Oh! My Brother by Ken Saito Volume 1
The Name of the Flower is one of my favorite new manga series, so I was expecting good things from Oh! My Brother. While this manga isn’t as emotionally resonant and delicately constructed as The Name of the Father, it still manages to be entertaining. Masago is the younger sister of the incredibly popular and smart Shiro. He’s head of the school council and has a certain quality to his personality that seems to draw people towards him. He’s busy preparing for the school’s cultural festival. When he and Masago are about to walk home from school he sees a bus heading towards his sister and shields her with his body, dying instantly.
Masago becomes possessed by her older brother’s spirit. What is the unfinished business that has caused him to linger on earth, sharing his sister’s body? One of the things that I thought was a little off tonally was how little Shiro seems to be bothered by his own death or his spirit possession of his sister’s body. He seems rather nonchalant about the whole situation, throwing himself into finishing the arrangements for the cultural festival after Masago volunteers to help out with everything. Kurouma is one of Shiro’s friends on the school council, and he is only person that Masago and Shiro confide in about their predicament. Kurouma seems like a familiar Saito character type. He’s quiet and self contained, and he can instantly sense which sibling happens to be in possession of Masago’s body. I do like the way Saito signals to the reader who is in charge just by shifting Masago’s facial expressions and posture. Shiro-as-Masago is exuberant and extroverted, while Masago acts like a normal girl.
The plot of the book revolves around Shiro trying to complete various tasks that he left unfinished in life. Masago clearly has a crush on Kurouma, but Shiro isn’t going to let anything happen as long as he can take over his sister’s body in order to stop the budding romance. There’s an odd mix of comedy and touching moments. Masago is greeted as a gang boss by other students after they encounter her when possessed by the aggressive Shiro. She misses her brother being alive, but is grateful for the extra time she can spend with him. Saito’s focus on facial expressions makes the reader feel sympathy for all the characters in the manga as they begin to come to terms with Shiro’s death. While Oh! My Brother doesn’t totally come together to form a coherent whole I think any manga from Saito is better than much of the manga being published today. I’m definitely looking forward to the second and concluding volume of this series.