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Anime Info

Creator: Hiroyuki Nishimori
Director: Masaharu Okuwaki
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
Length: 50 Episodes

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Summary

+ Story explores many teenager issues that its audience may be struggling with
+ Characters begin as archetypes but develop into well rounded realistic characters
– The synthesized musical score is annoying and kind of bland
+/– The series is not licensed by a US distributor

Overview

Issues such as gender roles and sexuality are important to teenagers but they are not usually explored in the American series aimed at them. Although a comedy, A Cheeky Angel deals with these issues in a humorous but non-judgmental manner that many thoughtful teenagers will appreciate. And at the same time it is an exciting, funny, and entertaining series that many viewers will find enjoyable. There is some swearing and sexual innuendo but not more than viewers older than say ten have already been exposed to.

Public Rating

Our Rating

Score of 4 out of 5
4 out of 5 · Highly Recommended

A Cheeky Angel Review

Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 10/1/2007

Introduction

Created by manga artist Hiroyuki Nishimori, A Cheeky Angel is a comedy romance manga series originally serialized in Shonen Sunday Magazine. It has since been collected in 20 tankobon (trade paperback) volumes and in 2002 it was adapted into a 50 episode TV series by TMS Entertainment for TV Tokyo. A Cheeky Angel tells the story of Megumi Amatsuka, a beautiful and popular tomboy with an unusual secret: she used to be a he! Don't look so disgusted, there is a perfectly innocent explanation for all this. When Megumi was a macho little boy, he saved a sorcerer from a gang of toughs. As a reward, Megumi received a magic book that would grant him one wish. Megumi wished to be manly - a man among men. However, as fate would have it, the spirit inhabiting the book was either a trickster or an incompetent and transformed Megumi into a woman among women. This transformation is the beginning of a life of action, adventure, and comedy.

Review

How do we learn to fit in, define our role in society, establish our sexual orientation, and come to terms with gender roles? These are some of questions explored in the anime series A Cheeky Angel. Originally broadcast on TV Tokyo from 2002 - 2003, A Cheeky Angel combines elements of the romantic comedy, the high school comedy, and the fantasy adventure. It follows the adventures and romantic entanglements of a group of Japanese high schoolers as they encounter, befriend, and fall in love with Megumi Amatsuka and her friend Miki Hanakain.

Everyone knows a girl like Megumi: thin, unbelievably beautiful, and so innocent that she is painfully sexy. Every boy in her high school has a crush on Megumi as we can tell from their clambering to be introduced to her and their spontaneous weeping and bloody noses (a Japanese "Old Wives' Tale" says that a man who stares too long at a pretty girl will get a bloody nose). Of course none of the boys is aware that the sexy Megumi was once a boy: her fits of machismo are largely written off as "tomboyishness". As the first episode begins Megumi is taking a boorish jerk to task for his crass behavior towards another young woman. We know he's bad news because he has a punk hairdo, struts around like he owns the place, carries himself like a wolf, and slaps around his own cronies - also his eyes glow red when he gets cross with someone. The boor is overcome by Megumi's angelic beauty and s/he takes the advantage with a swift kick to the jerk's nether regions. Megumi's childhood friend Miki, who knows Megumi's secret, chastises Megumi for her manliness. Miki believes that if Megumi would just act like a "normal" girl she would be very popular. Later in class, Megumi is shocked to discover that the jerk she clobbered is one of her classmates - a notorious bully named Soga. When Soga recognizes Megumi and demands a rematch, Megumi wins overwhelming admiration from her classmates, male and female by flattening him with a well placed roundhouse kick.

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Although over-the-top and played for laughs, A Cheeky Angel does have a genuine sense of the pathos of teenage life - the struggle to fit in, to be perceived as cool or at the very least normal and socially acceptable. The series' screenplay quickly sketches in the characters as recognizable types: the nerd with a reputation as a pervert, the kid who just wants to fit in, the tough kid and so forth. Megumi herself is a variation of a popular male fantasy reminiscent of many anime characters such as Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell: she's feminine and beautiful on the outside but has a masculine personality and sensibilities. Some men don't want a girlfriend, they want a buddy they can have sex with without being perceived as gay. That Megumi is a man in woman's body may also be related to the trend towards cross-dressing among some straight Japanese men. Either way, it's an interesting plot device. However the series progresses the characters develop into well rounded human beings.

Later, after class, Megumi and his/her friend Miki reminisce about Megumi's transformation into a beautiful girl. When Megumi was a little boy he ran around his neighborhood with a replica sword, as tough as they come. One day while looking for adventure he and Miki stumbled onto an old, robed man walking in the vacant lot near their home. Having played too many rpgs, Megumi is convinced that the old man is a wizard. Brandishing his sword, Megumi tells Miki he wants to attack the "wizard" and defeat him in combat. Suddenly the "wizard" is surrounded by local bullies and Megumi comes to his defense. Megumi makes short work of the bullies and demands a reward. Chuckling to himself the old man gives Megumi a magic book with the power to grant one wish. Megumi asks to be made into a manly man. The spirit inhabiting the book is a trickster or an incompetent; he transforms Megumi into a woman instead. The spirit informs Megumi that the transformation will last for ten years, in frustration he/she tosses the magic book into the river and heads home. When Megumi returns home he discovers to his horror that his mother believes that he has always been a girl. All the pictures have changed as well - depicting a pretty girl instead of a handsome and tough boy. Miki is the only one besides the spirit of the book who is even aware of the change.

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Meanwhile, in the present day, Soga gets his ass handed to him by the school's resident thugs. When Soga escapes the onslaught, Megumi helps him hide from further beating. Soga is taken in by her beauty and much to Megumi's violent frustration leans in for a kiss. Confused by this, she sets out the next day to find out about male behavior from some of her classmates. The boys lie through their teeth in an attempt to impress her, leading Megumi to the conclusion that boys only think about one thing. This impression is not helped by Soga's obsession with her - the more she resists and beats him senseless, the more he wants her. What is it about resistance that men find attractive?

Soga's unwanted attention of course pushes Megumi into fighting mode and she once again kicks him in the crotch to make her escape but she makes the mistake of screaming about being a guy. Fortunately, Miki overhears Megumi's shouting and drags her away while Megumi's male admirers stand around puzzling this out. The next day, three of Megumi's admirers decide that her odd behavior is simply due to her functioning on some higher level than themselves - making her all the more intriguing and they form an informal club the Megu-chan Protection Club, with the stated goal of protecting Megumi from harm but in practice being more of a platform for her admirers to jockey for position to court Megumi's favor. Meanwhile Soga's unrequited love for Megumi saps him of his Samson-like strength and he finds himself in increasing tight spots as the local toughs attempt to build their reputations by taking him on. Much to his chagrin, Megumi manages to always be around to pull him out of these scrapes even after publicly declaring her undying hatred for him.

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In desperation, Soga joins the Megu-chan Protection Club. While the group decides as a whole that protecting Megumi from the other guys who are after her should be their top priority; the three founding members make it their goal to also foil Soga's attempts at courtship. Meanwhile Megumi is torn by her identity crisis: on the one hand she enjoys some stereotypically female behaviors such as clothes shopping on the other hand she is given to fits of manly rage. Most curious she actually seems attracted to Soga, she even laments that had she never been transformed into a girl she never would have met him. Miki actually comes close to teasing Megumi about latent homosexuality. Her attraction comes to a head when Megumi and Miki are confronted by a gang of toughs. Megumi's urge is to fight - she seems to be about to engage in combat when Fujiki, perhaps the most noble member of the Megu-chan Protection Club intervenes. He urges the girls to run away and at Miki's prodding Megumi begins to comply, however overcome by machismo and wracked by guilt at Fujiki's savage beat down, Megumi returns to the fray. She and Fujiki are having their asses handed to them when Soga suddenly appears and manages to knock the thugs out cold. After this confrontation, Megumi's stance towards men begins to soften just a little bit. Eventually through a series of similar violent incidents in which the members of the Megu-Chan Protection Club prove themselves to be loyal and trustworthy friends to not just Megumi but to each other Megumi decides that she likes them, in spite of the idiot things they've done to impress her.

As the series progresses, more fantasy adventure elements are integrated into the series as Megumi becomes more determined to transform back into a man. The members of the Megu-Chan Protection Club begin to take on the roles of members in an adventure team as they begin to track down clues to the whereabouts of the magic book that caused Megumi's transformation. The boys take to the quest with great enthusiasm, Miki on the other hand seems reluctant to find it - she would rather have Megumi remain female. Due to a variety of circumstances, including an arranged marriage, Miki has been living vicariously through Megumi and at the same time has developed feelings slightly more than friendship for her. At the same time much of the Megu-Chan Protection Club's romantic attention shifts from Megumi to Miki. The story is eventually resolved through an action adventure plot that involves Miki's Supervillain fiance, a magical quest, and even martial arts fights. However as different as the series conclusion is from its subtler beginning it seems to fit its own internal logic.

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Conclusion

A Cheeky Angel A Cheeky Angel is not the kind of series live action or animated that would ever be produced by an American TV studio. Aimed at a teenage audience, it actually explores some of the issues of identity including gender and sexual orientation dealt with by teenagers. Although its humor is over-the-top, none of the jokes are ever mean-spirited. Instead the humor brings to light the way teenagers actually struggle to define themselves as individuals, carve out their place in society, and come to terms with sexual orientation, gender roles and gender identity. More importantly A Cheeky Angel does so in a way that is largely non-judgmental and surprisingly individualistic for a society famously conformist. American teenagers on the other hand are expected to make due with series such as Saved by the Bell which scolds the eyeballs out and crushes any questioning of traditional Puritan values through its bad acting, worse writing, and inane sitcom plots.

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