So Cute It Hurts vol. 1-3 – Go Ikeyamada


L to R: Mitsuru, Aoi, Mego, with Shino and Azusa at the bottom.

So Cute It Hurts!! is translated from Kobayashi ga Kawai Sugite Tsurai!! (Kobayashi is So Cute It’s Painful!!) and has been running in Sho-Comi magazine since August of 2012. It was announced earlier this year that the series would be coming to an official end this month of November. This is the first series by Go Ikeyamada that has gotten an English publication. However, she is an experienced shoujo mangaka with many long-running titles under her belt.

English vol. 1

English vol. 1

The Gist: The comedy starts when the cross-dressing begins! The Kobayashi twins, Mego and Mitsuru, were named after historical figures, but only Mego has grown up with a taste for history. So when Mitsuru is in danger of losing his weekends to extra history classes, he convinces his sister to swap clothes with him and ace his tests! After all, how hard can it be for them to play each other?

But Mego can’t rely on just her book smarts in Mitsuru’s all-boys, delinquents’ paradise of a high school. And Mitsuru finds life as a high school girl to be much more complicated than he expected!

The Review:
And that’s just the beginning of this gender-bending, rom-com escapade! The title of this series is great, albeit a little bit is lost in the English translation. The original title implies that both of the twins fall into that category of “painfully cute”. And they are, to several persons in the story. This causes a crazy love polygon to develop in just the first volume – Mego likes Aoi, Mitsursu likes Shino, Shino loves Aoi, Aoi loves Shino, and Azusa likes Mitsuru. How will all the love-sick teens work out their crushes? Go Ikeyamada makes the journey as entertaining as possible.

One of the joys of reading Ikeyamada’s stories is that she’s great at implementing comedy. I can’t help but to laugh out loud at situations that the characters find themselves in. For instance, Mitsuru has insulted one of the 7 elite delinquents of the boys’ school and Mego ends up having to go into a fighting round her first day cross-dressing as her brother. While Mitsuru has his own reputation to uphold as elite #7, Mego does a fantastic job of defeating the #3 delinquent by just using her head, literally, on his crotch. I was crying I was laughing so hard.


Mego and Mitsuru learn sign language

I also like how Ikeyamada incorporates disabilities into her main characters. Mitsuru’s crush Shino that attends Mego’s girls school is deaf. She can read lips and also knows sign language. Because of this Mego and Mitsuru both begin studying sign language to communicate with her. Mego’s crush Aoi that attends Mitsuru’s boy school is blind in one eye and wears an eye patch. At vol. 3 readers don’t yet know the story behind the injury, but he is sensitive about it. He also has a mentally induced fear of women – a traumatic scarring from something in the past, and cannot get within 2 feet of girls without passing out. (Haha, corny plot device.) This makes it difficult for Mego to eventually reveal to Aoi that she is a girl, as she does not want to be something that pushes him away.

Trying to pinpoint what I like about this series is difficult. I’ve seen it described as a cute but benign shoujo. Somewhat true if you don’t make any connection to the characters. I, however, find it enjoyably funny, and the aspect of the double cross-dressing is something I rather relish. (“You look like the opposite sex, so why the heck am I attracted to you?!” Always a hilarious situation.) Being a Sho-comi series, it also has that heart-fluttering, sensual romance aspect – bodies pressed together, blushing, kissing – and I happen to savor that in my shoujo manga as well.


Two page spread where Mego holds Aoi

The Art: Go Ikeyamada’s style incorporates bishie boy characters and cute-as-a-button girls. Her grasp of character drawing is strong, as readers are able to tell the twins apart even when they are gender swapped. There are a variety of character types and costumes. The line art is bold and crisp with toning that well accents it. Paneling flows from page to page and the dialogue is easy to follow. I love, love the two page spreads that accent the emotional scenes. Colored art is bright and fun, and shows the characters in various costuming per gender appearance. Sho-comi released several colored wallpapers by Ikeyamada for this series on their website as it ran in publication.


Actual color illustration of Mitsuru and Azusa by Go Ikeyamada

The Audience: So Cute It Hurts!! is appropriate for a tween-teen audience. There’s kissing and not much else yet. Fans of gender-bender romance will enjoy it the most, but it may also appeal to those who like high school shoujo romantic comedies. If you like Hana-Kimi, Ai Ore!, Ouran High School Host Club, Missions of Love, or Voice Over! you NEED to check out this new series from Shojo Beat.

The Media: So Cute It Hurts!! is a total of 13 tankobans in Japan as of this writing. There may be one more released before the series ends. It also was given an OVA that was included with volume 3 and 6 of the manga series in Japan, as well as a drama CD. There is also 3DS game made about the series that came out this past August called Kobayashi ga Kawai Sugite Tsurai!! Game Demo Kyun-Moe MAX ga Tomaranai (*´ェ’*). Viz Media’s Shojo Beat imprint licensed the manga and released the first volume in June 2015, while volume 2 debuted in August, and volume 3 this past October.

Heart of Manga Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

So Cute It Hurts!! has definitely made my list of best shoujo releases this year. Full of comedy, romance, and drama, it’s hard to put down once the pages start turning. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the next volume to come out!



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Super mom and teacher until the kids go to bed, then romance manga addict and writer until the caffeine wears out! Specializes in the shoujo and josei genre of manga and anime.
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  • I like Ikeyamada’s Moe Kare and Suki Desu Suzuki Kun. This manga has been on my wishlist in mangaupdates for quite awhile now. I think your review just convinced me to finally read this one.

    • Yay! Definitely pick up the paperback volumes. The series is translated really well, and it’s sooo funny!

  • Has it been all translated online ? And are there only 3 volumes?

    • No, there were only about 8 chapters that were scanlated – if that’s what you’re asking. The digital editions are available for purchase from Viz media. There are more chapters in print currently – and only the first 3 volumes are available with more set to come out every other month. There are a total of 14? volumes in Japan. The last one has not been printed in Japan yet.

  • I’ve kind of been on the fence on whether to get this or not. I’m afraid that since this is a gender bender that a girl will like a boy, but it’s really a girl or a boy likes a girl that’s really a boy. Can you tell me how the gender bender played out in the first 3 volumes?

    Thanks for letting me know about some cleaner anime! 🙂

    • So far all the relationships have been played straight – meaning no same sex hook ups have happened, and I don’t see it happening in the future either. I find the scenes where Aoi thinks he’s falling for a boy humorous, because his reaction is “oh well! guess I like guys now! I like guys now?? Dang, guess I do” instead of self disgust or something like that. In many of the scenes, Ikeyamada makes the characters’ body language still reflect what gender they are, so it’s easy to remember or identify the twins even when they are gender swapped. By the end of volume 2 Mego and Mitsuru’s gender switch is discovered by important characters in the story. As you can tell by my review I highly recommend this series!

      I hope you watched Snow White with the Red Hair. 🙂 Did you try any of the others I suggested?

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