This is a story about a boy who comes down with a strange disease that is slowly killing him, having until his twelfth birthday until he dies. The reason its so strange? Practically everything that the boy sees that can be related to a person, be it their faces, names, pronouns, or anything else, is obscured, as if scribbled out.
However, the boy does not mind that his life is cut short by this disease. In fact, hes thrilled with this idea, for his illness will bring him attention and his death will bring him fame, to the point where the disease will be named after him when he dies. But more importantly, his disease would make him a unique individual. So long as this disease can grant him that individuality he had always wanted, he doesnt care about his life.
And then a girl enters his life. A girl who he could see the face of. A girl who has the same disease he has. To make matters worse, she has a shorter time than he does. This doesnt sit well with the boy. Especially since her death will be more focused on than his. So, he concludes that, in order to preserve his individuality, he must kill her before the disease does.
And thus begins Ill Boy, Ill Girl, a manga written by NisiOisiN and illustrated by Akira Akatsuki, the pair's second team-up since Medaka Box. The manga began in January of 2016 and underwent a monthly serialization in Jump SQ. It officially ended in April 2017, with its fourth collected volume printed in May.
This manga provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Implied to be the case for the girl, given how theyre known serial criminals.
- Ambiguous Situation: Because of how twisted the boy is, its unknown whether he was putting his plan into action and stabbing the girl to death or if she died of the disease and hes just angrily stabbing her corpse.
- Big Sleep: How the Boy's death is played out. When he finally dies in Intensive Care, his eyes are closed with a peaceful expression while he is told "Good Night" (the Japanese text reads it as such, but the phrase itself was written as the character for "death").
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The girl. While shes very happy and energetic, she manages to have her Ax-Crazy tendencies.
- Central Theme: Individuality. The disease the Boy and Girl share make it so any trace of individuality in a person is obscured, and the Boy in particular is obsessed with having it and initially lords his special circumstances over everyone else, even antagonizing the Girl for being the most unique of all. However, the story does have certain characters who are very unique that are treated the same by the Boy's disease, showing that the "individuality" that the Boy craves is much more than physical appearance. By the end, the series seems to come to the conclusion that "individuality" is more of a social construct than an objective truth, and trying to make yourself stand out is a wasted effort.
- Condescending Compassion: Chapter 3 has the Boy play a game of Shogi with the Girl and win, only to find out indirectly that the Girl is a child genius and very likely let him win the match to make him feel better about himself. Pissed and hurt by the idea, he makes her own up to that and asks her to come at him with her full prowess— and while he gets stomped immediately, he does feel a little better.
- Death of a Child: Neither kid makes it out to the end of the story. Two more children, the ones that claimed to have the disease, were also brutalized shortly after coming to the hospital.
- Distant Finale: The last chapter ends on a future where the mysterious disease, now named Yamai Disease, has been made commonplace and nonthreatening. We see a girl about the leads' age who was born with it, but her case isn't nearly as severe as theirs.
- Driven to Suicide: The Young Boy and Rich Girl are made to look like they hung themselves a little after they arrived because they couldn't cope with dying young. In reality, they were both experimented on because they both claimed to have the disease.
- Establishing Series Moment: The first page pretty much shows that this is not going to be a vanilla Boy Meets Girl kind of story.
- Exact Words: Discussed. The disease was said to kill a patient on their twelfth birthday—which means, with a leap in logic, the disease won't allow them to die until their natural death at twelve. The idea is teased when the Boy is pushed off the escalator and left to die, but suddenly wakes up as if nothing happened, although it's unclear if he actually died or not. The doctors watching over them were testing out this hypothesis on the Girl, and the epilogue eventually confirms that the disease could be reverse engineered to promote longevity.
- Expy: It's easy to see the Boy and Girl as a child sized and terminally ill Zenkichi and Medaka, especially since both writer and artist worked on Medaka Box not long before this manga.
- Faceless Masses: The focal point of the story is that everyone's faces are censored out, up to and including important recurring characters who aren't the Boy and Girl. This also helps emphasize their detachment from society as a whole.
- Foreshadowing: The girl declares that she'll die before the boy will (something that the nurses confirm) and show that there's nothing to be afraid of... She does indeed die, but not to the disease. That said, the boy dies in a much more peaceful manner in contrast.
- Given Name Reveal: The Boy and Girl, at the very end, are revealed to be named Shou Yamai in their obituary.
- The Glomp: The girl gives the boy this upon seeing his face.
- Go Out with a Smile: When time came for both kids, they met death with a peaceful expression and a small smile. The pages leading up to the Boy's death are even littered with the pair's final smiles before cutting to him on his deathbed.
- The Hero's Birthday: According to hypothesis, the expected death date of the kids should be their twelfth birthday—the exact date. While the Girl doesn't get to prove this hypothesis since she was killed a few days before hers, the Boy dies on his birthday.
- How We Got Here: The story opens up with the boy stabbing the girl. The only thing preventing this from being a Foregone Conclusion is whether or not she was already dead by the time he got to stabbing.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Mirroring the diseases nature to obscure names, the chapters dont offer names, but rather different scribbles.
- Kill the Ones You Love:
- The whole hospital was gearing up for the Boy to kill the Girl. When the Boy actually tries to make good on his plan, he only goes through with it because he's fully fallen in love with her and wants her to die as happily as possible. This trope could be subverted though, as it's not made clear if he actually killed her as opposed to her just dying.
- The Girl's parents turn out to be affectionate in their own, twisted way. They both tried to kill her and have been practicing on many other unsuspecting victims to try and find a crack in her invulnerable body, but the reason they do this is implied to be the same reason the Boy eventually decides to kill her with—because they love her and want her to die happy.
- Lampshade Hanging: In the last volume, the cast call upon few of the main complications in the plot, such as how everyone is sure the disease can kill upon reaching twelve years if no one before the Boy and Girl have contracted their disease, or how they can say no one person is unique unlike the protagonists when the whole point of the disease is to scrub a person's individuality from the affected's minds.
- Latex Perfection: The mysterious Doc can and has successfully disguised themselves as man and woman alike, even at completely different ages. They regularly have the Boy fooled, but this is helpful since the Boy can't really recognize people anyway.
- Love Epiphany: Just about the only concrete thing we got from the last volume's bonus chapter is this—the Boy and Girl are able to see each other because they are, on some level, the same due to both having the disease. When they start falling in love with each other and noticing each other as members of the opposite sex, this is represented by the other's words and face being covered up by their disease like everyone else. The Boy has this epiphany late in the story, but the Girl is revealed to have fallen for him after he threw the suprise partynote .
- Ill Girl: The basic premise of the story focuses on these two ill children.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A rather dark take on the trope. The girl has all the makings of one, though her psychotic tendencies and her upbringing put her in the creepy pile.
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: Discussed in the first chapter when the boy theorizes that if the girl dies before him, hed become a footnote at best while everyone focuses on her death. We later learn that this won't be the case—as the daughter of two convicted criminals in addition to a popular target for assassination due to her extreme intelligence, everyone working at the hospital is confident that the Girl won't be missed or sought after by the outside world. True to form, when she finally dies, it becomes the talk of the evening news but nothing more than that.
- Mind Screw: The story takes place half in the perception of the Boy, and half in a very screwed up reality. As such, there are plenty of sequences that don't make sense or are just plain confusing, including how, exactly, the Girl dies, if she had killed the boy or not, and what the doctors' council was even up to. And in the end we don't get any straight answers about it.Blackboard: In the end, what was Ill Boy, Ill Girl even about?
- Nameless Narrative: Given the premise of the manga, none of the characters in this manga are named. The people do have names, in-universe, but they are scribbled out.
- The Only One Allowed To Kill You: The boy pretty much has this feeling towards the girl. Hes not even going to let the disease kill her.
- OOC Is Serious Business: The Girl ends up so pleased with the Boy's simple "Welcome Back" surprise party that she rather rudely dismisses all of her doctors and shuts them off from her shared room. They note the peculiar change in attitude, seeing that she always tries to be polite.
- Punny Name:
- A doctor appears in the fourth chapter and gives the boy a vial of poison (which turns out to be water). He says to call him Doc, which when spoken in Japanese is similar to doku, which is poison in Japanese.
- The disease as it's finally named is this as well. In Japanese, it's read as "Yamai Shou", both words each meaning "Disease". The name of the disease is also the name of the two children.
- Parody Sue: The Girl has so much individuality, she's overwhelming. Her parents are serial criminals, her artistic sense and intelligence are off the charts, and her personality is gravitational; no one in the hospital can stop talking about her and even the Boy, who hated how special she was, couldn't help but fall in love with her. She was even the cause of her parents going criminal, given they practiced to be able to kill her; and she's so advanced for her age and so forward for her time that people were planning on killing her before she had a chance to really change the world. But even with all of that, she ends up as nothing more than a footnote in medical history with the Boy as the namesake for their disease.
- Pun-Based Title: Wouldn't be a Nisio series without a pun somewhere. The title's actually pronounced "Shounen Shoujo" in Japanese,note referring to both the nameless protagonists (who've pretty much been referred to as "I" and "That Girl" courtesy of the Boy) and their ailments. The final chapter adds another pun; both of the leads are named "Shou Yamai", so the title can also be read as "Shou (boy) and Shou (girl)".
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: The Boy is a jaded cynic and tries to use the disease as his own advantage for fame. The Girl, despite being afflicted with a disease and having a very short life, is very chipper and peppy. The two eventually take quite a liking to each other.
- Soap Opera Disease: Dangerous and makes you terminally ill? Weakens your muscles? Makes it so you don't have long to live as a youth? This disease is all that and more.
- Talking in Your Sleep: This is what causes the boy to stop his first attempt at murdering the girl: she cries out to mommy and daddy to stop. We later learn that she was having dreams of her parents' attempts to kill her, and her telling them to "stop" was her trying to get them to realize their efforts were futile because of the nature of the disease.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Both leading children are far removed from ordinary children's mindsets. The Boy has an inferiority complex so bad that he wants to kill the Girl to have a surefire shot at being immortalized through naming his illness and even made set days to attempt his kills, while the Girl is so intelligent that she hardly comes off as a normal kid.
- The Unreveal: The Boy's original goal, to have his disease named after him to immortalize him, is eventually fulfilled. However, the disease name is intentionally vague; the real unreveal is who the disease was named after, since both the Boy and the Girl have the same given and surname. The answer in-universe has been lost to time.
- Wham Line: The girl gives an odd order to the nurse to set up a watch for her and the boy. When shes asked why, she says:Isnt it obvious? To make sure I dont kill this cute boy.
- Your Days Are Numbered: Both the boy and girl have until their 12th birthdays before they die from their disease. Neither of them live in the end, but the girl never makes it to her 12th birthday, being killed a little before it.