After losing a bet, Tao Nozomu's baseball team is forced to dress up as cheerleaders and cheer for their rivals, the Titans. However, after the bet is all settled and done, Nozomu finds he likes crossdressing almost as much as he likes baseball. Despite interior conflict with such desires, he tries to give it up; but one day, he discovers he's turned into a girl?!
I've said before that Gender Bender is the king of fanservice genres, and I will continue to say it every time I have the opportunity. Nozomu Nozomi, being somewhat fanservicey on its own anyway, is a prime piece of supporting evidence for this claim. I think every man, at some point or another, has wondered what it would be like to be a girl. And one fun thing about the genre is that the story completely changes depending on the circumstances of this alteration: Does the protag become a girl for a minute? An hour? A day? Month? Year? Forever? Can he change back and forth? Can he do so at will? Does it happen when he least expects it? Is he the only one changing? Do his friends or family change with him? Are there girls changing into guys as well? Lots of fun. Maybe I'm just weird, but I love it. The genre combines genuine curiosity with a sort of humble humanizing of the sexes, all while maintaining a slight undertone of unforced erotica. It's a genre written by men and women in seemingly equal amounts, and all purist Gender Benders seem to have the same common themes of breaking down gender stereotypes and judging people purely based on character. I'm not calling it high literature, but it has elements I'm often hard-pressed to find in other media as a whole, let alone anime and manga. Getting into Nozomu Nozomi specifically now, we have a classic scenario where the somewhat effeminate titular protag Nozomu is one day suddenly a girl, with zero in-universe explanation. And so he goes through his day-to-day life trying to hide the change from his friends and family while relishing his newfound "disguise" in the presence of strangers. This is all pretty standard Gender Bender; nothing unique up to this point, and indeed for most of the manga's execution. Checking in at a mere two volumes and a total of 15 chapters, each about 20 pages long, it's an incredibly fast read and an incredibly short story. Not having a whole lot of room to work with, the story has an option with whether to play it safe or do something crazy, and overall it plays it pretty safe most of the way through. It takes one leap with a pretty superb twist near the end that left me not only very satisfied with this 30 minutes of my life but also wishing the story had continued. We don't have a ton of characters to work with, and that's probably for the better considering this manga's short length. We have the protag, a couple of his baseball teammates, the two tomboyish team managers, and the protag's parents. Altogether this works out to about five important characters, while the rest serve mostly as plot devices. That's just enough to get a solid feel for the protag's world without getting too swamped in unnecessary names and faces. In case you're not reading this for the themes, character growth and fuzzy feels, Nozomu Nozomi has a somewhat higher-than-average amount of fanservice. Even then, in contrast to the manga's assigned genres, there is no full nudity and 90% of the fanservice happens only in the protag's imagination and dreams. This allows it to be somewhat erotic without becoming "dirty" and trashing the characters, an important note considering how character-driven these stories typically are. Smutty Gender Bender manga are not really my thing; they have the same base traits, but without any of the depth. Overall I would call Nozomu Nozomi a worthwhile read. It's short and fairly potent without trying too hard or losing itself in fanservice. - That's it for the base review. Now I will cover some personal opinions on the contents of the story itself. Heavy SPOILERS warning, obviously. Nozomu starts the story as not so much an effeminate guy but rather one who just isn't masculine. He plays baseball, and he's got enough talent to become the starting shortstop on his low-tier school team. He dreams of becoming a Manly Man like his father, and his unofficial goal is to win the heart of the tomboyish team manager Ide. Basically, he's a normal pubescent guy. His change, just to get it out there, occurs after a crossdressing punishment game that he, to his surprise, enjoys. Then later we get some fluff about how he "wished he was a girl" at points in the past. But I digress. One area this story totally scored was by setting the characters during early puberty. Because of this, when Nozomu's body first changes, he doesn't feel that different. Besides being a girl, he can still function like a guy, and can even change in the locker room without his teammates noticing. He is able to deceive his family and friends and continue his life as an up-and-coming baseball player. And the consequences of this are excellent storytelling fuel. Over time, he grows breasts, his hips start to widen, his waist shrinks. He becomes more feminine physically as the story progresses, and so has to go to greater lengths to hide his transformation. Sadly, aside from passing mentions, much of this is time-skipped over, but at least we get the essence. His greatest ally through the manga is his sister Kozue. Although she doesn't know he changed into a girl, she encourages (and, in many ways, originated) Nozomu's crossdressing. As a tomboyish girl, she seems to relish having fun with her girly brother, and the two make an excellent pair of friends. My favorite part of the whole manga is definitely the twist near the end, where one day Kozue suddenly has her body changed into a guy's, in accordance with her own private wishes. This gives us a fair bit of comedy (and an unnecessary fanservice scene or two), and ultimately ends the manga with the two of them trading places. So, the tomboyish Kozue becomes Rookie Shortstop Nozomu Who Finally Acts Like A Man, and the effeminate Nozomu becomes Rookie Swimmer Kozue Who Finally Acts Like A Woman. Quite funny, lots of laughs, a creative couple of scenes, and some decent closure. A great ending to a decent short manga. - Now for an explanation of scorings. Story is a simple 6/10. It does what it wants to do without taking many risks or deviating much from the Gender Bender standard, but even so it does this fairly well. This earns the generic range of 5-6 and ultimately scores as a 6 for enjoyability and some originality. Art also scores a 6/10. Light and fun, absent excess details and complicated frames. No great landscapes here, no uber-realistic character designs, no gorgeous colors. The art simply presents the story, and it presents it well, with no discernable flaws. Characters get a very decent 6/10. They probably wouldn't score as high in a manga of a different genre, buy I'm a generous guy and these characters suit their roles very well. In particular, Nozomu and Kozue provide a very complimentary balance without ever - and I mean ever - falling into melodrama. Very solid main characters. Overall score is an obvious 6/10. A fairly generic but decently enjoyable Gender Bender with a fun story and a creative twist or two. I recommend it to Gender Bender fans, but maybe not so much to those unfamiliar with the genre as a whole. For the uninitiated, I recommend starting with plot-based stories possessing Gender Bender sub-plots, such as Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches and Kokoro Connect. For readers more familiar with the concepts, I'd recommend starting with Wandering Son, which isn't technically a Gender Bender but has many of the same themes and spiritually feels just like a Gender Bender. Have fun and enjoy!
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