As the story of Ichinensei ni Nacchattara (literally=If/When I became a first-grader) goes, one day high-schooler Iori was waiting to cross the road, running through his head the scenario of how he plans to confess to the girl of his dreams. A young girl suddenly runs out onto the road, right into the path of a truck, trying to get her hat that has flown astray in the wind; which spurs him into action to save her. Unfortunately, although he does succeed in saving her, he himself is killed. A self-proclaimed scientist, Yume, manages to get ahold of his remains and resurrect him…
…as a 7 year old girl.
He isnt very thrilled about this prospect, but as this form is apparently only temporary, Yume advises him to live with her so that she will be able to restore him completely to his normal size and gender eventually. Cue plot-twist, Yume turns out to be the sister of the girl of his dreams, Mikuru, and thus he’s living with her too! Not to mention that when Yume makes him attend an elementary school, the girl he becomes friends with turns out to be the very one he saved from the truck; who, not knowing the fate of the kind-hearted ‘niisan’ that saved her life, wishes to meet him again one day…
My reaction to this plot was first to laugh a whole lot and then decide that it was so ridiculous I had to read it. I’m quite fond of gender-swap stories, and they’ve been done time and time again; but this is the first time I’ve seen one where not only does the gender change, but the age as well. Not only does poor Iori have to put up with suddenly being a girl, he has to put up with suddenly being someone ten years younger than he was before. Even more amusing is the reason for which he was even transformed into a loli; Yume says “I ran out of parts”, but as we read on it becomes increasingly clear that Yume is a massive lolicon and only made him an underage girl for her own amusement. I mean, why else?
You can probably tell that the plot of this manga isnt meant to be taken seriously; and I’m cool with that. I’m able to suspend my disbelief for as long as possible as long as it’s supposed to be silly, and as long as there’s a good story to tell. After all, I highly enjoyed and laughed my head off all the way through ‘Midori no Hibi’ (which, for the unitiated, is about a guy whose right hand turns into a tiny, hand-sized girl. A plot about a highschool boy becoming an elementary-school girl pales in comparison.)
Of course silly premises are great for comedy and all, but what really matters is if the execution can pull it off. So does Ichinensei manage to do this? Judging from this first volume, the short answer is yes. Iori is a pretty amusing character, and watching him be confused and incredulous over every little thing 7 year old girls do is likewise amusing. Because Lord knows they do some pretty funny things. Alot of the comedy, however, is courtesy of the scientist Yume. Had she been male, the lolicon jokes may have come across as a little less tasteful and a hell of a lot creepier, but as a female they manage to be funnier, but although to a lesser extent, the creepiness is still there. There are likely people that will have a problem with this; although this manga isnt quite as ‘lolicon’ as the infamous Kodomo no Jikan, there’s still alot of underaged underwear and near-nudity. Most of it is courtesy of Iori himeslf(herself?) though, which manages to avoid some potential creepiness if you consider he is really a 17 year old boy on the inside. Or maybe it just makes it even more creepy. However you see it, I guess.
The biggest flaw in the series so far is how little it seems to take Iori to get used to being a girl. He basically goes “It’s gone!” (subtle) and then pretty much accepts it. Now maybe I’m just not suspending the disbelief high enough, but if someone’s body gets a complete transformation, including the downstairs department, I would assume it wouldnt be something one could easily shrug off. Then again, this works a little in the manga’s light-hearted favour; besides, perhaps the mangaka just chose not to dwell on this too hard at the risk of going into slightly more risque territory. The series does flirt with the risque now and then, but manages to stay behind the line…for now.
Another possible fault is the art; it can take some getting used to. It’s a style that really emphasises massive eyes and huge heads, and whilst it looks fine sometimes, there are some instances, such as the volume one cover, where it looks a bit odd.
Despite some of the shortcomings, this is a pretty fun and light-hearted series that’s good for when you feel like something silly. I quite like the characters; the ones that shine the most are the first-grader friends Iori makes. Yume is also quite amusing, yet so far Mikuru, Iori’s love interest, hasnt struck me as anyone particularly memorable.
However, the comedy stylings are quite similar to the aforementioned Midori no Hibi so fans of such works may be interested. It’s one I’ll be sticking with; I cant wait to see where it goes. Volume one of the series I’ll give the following melonpan rating, out of 5: