Sunday, 01 March 2009 05:39

Change 123 (Manga, 2005)

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Overview


I... have nothing to say.

Motoko is a sweet girl – quiet, shy, and socially inept, but still sweet. She tries not to attract too much attention to herself, which is tough when you're a pretty little thing with glasses and a rack that'd qualify you for entry into the Dead or Alive tournament. On the other hand, I wouldn't worry about her too much if she did take part in that particular competition... You see, Motoko has not one, but three adoptive fathers, each one of which specializes in a particular form of combat, and each one of them put Motoko through their own, intensive form of training. Well, that's all well and good, but there's one tiny little problem... Motoko's mind took a three for one split, and she developed three separate personalities to deal with them! Thus begins Change 123...

Fields USA Info Japanese Info Image
Title Change 123 Change!
Alternative
Dates 2008.06 -
Company Akita Shoten
Author Iku Sakaguchi
Artist Shiuri Iwasawa
Genre Drama, Romance, Kung Fu
Related

Review


Do pay attention to the caution tape...

Kosukegawa is really kinda a wuss – well, outwardly, anyway. The guy actually has a pretty solid spine, and he's loyal to his friends and willing to go out on a limb for them, but then, he's nearly as shy as Motoko is, really. One day while shopping down town for some new Kamen Rider figures, he stumbles across a hood trying to take advantage of a very frightened girl from his class. The hood catches him looking, and threatens him; feeling helpless, Kosukegawa starts to walk away – at least until he has a mental flash of his hero Kamen Rider reminding him that if he looks, he'll find a way... Very heroic, inspirational... yeah yeah. He turns around, in time to see Motoko clobber the hood so hard he's knocked out with a single blow, and slams into his car hard enough to wreck it. In awe, Kosukegawa asks if she's a black belt, and mortified, Motoko realizes that he'd seen what happened. Panicking, she asks him to run with her, before anybody else comes, then when they reach a park begs him not to tell anybody what he saw, even offering him anything – including herself – if he'll keep the secret.

Well, Kosukegawa is a teenage boy, so of course his mind blanks for a moment considering the possibilities, but in the end he just asks if she could loan him 200 yen. It turns out he just wanted to get the last figure he was missing from his collection of Kamen Rider figures. She loans him the cash, and as thanks he treats her to a quick bite to eat at McD's where he assures her she doesn't need to worry... He realizes later that he forgot to get her address so that he can pay her back, and sends out a text message with her description to some friends, and lucks out, getting her address. He also realizes that he'll have enough to go to the beach, and (in typical nervous anime wuss style) decides to ask her if she wants to come with...

A guy could get hurt being given decisions like this...

He finds his way over to her apartment – and the door is answered by her (just out of the shower...) 'little sister' Mikiri. She informs him that Motoko isn't there and probably wouldn't come out again that evening, but tells him that she'll tell Motoko about the invitation. When he mentions her the next day, Motoko gets a little flustered and just agrees that she's a relative 'or something'. They start enjoying their day at the beach, and eventually Motoko takes him aside for a little bit to explain about what happened – that she lost her parents early and that she was adopted by three of the best fighters in the world. Each one of which had... unique training methods. And eventually, every time she was faced with danger, she'd blank out and when she came back around, something terrible (usually the threat being utterly decimated) would have happened.

Right about then is when the hood, who's been following them, shows back up for a little revenge.

Beach babes.

Ok, so what is it about this series that's good? Sounds like it's just typical secretly strong shy girl stuff, right? Well, not exactly. See, Motoko really is the shy, sweet, and helpless girl she appears to be, it's just that she's got three OTHER personalities in her that can seriously kick ass. In fact, her body even changes subtly depending on which personality is in control; for instance, when Mikiri, who specializes in grappling and submission holds takes over, Motoko's already impressive chest grows enough to shred any bra or bikini she might happen to be wearing, while her face takes on a younger, more childish appearance. On the other hand, when Fujiko, the melee and ranged weapons personality steps in, her appearance grows noticeably more mature, and she gains about an inch in height too. Her third alternate, Hibiki, is a tomboy and master of martial arts, and her appearance reflects that too. It's really a impressive trick, all things considered – it gives each personality enough traits to become their own character, while still being Motoko.

On the other hand is Kosukegawa, who despite his humble and generic wuss introduction rapidly develops into a surprisingly strong and brave character... who's not afraid to be a bit of a pervert about things, even if only in his own head. See, Change 123 being an ecchi series, there's all sorts of opportunities to see Motoko bouncing all over, the least of which is Mikiri's arrivals. That said, he's a loyal and honorable friend that really does fall for Motoko at first sight – and the rest of her 'sisters', to his surprise, soon after. He's a surprisingly tough kid too, for being the sort to shy away from physical confrontation, and early on in the series he's shown to have some natural talent for fighting too – though to be fair he'd been buffed up for that particular scene. Even so, considering the power of his opponent, he did a damn good job for a character of his type.

I'm wincing right along with all the other guys seeing this...

And that really is the focus of the storyline, even later on when more characters start getting added to the cadre. Kosukegawa agrees to help Motoko to reabsorb the three personalities within her so that she can go back to living a normal life (define normal, please, for a girl adopted by three fathers who decided to train her the way they did...), and the series really takes off from there. It's not all character development, either, though there is quite a bit – remember, Motoko is a one-woman harem. There's some damn good fights too, and not always automatic wins for HiFuMi. Personally, I'm wondering when – and if – we'll see Kosukegawa starting to get a little training from Motoko's fathers, or even HiFuMi and the other fighters that show up around them. First and foremost, if he's going to keep hanging around them, he really DOES need it, just to survive. I mean... just look at the image to the right... OUCH...

I've really been enjoying the artwork in Change 123, and not just because the girls are down right awesome looking. It's a very clean art style, not sketchy at all like some manga is. The artwork is well defined and quite consistent, very well done. Shiuri Iwasawa's got a very good sense of proportion and form, and that skill does a lot to make the series as successful as it is. There's a lot of nice little details too, such as Motoko's hair band – each of her personalities wears it in a different way. That means a lot of hair style changes when HiFuMi is swapping in and out during a fight, to say nothing of the rest of the adjustments that get made to Motoko's body.

Overall


Who needs a pot of gold with a rainbow like this?

I have to admit that I wasn't really expecting much when I first stumbled across Change 123 – the cover art looked pretty, but at first blush I figured it'd just be another harem series. I mean, let's be honest, a series with four babes on the cover? I was pleasantly surprised, and the quality of the storytelling has been improving from a great start. Motoko's affliction is handled in an honest and refreshingly direct way, but rather than just treating them as a disease to be solved, the series has gone to pains to point out that while Motoko is 'the girl', each of the personalities is very much a character in their own right, with their own opinions, strengths, weaknesses – and feelings. This fact is something that Kosukegawa and Motoko both begin to struggle with as the series evolves.

It's good for a read, especially if you like good fighting and a decent helping of character development. There's enough awkward romance between a pair of too shy for their own good lead characters to satisfy anybody, and as the cast begins to expand the story world does too, meaning that the ideas stay fresh while still exploring new avenues. Do be warned that this is an ecchi series, and that mild nudity does abound, though nothing sexual. Yet. Embarrassing and occasionally testing the limits of casual, but nothing truly sexual.

Additional Info

  • Writing: Groovy (+5)
  • Pacing: Groovy (+5)
  • Artwork: Groovy (+5)

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