NG Life Volume 1 by Mizuho Kusanagi
This shoujo love triangle story features both reincarnation and gender-bending. Saeki has vivid memories of his past life in Pompeii. He can recognize other people from his past life from their auras, although they have no memory of the life they shared together. Saeki’s Pompeiian best friend and drinking buddy Loleus has been reborn as the girl next door, Serizawa. They have a close platonic friendship. Matters are complicated further when Saeki recognizes his long lost love Serena as the new boy in town, Yuuma. Yuuma has an androgynous look, and is determined to become more manly through exercise. He doesn’t appreciate it when Saeki runs up to embrace him when they first meet.
Yuuma promptly develops a crush on Serizawa. Serizawa loves Saeki, although he’s oblivious to her feelings, caught up in the memories of his past life and his uncontrollable emotions towards Yuuma. There are plenty of flashbacks showing the trio as they existed in Pompeii combined with the regular life of schoolkids in Japan as they go to an amusement park, go shopping, and put on a school play. The emotions of the characters are frequently played for laughs, especially Saeki’s reactions to Yuuma/Serena’s manly behavior, which causes him to cry and huddle in a corner.
The love triangle between the characters develops further, as Serizawa is more open with her feelings, and Saeki begins to be conscious of her presence in a new way. I tend to enjoy reincarnation plotlines and gender bending in manga, but if I had to pick one example of the genre to keep, I’d be more likely to reread Oyayubihime Infinity, which had more nuanced characters. While I don’t picture myself rereading this manga, it was fun to read. The series is fairly standard shoujo, and while the characters and art don’t really stand out, NG Life ends up being an enjoyable but disposable diversion.
Review copy provided by Tokyopop.