Pretty Face Volume 1 by Yasuhiro Kano (amazon)
Pretty Face has such a whacked out premise. When I first heard about it I thought I would be surprised if it ever got licensed for the US. I guess I shouldn’t underestimate Viz. Rando is a school bully, leader of his karate club, and a terror to his classmates and teachers. His softer side only comes out when he’s in proximity to Rina, his longtime secret crush. When a terrible accident happens on the school bus, Rando is delivered into the hands of an unscrupulous doctor. With a face burned beyond recognition and the only identifying item on his person being a picture of Rina, Doctor Manabe reconstructs Rando’s face in Rina’s image. When Rando wakes up the doctor asks him if he admires the plastic surgery and wonders if he’ll consider a sex change operation. Rando is furious. When he goes home he finds out that his house is gone and his parents have moved away. Rina spots him on the street and immediately embraces him as her long-lost older twin sister Yuna.
Rando takes on Yuna’s identity and decides to stay wth Rina until he can track the real Yuna down. He starts attending school again, this time as a girl. He quickly finds out that his old friends didn’t even care enough about him after his death to keep a non-defaced picture of him. He can’t find a photo reference to use in his quest to get his face back. Even in female form his old karate buddies recognize Rando’s martial arts talents, so they start following him through the halls, calling him “Miss Yuna”, and begging him to be their leader.
Pretty Face is exactly what you’d expect from a shonen manga about a guy passing as a girl. Rando struggles with his charade due to his own violent nature, and is always worried that someone is going to find out that he’s actually a guy. If there’s a problem that can be solved by beating someone up that’s the path he immediately takes. He discovers that he can sometimes use his feminine wiles to get what he wants, but he’s unprepared to deal with male attention. On the home front, he keeps freaking out at being in close proximity to Rina. He also keeps dodging Doctor Manabe, who is constantly asking him when he wants his penis amputated so the sex change can be complete.
There were a few funny moments in this series, and the art is attractive if a bit on the simple side. There isn’t a lot of extraneous detail in the panel backgrounds or character designs. It has been a long time since I’ve read the similar series Cheeky Angel, but I liked Pretty Face a little more than Cheeky Angel. Reading one volume of Pretty Face was enough for me. If I’m going to read a gender-bending manga I think I’d rather stick with the much more nuanced Ai Morinaga title Your and My Secret.