Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Pheromomania Syndrome [Feromomania Shindoroumu], by Ichiha, is another gender-bending shoujo romantic comedy, but an unusual one. Unlike all the others I've seen, it doesn't involve cross-dressing or magical or scientific gender-switching or body-swapping. It's just about a boyish girl and a girlish boy. Not that either of them wants to be of the opposite sex; it's just the way they are.

Hotori, the protagonist, is a tall (about 5'9") high school girl with masculine features and build. She also has a powerful libido, something that embarrasses her. Since their childhood, she has been the friend and protector of Keishi, the main male character, who only comes up to her shoulder and looks, and acts, somewhat feminine. Hotori is in love with Keishi, and frequently imagines him in seductive poses (often in female costume), producing explosive nosebleeds. (It's a convention of manga and anime that males get nosebleeds when they're aroused; occasionally females are shown getting nosebleeds when aroused too, but I don't recall another work where it happens so often as here.) At first Hotori can't imagine that Keishi reciprocates her feelings. When she discovers that he does, her problems aren't over. She treats him as a delicate flower not to be sullied by her base desires. In fact, he's anything but, and repeatedly attempts to provoke Hotori into acting on her feelings, leading to even more explosive nosebleeds. Keishi is also downright evil towards anyone whom he suspects of trying to get between him and Hotori. His most frequent targets are Yuna and Sunaka, Hotori's best (female) friends, particularly the latter, who has a crush on Hotori. These four, plus a childhood friend of Hotori and Keishi's who appears in vol. 3, are the principal characters so far.

While hardly deep (I've read the first three volumes so far, and they're almost pure comedy), Pheromomania Syndrome is original and funny. Gender-bending manga comedies are a dime a dozen, of course, but the characterization sets Pheromomania Syndrome apart. Hotori isn't the typical manga tomboy or cursing tough chick, but is genuinely embarrassed by her masculine appearance and demeanor. Nor is Keishi the typical androgynous bishie. Keishi's characterization in particular is a triumph, combining melt-in-the-mouth innocence and seductiveness towards Hotori with malevolence towards everyone else. The comedy is more physical than is typical of shoujo manga, e.g. Hotori's nosebleeds, which frequently splatter those around her. Ichiha is good at this. She's also good at visual characterization, exemplified by Hotori, whose masculine demeanor, while not exaggerated (as I said, no cursing) is depicted so convincingly that even though she always wears girl's clothes and is referred to as female, I have a hard time not thinking of her as "he."

The title refers to an imaginary "disease" of women with unusually strong sexual appetites, which Sunaka diagnoses Hotori with in the first chapter, based upon a quiz in a magazine. (Pheromones are chemicals emitted by animals whose scent affects other animals of that species. Some animals emit pheromones to sexually entice potential mates; whether humans do so is an open question, but in manga you sometimes see, for instance, the phrase "pheremone girl" used to describe a sexy girl.)

Pheromomania Syndrome is published by Hakusensha, and there are seven volumes out so far, all costing 390 yen (I think). The ISBNs are:
vol. 1: 4-592-17671-5
vol. 2: 4-592-17672-3
vol. 3: 4-592-17673-1
vol. 4: 4-592-17674-X
vol. 5: 4-592-17675-8
vol. 6: 4-592-18226-X
vol. 7: 4-592-18227-8

(If you want to buy this at a Japanese bookstore, note that "feromomania shindoroumu" is actually the "reading" of the title in furigana. Normally the kanji in the title would be read "joshi mousou shoukoumura," which would mean something like "woman's fantasy syndrome.")

Does anyone have info on whether or not this story resumed its publication in Hana to Yume?
I don't know about Hana to Yume, but I've read it online. And there it seems that their pretty good at keeping up with when it's coming out and such. Bye the way, this is by far one of my favorite manga. ^w^
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