and drives it in endearing directions.
It’s unfortunate though that the series fails to make much of an emotional impact at the series’ most pinnacle moment. When Shiro dies, the scene transition is actually too abrupt – taking away any time to clue into what happened before being thrown into the funeral. Instead of delivering shock-factor, it actually comes across as pretty funny. Fortunately though the series regains much of this lost footing in subsequent chapters when Masago battles with the guilt and depression of her brother’s death. The reactions of her mother and students, many of which were friends and admirers of Shiro, are also handled with care – often coming out in different ways but no less heart felt.
After Shiro appears in the body of Masago, it becomes pretty apparent that he’s borderline obsessive with her. Sometimes it’s sweet, other times it’s bit over the top. Not creepy-dangerous over the top just slightly-weird and potentially-incestuous. If the series wasn’t so obviously intended to be fluffy, it could easily swerve down unsettling territory especially with Shiro now inhabiting Masago’s body. But that’s honestly not giving the story enough credit – sure Shiro ‘s words are little odd but they’re all silly and innocent.
It’s hard to tell where the series is going at this point. It could stay on this fluffy self-explosion path or play on the obvious romantic tension between Masago and her crush, Shiro ‘s best friend Kurouma. The latter of which could lead to some awkwardness for all parties involved with the current situation as it is. It feels fairly reminiscent of Morinaga Ai’s Your and My Secret but doesn’t take the humour as far with the disaster-potential – or at least not yet.
Also tossed into the mix is a childhood friend/foe of Shiro, Saruhiko Kuga. He feels a tad out of place, if only because his role isn’t immediately evident. His appearance offers the reaction of someone who doesn’t seem as though he was very smitten with Shiro but at the same time there was obviously a relationship between the two that left a profound impact on him, whether or not it was a mutually acknowledged one. What Kuga does bring to the table perhaps most importantly however is as another potential love interest for Masago, which is nice when Kurouma seems too perfectly set in place for an obvious end-result. Still, he’ll first need to deal with his own personal issues that have him repeatedly harassing Masago in ways that would make any stranger on the street uncomfortable.
The artwork here is your standard shoujo-fare – it’s cute and appealing to the eye but not especially notable. Still it gets the job done and offers plenty of cute visuals to compliment the story in the hands of a creator whose consistency and polish shows her years of experience. CMX’s work on the series is much the same, nothing will blow you away but it’s solid adaptation work with good lettering and an easy to read translation. It also has wonderful binding that sports a lightweight feel with easy to turn pages that still feels solid in your hands. It’s a huge leap forward from the company’s early days of stiff paper and even stiffer binding.
A little silly but all kinds of sweet, Oh! My Brother is off to a charming start full of shoujo-goodness. Masago is a likeable character and her brother, though a tad eccentric, isn’t half bad himself. Combined they’re an odd duet but offer plenty of reasons to look forward to volume two.