NG Life originally ran in Hana to Yume from 2005 to 2009. Tokyopop brought the series to North America in 2008. After reviewing the first volume, I wasn’t quite sold on this series. It turns out, NG Life transforms from a gender-bender situational comedy into a more dramatic, emotional tale of identity that took me by surprise.
The Gist: Keidai Saeki is a high school student who has a serious condition – he remembers his past life of an Italian gladiator named Sirix. Though many of Sirix’s friends and rivals have been reincarnated around him, few remember their past life in Pompeii. Keidai finds Sirix’s best friend Loleus reborn in the form of a blushing Mii Serizawa when he is in middle school. Sirix’s wife, Serena, has bee reborn in the body of lanky middle-schooler, Yuuma Ujoh, Keidai’s neighbor. With his soul mates gender-switched, Keidai struggles to contain the emotions of Sirix, and try to wade through his own present day feelings. Present day events threaten to erase the past. Keidai must decide whose memories are the most important – Sirix’s or Keidai’s.
The Characters/Romance: This series provides an unusual take on the romantic trope of the love triangle. In the past, Sirix was in love with Serena, Serena loved Sirix, and Loleus supported them in friendship. In Keidai’s present life, Serizawa (Loleus) loves Keidai (Sirix), Yuuma (Serena) loves Serizawa (Loleus), and Keidai (Sirix) is trying very hard to not go mushy over Yuuma (Serena). The arrangement provides for many episodes of situational gender comedy. Which can be very funny in the beginning, but watching Keidai beat the crap out of himself loses its humor after the ump-teenth time.
Kusanagi must have realized this because his story takes a turn towards the more dramatic when the plot gets moving. Keidai awakens to his own present day emotions, and they don’t always mesh with what Sirix has done in the past. More characters with memories intact appear, and Keidai sees first hand what happens to them when they resolve their past lives. NG Life explores the ideas of memorializing the past or living in the moment.
Romance is one of the main topics of Keidai’s emotional dilemmas. In the beginning, the romantic moments are more comedic. But slowly a trend forms and it is apparent how Kusangai plans to connect the present day characters. Although they remain at a cuddly level, the romantic moments become serious as the plot plays out.
The Art: NG Life has typical shoujo toning and paneling. Where Kusanagi shines is his character designs. His characters have unique expressions and body language, even when they look alike. His chibi and distorted drawings add quite a bit of humor. The high school setting is stereotypical for shoujo, however the settings of Pompeii are nicely drawn. When the audience spends time there, the dramatic toning adds to the desolate mood of that last day. Kusanagi is also very tuned to color pallets in his colored pieces. Complementary or monochromatic themes are visible in his work.
The Audience: NG Life is suitable for a teen audience. The self-discovery journey for Keidai is way more challenging than a typical teenager’s, so it’s easy to sympathize with him.
The Media: Thankfully this series was completed shortly before Tokyopop closed its doors. There are nine volumes in total that were published in North America.
Heart of Manga Rating: ♥♥♥
It made me laugh. It made me cry. NG Life is entertaining and an enjoyable read.