Anyone over 13 and capable of comprehending a level of relationship beyond the “Rasengan!!! I hit you!!” must read F. Compo. I have recently been discovering Hojou Tsukasa’s works. I last read one of his manga back when I was 12 and I found the realistic art style and plots incomprehensible. Then, I read Rash!! which was about a maverick woman doctor working in a prison. Looking back, I was pretty freaked out since the other stuff I was reading were along the lines of Dragon Ball and Ranma 1/2.

Almost 10 years on, I was bored and hanging out at my friend’s manga rental store when I decided to start reading F.Compo. I heard it was a gender bending story, of transvestites and family drama, so it’s a refreshing change from the usual shounen crap. I actually find gender bending interesting, I have the entire Ranma and Pretty Face manga. And I’m quite open towards homosexuality and sex-changing, unlike some of my peers who scream in terror when the G word is mentioned.

I read volume 1. Then 2. And 3. I actually had something on that day but F.Compo was that good and I called to cancel the appointment (with a lie of course). And I placed an order for the entire series of 14 volumes. The final volume is an extra thick one, about twice the size of a regular volume.


Masahiko isn’t this handsome normally. He’s a real wuss.

Background

But before I rave about how great F.Compo is, let me give a short background. The manga started serialising in 1996 and finally ended in 2000, totaling 14 volumes of 101 chapters, called “Days”. The story is about this regular guy, Masahiko, whose father’s death has him all alone. His mother died when he was very young. Masahiko has never known family warmth, since his dad had to work like hell to support the family. Masahiko ends up moving into his mum’s sister’s place. The aunt, Wakanae Yukari, is a beautiful and virtuous lady who offers to treat Masahiko like her own son and he gladly accepts, overjoyed that he can finally enjoy some family warmth. Yukari’s macho husband, Sora, is a successful and famous manga-ka, and they have a daughter, Shion, who’s supposed to be the hottest 16 year old around.

But nothing is what it seems, and Masahiko soon finds out that his mum never had a sister, but a brother. His “aunt” turns out to be an uncle and her husband is actually a woman. As for Shion, it’s a mystery since she alternates between male and female status each year. In this warped household, the still-normal Masahiko gets to experience family life for the first time!

And that concludes the spoiler free introduction. The 14 volumes are basically about very everyday stuff, with barely any action, which is quite the contrast to Hojou Sensei’s style. The cast of characters is small and each and everyone of them gets a lot of character development. A LOT.

Draws
The main draw of the series is character development. Masahiko, from a naive and weak 19 year old, grows up and learns that he has been escaping from reality. Shion, being an enigma from the start, slowly gets her/his true self exposed. The parents’ difficult pasts are covered in detail as well. This is a series that has ample and well-thought out drama, relationships, realistic romance, funny comedic moments and above all, will change your perspective on how you think of and treat others.

The art style is typical of Hojou Tsukasa. With realistic character designs, that means having small than anime usual eyes, actual noses, mouths, lips and teeth and a proportionate body. There is great effort put into detail, the characters dress differently everyday, and their wide range of facial expressions are very subtley but clearly put across.

Verdict
Plot: 9 . For a realistic (kinda) manga heavily based on character interactions, the short everyday stories never cease to be boring. The general flow is well-thought out and each chapter serves to let a certain character grow or reveal some of he/her personality.

Characters: 10. Each and every character has her/her use and place in the spotlight. They are all well-rounded and actually feel human. They have emotions, mood swings, throw tantrums and basically I know such a person must exist somewhere in this world.

Art: 10. Amazing levels of detail both on the characters and in the background. The background art can probably be sold for money as a painting. There are a few colour pages each volume too. The style is usual of Hojou, employing a more realistic look rather than the popular anime mainstream approach favoured these days.

Ending: 8. Some have complained about the open ended ending, but I feel it was just fine. I would’ve loved to find out more, but in Hojou Sensei’s own words, “This is a peek into the life of a family. It wouldn’t be possible following them all the way, since there is no true ending. FC only captures a small part of the Wakanae family’s lives and readers, please use your imagination for what happens in the future.”



Here are some samples. Note I do have the entire manga series and I have taken these scans from http://www.geocities.com/saeba_2001/ just for convenience’s sake.


5 Responses to “Manga Rave: F. Compo - 14 Volumes of Gender-Bending Drama”  

  1. 1 Ariadne

    Very good review. I have a very weak spot for genderbending manga, and I had heard of F. Compo but never knew what it was about. Thanks to you, now I do. ^^; I’ll definitely be checking it out!

  2. 2 Eleutheria

    Have you finished through the ending?  Hojo had this to say about the ending at a convention: that it was just a peek into the lives of the Watanabes, and what happened after the final chapter of the manga should be left to the reader’s imagination.

  3. 3 Eleutheria

    Never mind, I did not read through to YOUR end of the review.

  4. 4 T_T|||

    I see potential Kashimashi/Pretty Face fans here?Anyway the only mangas I’ve read from this mangaka are City Hunter and Angel Heart. Both had damn good art but just wasn’t attractive enough. Maybe it was due to the price of each volume. So how much is the full set? Publisher?

  5. 5 Alex

    How did I miss this? The anime adaptations of Tsukasa Houjo’s work are amongst my favourite things ever. Although it’s kind of weird to see the cover and then realise it’s like “Trannie Ryo and Shan In”.

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