This two volume series has a lot going for it.
Writer/Artist: Ken Saito
Translation: Alethea and Athena Nibley
Adaptation: Alethea and Athena Nibley
What They Say
Only days before their high school festival, popular, outgoing big brother Shiro pushes beloved little sister Masago out of the path of a truck. He dies and Masago, average in ever respect in comparison to her brother, blames herself. In fact, she wishes she had died instead of Shiro. At that moment, she becomes possessed by her brother and from that moment on they're two very different personalities in one body!
CMX has given this title an attractive presentation. The cover is simple yet affective with Shiro and Maa, arms intertwined, on a stark white background, while the back cover shows the title character of the included short story, "The Magic of Kirishima Tai". The print quality is good, sfx are subbed and although there is no guttering of panel or dialog, some pages are cut off on the vertical edges.
Ken Saito's shoujo style is representative of the genre with a panel design and placement that is varied and attractive on the page, and with a use of tone that defines and embellishes but never overpowers. Character designs maintain a unified style yet are distinctive. Saito meets the significant challenge of maintaining the identity of the siblings through attitude and expression.
The text reads well with no obvious grammatical errors. The translation/adaptation maintains a separateness of voice for all the characters with an assist of some font distinction.
Extras include an author afterword and a short piece that takes a look at incidents in the middle school years of Maa, Toki-kun and Uta-kun.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Oh! My Brother presents some of the best that can be done with the very short series and some of the very real drawbacks.
In this tale of a brother and sister sharing a body after his death and the means to find what he must do to pass on, the need to get the story underway leads to a rushed introduction that, while it establishes the bond between Shiro Kamoguchi and his younger sister, cuts short any time that would allow the reader any real emotional connection to Shiro's death other than what the reader experiences through Maa, a situation that, given the length of the series, may be intentional. After all, the story is not about death, but about that which is life affirming. The tone gets confused with the circumstances of Shiro's death - he gets hit by a truck in saving Maa. It seems to be overkill and one with a comedic finality that doesn't seem quite appropriate in the situation. But this is a series marked in its early stages by swings from laughter to tears, so less crepe hanging and a levity that distances the tragedy is the way to go. I can see the objections to the rush and to the tone swings, but to do otherwise would change the point of the story.
However, once the initial tragedy is left behind, and with Maa and Shiro now sharing the same body, the fun begins. Earnest, hardworking Maa, as confused her brother is as to why he has "returned", joins the student council to help him complete the project that had meant so much to him as the popular and hardworking council president - the Hato High culture festival and the presentation of the graduating class symbol. This puts her daily contact with vice president Kurouma Yasaka, Maa's secret crush and the only reason she came to Hato High. Shiro has managed to convince Kurouma of his existence as a separate entity within Maa, yet not Maa, and Kurouma becomes a willing accomplice to Shiro's plans, if only to help and protect Maa. Ken Saito gets points for a clear presentation of the siblings sharing Maa's physicality. The reader is never in doubt, whether by voice or by graphic, as to what sibling is "in charge". The other characters in Oh! My Brother are not so perceptive, thank goodness.
But into this cozy threesome comes a complication in the form of Saruhiko Kuga of Chou High. This kinda sorta delinquent has a past history with Shirou, one that had Kuga angry and resentful of the charming, cheerful and successful Shiro. Ken Saito pulls off a wonderfully realized characterization in Kuga whose rage arises out of the hurt of what he views as a betrayal. His reaction to anything involving Shiro is exaggerated, angry, and often involves Maa. But for all of the excess, Kuga's behavior is real and believable given what Shiro means to him. Although Shiro's classmates talk about and demonstrate sadness and tears, only Maa and Kuga really show grief - Maa's borne out of love and guilt, and Kuga's out of anger for those things not resolved. However, Kuga is much more complicated and to divulge more would ruin the experience.
For such a short series there are a lot of characters here and all seem to contribute to the narrative no matter how small the part. There are two, however, whose seeming uselessness is overshadowed by their charm - Kuga's adoring and adorable kohai, Uta-kun and Toki-kun. These two wannabe delinquents, so polite and so cute, let the reader in on the real Kuga just by their existence. They also provide a good dose of comedy in their infatuation with the tough no-nonsense Maa (Shiro's in control here) and view her as their "elder sister". I liked them a lot and so does Ken Saito for they are given their own spot in a short with Maa that appears at the end of the volume.
For all the quirky fun in Oh! My Brother, the short story "The Magic of Kirishima Tai" is a let-down. It's a story about a special boy and friendship, but if there is a point, it's not very strongly made. I wish I could say that the impression of angel wings around Kirishima Tai in the back cover picture would help interpretation, but it doesn't. Enjoy this for the art and the sincerely depicted feelings of Kareha.
Don't let reader expectations set by the initial premise hijack the story that Ken Saito intends to tell. This is a story about life, not death. And life is funny, sad and sweet. Just like this book.