Ako and Mao
Like most rural Japanese villages, Tamano celebrates an annual festival in honor of its own own local deity, the Marimo
(seaweed ball) guardian spirit. But unlike most such communities, the Marimo festival includes a Virgin Sacrifice
. Nothing bloody or horrific, mind: It's a purely symbolic sacrifice that involves dressing a local maiden in ceremonial robes and making her spend the night in a boat out on the lake. No muss, no fuss, no blood, and so far, no casualties.
Unfortunately, this year there's a problem. This year's sacrificial maiden, Akoya Nota (Ako to her friends) is prone to seasickness and hates boats. So her beloved twin brother Mao decides he'll go in her stead and protect his more outgoing sister just as Ako has always protected him. Mao dons the robes and boards the boat while Ako is distracted. They may not look anything alike but they're about the same size and in the robes and the dark who's to know? Well, apparently the God knows, because there's a loud booming sound followed by a dense fog, and when boat drifts back to shore the next morning Mao's been turned into a girl!
- A-Cup Angst: Ako, but only after she learns that her "brother" needs a larger bra size than she does.
- Always Identical Twins: Invoked by one of Mao and Akoya's classmates, who wonders why the two aren't more alike now that Mao is a girl too.
- Big Sister Instinct: Ako has always protected Mao...except this once, and the guilt is tearing her apart.
- Big Eater: Ako
- Brother-Sister Incest: Ako's interest in Mao wasn't entirely healthy, but it apparently wasn't acted upon or reciprocated either, as Mao has no clue.
- Contrived Coincidence: The festival and the arrival of the letter just happen to coincide on Ako and Mao's 16th birthday. Though it's reasonable to assume that the festival was specifically scheduled for Ako's birthday since offering the maiden as a sacrifice on her 16th birthday is the whole point of the ceremony. Also, Ako and Mao being born the same day despite not being real twins.
- Dangerous Sixteenth Birthday: The festival takes place on Ako and Mao's 16th birthday. Their father's letter confirms that Ako and Mao do share a birthday even if they really aren't twins.
- Decoy Protagonist: Despite the title, the story so far has been more about Ako's and Jiu's reaction to Mao's change than Mao's.
- Different for Girls: inherent in the premise. Unusually, it's primarily focused on how different is is for everyone else (mostly Akoya) now that Mao is a girl. Ako is less than thrilled to help Mao learn feminine deportment because she doesn't want Mao to be a girl at all.
- Disappeared Dad: working overseas, apparently
- Gender Bender
- Feminine Women Can Cook: Mao is an excellent cook and Ako is a Lethal Chef
- Follow the Leader: similar to Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl
- The Ingenue: both Mao and her eldest sister Sakura
- Jumping the Gender Barrier Mao's best friend Jiu is not prepared for his own reaction to his newly feminized friend
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy
- Missing Mom: died at some point in the past.
- No Export for You: Hasn't been licensed and probably won't be, since it doesn't plow any new ground
- Not Blood Siblings: Mao and the girls, though Mao doesn't know and her sisters only found out from their father's letter on the night of the festival after Mao boarded the boat.
- Outnumbered Sibling: Mao has three elder sisters (Ako is the elder twin) perhaps explaining why he's not so put out by becoming a girl. Ironically, even as a boy Mao demonstrated more stereotypically feminine traits (particularly Dojikko, Shrinking Violet, and Feminine Women Can Cook) than the three of them put together.
- Polar Opposite Twins
- Second Law of Gender Bending: Played with. Mao appears to have accepted her Gender Bender, it's Ako and Jiu who continue to object. Ako because she's wracked with guilt and Jiu because he thinks it's a travesty that no one appears interested in curing his best friend. However, Mao's inner monologue reveals that she's not as complacent as she appears, just trying to put the best face on things.
- Shower of Angst: Ako. Between her illicit feelings for Mao, the belated reveal that she could have acted upon them as Mao wasn't really her brother (something she's still keeping secret) and her conviction that Mao is being punished for her transgression the poor girl has a lot to feel guilty about.
- Smoking Is Cool: Inverted. Mao tells Jiu his smoking just makes him look more like a kid, especially since he doesn't inhale.
- Sweet Tooth: Mao wants to be a pastry chef.
- Third Law of Gender Bending: Mao pretty much jumps into girlhood with both feet, and the whole village seems willing to oblige because they want to protect everyone involved from public embarrassment. Even Ako is torn on this point. She wants Mao to go to Tokyo for medical treatment (and presumably a cure) but is afraid of what the inevitable publicity would do to Mao.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Ako and Mao. Just another thing that makes Ako uncomfortable, because Mao seems determined to become as girly as possible as soon as possible because she thinks it will help her get used to the change.
- Transformation Comic
- Tsundere: Ako
- Twin Switch only once. Once is enough.
- Virgin Sacrifice: The village elder speculates that perhaps the true, original form of the "maiden sacrifice" is a boy sacrificing his manhood to become a maiden. You have to admit a sex change is a much bigger sacrifice than a boat ride.
- What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: Mao's talisman of the local god is two seaweed balls in a jar.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Mao again. How much of this is an act is not clear.