Review by: Sophie Stevens
Publisher: VIZ Media (Shonen Jump Advanced)
Author: Yasuhiro Kano
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $7.99 US
Release Date: Now Available
The last Pretty Face you’ll see this summer.
In the scheme of things, Pretty Face would have been one of those manga series that would have easily been ignored by its intended target audience had it been handled differently. Certainly, it’s an acquired taste that might not suit most reader’s palettes but if you were to give it a try you would most definitely find yourself liking the story of a young man who finds himself wearing the face of the girl he loved from afar. It’s a gender-bending concept that is far more sweet than one might expect and certainly a lot more funnier than, say, the Robin Williams flick, Mrs. Doubtfire.
The series ends at a mere six volumes but believe me when I say that continuing the story would have been a really bad mistake on author Yasuhiro Kano’s part. When the first volume of Pretty Face introduced us to high school student, Masashi Rando, his unwilling “transformation” from boy to girl brought about a number of funny situations to the point that continuing his story would have exhausted every possible scenario there is in this genre. Why not end things on a high note? Why not end things with what readers have been waiting for since Volume 3?
You see, Rando was riding a bus on his way back home from a karate tournament when said bus gets into a horrible accident along the way. Everyone in the accident is killed except for Rando who wakes up only to find that his face is replaced with that of the girl of his dreams … Rina Kurimi. The talented yet loopy Doctor Manabe had recreated Rina’s face via a photograph of her that Rando carried. Horrified that he no longer looks like himself, matters become more complicated when Rando finds out that a year has passed and his family is missing. It is while he is searching for his family that he runs into Rina who mistakes Rando for her long-lost twin sister Yuna! Knowing that the truth would only break Rina’s heart, Rando goes on pretending that he’s Rina’s twin sister until the real Yuna finally comes back home.
While the series has always been filled with fan service and Rando – as Yuna – surrounded by the nude female form, we find that Rando is one of the most noblest of gentlemen that never takes advantage of his life in the body of a female. It’s actually quite hysterical how he tries to fit in despite not knowing anything about being a girl. He learns through Rina and her friends what girls go through on a daily basis and while he never really becomes a girl he gains a far deeper respect for girls and appreciates Rina even more from up close. It was also fun to see Rando try to dissuade other boys from liking him. As I mentioned, he never really becomes a girl and while he physically looks like one of the prettiest girls in school he keeps the same macho bravado he had while he was a male.
In the sixth and final volume of the series, Rando shares a few bonding moments with fellow classmate Natsuo Kobayashi – the only girl who knows Rando’s secret and a girl that had always had a major crush on him when Rando was male. Most of the series is made up of several different scenarios that had Rando trying to keep his secret from coming out into the open whether it’s moments in the girl’s locker room or guys trying to hit on him. In this volume, he finds himself fighting off the advances of a younger female student named Nozomi. There’s also a great moment when Rando and Natsuo take care of the medical clinic while Doctor Manabe is away only to find themselves caring for a Yakuza boss that is uneasy around girls.
Yet the truly definitive moment of Volume 6 comes when Rina tells Rando that she is deciding to forget past loves and concentrate on the future. This, of course, breaks Rando’s heart having found out in past volumes that Rina actually did have a soft spot in her heart for Rando before his accident. His plan had been to look for Rina’s twin Yuna so he could go through another surgery to get his old face back and tell Rina how he feels about her. In a surprising twist, it’s Yuna that finds Rando.
Without getting into the details of their meeting and the revelation that comes from this meeting, I can say that it comes to the real Yuna’s attention that Rando pretended to be her for reasons of love and that his intentions were never underhanded but rather he didn’t want to see Rina unhappy. His time spent as Yuna had been one of healing for Rina and despite the fact that he disliked being a girl he felt that his year living as a one was one of the best thanks to Rina. There’s even a moment where Rando finally does tell Rina how he feels about her under a surprising guise. I will not say anymore of this memorable part.
In the end, the volume doesn’t disclose a few questions fans might have had over the course of the six volumes. We never find out what really happened to Rando’s family after the accident. There are a few other questions that should have been answered but are just ignored in the end. Personally, I loved the ending. It was unexpected and sweet, to say the least, and I’m glad that the alternate endings (that this volume includes) were rejected. The volume also includes a bonus story (with even more fan service tossed in for good measure) that would have made for a lousy ending but would have fit perfectly if the series did continue another volume.
Pretty Face had a really good run and, as a fan, I’m sorry to see it end. Yet it’s better to end on a high note and it does so with Volume 6. It was a funny ride that wasn’t perfect but it had enough moments that just stand out to make this such a refreshingly original and thoroughly likeable series that was a fun entertaining ride while it lasted.
Pretty Face, Volume 6, is actually a fitting end to the series despite a few plot holes that didn’t necessarily need filling but it would have been nice to know what happened to Rando’s family. Still, the series ends on a high note with all the things that made this fun series such a blast to read.
Yasuhiro Kano’s artwork has been consistently great throughout the series and even more so in this final volume that is filled with some of his rough sketches that appeared in other publications. I always thought his characters looked cute and he definitely has an eye for drawing women.
The chapter closes but not how one might expect yet it ends with a sweet ending that is fitting for the series. Volume 6 of Pretty Face doesn’t even answer some key questions but at least Rando finally lets Rina know how he feels about her in a truly memorable chapter. Overall, it’s rather a nice way to end this series. This volume even contains alternate endings and a bonus story.
COMPLETE SERIES GRADE: A-
Pretty Face had its ups and downs over the course of the six volumes but overall there have been more positive things about the series thanks – in part – to it’s good sense of humor. We’ve read some gender-bending stories before but Pretty Face is original and filled with characters you can’t help but really like from the very beginning.