Cheeky Angel 19-20 by Hiroyuki Nishimori: B-

With these two volumes, Cheeky Angel comes to a close. Although it’s a bit rushed, the conclusion is ultimately fitting.

Warning: spoilers ahead.

Earlier in the series, the gang thwarted plans to marry Miki off to a slimy family associate by pretending that she and Genzo are in love. The rejected suitor, eager to solidify ties with Miki’s rich family, holds a grudge and captures the main cast, subjecting them to all sorts of high-stakes scenarios in an attempt to get them to turn on each other, but it never works. In the end, Miki winds up imprisoned in a tower, watching videos of the hardships her friends are enduring while they attempt to rescue her.

As a plot, this is highly ridiculous and not much different from the same sort of stories we’ve seen all along in this series. I had hoped for something new for the finale, but alas, that was not to be. Still, I like that this setup provides every character with a chance to be their best. Everyone—even traditionally weaker characters like average guy Ichiro and pervy Yasuda—makes a contribution to the effort to rescue Miki, and there are some really nice character moments. Favorites include Genzo’s absolute confidence that Meg would find a way to extricate herself from a prison cell in which she was briefly confined and Miki’s steadfast refusal to succumb to the bad guys’ attempts to make her feel bad that her friends are doing all this on her behalf.

After Miki is safe and life begins to return to normal, Meg shares a sweet smooch with Genzo (Ichiro: “Did he steal your lips?” Meg: “You really think I’d allow it? I stole his.”) and the spell is finally broken. Only two scant chapters deal with the question of Meg’s actual gender. I wish more time had been spent on this topic, but the way it’s presented does provide food for thought, at least.

It turns out that Meg, instead of wishing to be the manliest of men, was always a girl and wished to become a man. Her desire for this seems to be twofold. First, she believes that if she is a guy, that she’ll be able to protect Miki for as long as she is needed. Secondly, she wants to be able to be herself without being influenced by what girls are supposed to do and not do. And so, the genie makes her believe she was always a guy, and though her physical strength and determination are not actually changed, she feels more confident and is able to be herself without worrying so much about expectations. At least, that’s what I got out of it.

Aside from the unoriginal plot here at the end, my one real regret about the finale is that there are no hints at all that Miki and Hitomoji, a former Meg devotee who recently realized that Miki is the perfect girl for him, will ever become a couple. I don’t ask for a full-blown confession scene; a single panel depicting a self-conscious exchange of glances would’ve been enough to make me happy.

Cheeky Angel is not the best manga ever, but if you’re looking for some lighthearted, fanservice-free shounen with a capable heroine and a love interest who respects her competence, then look no further.

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