Genres: Adventure, Fiction, Humor, Manga, Romance
Teruharu Kosegawa is a bit of a geek, and obsessed with the super-hero, Kamen Raider. Believing in his idol's credo of helping those in need and being noble, he tries to always do the right thing, even though he knows he will never be a hero (because super-heroes don't exist, right?). One day, he witnesses his shy classmate, Motoko Gettou, being harassed by a stranger. Before he can help, quiet and helpless Motoko changes in to three very different girls! They are Hi-Fu-Mi: Split personalities within Motoko. They all ask Kosegawa to keep the secret, and he agrees. This is just the beginning of the adventure for Kosegawa, Motoko, and Hi-Fu-Mi!
Welcome to another Manga Monday! Today we’re looking at Change 123!
Change 123! (or in Japan Chanji Hi-Fu-Mi!) is a shounen manga series by Iku Sakaguchi, and illustrated by Shiuri Hiwasawa. The series was first released in Akita Shoten‘s Champion Red from June 2005 to June 2010, then released in a 12 volume serial.
Let’s begin with a look at the cover. This version displays a girl in a very revealing ‘mechanic’s’ suit, with a cheeky, spunky look on her face. In the ‘honeycomb’ designs, we see the faces of three other girls. One wears glasses, has a softer, gentler expression, and a suggestion of pigtails, another is a side-profile that gives us a calm expression, and the last is a very youthful, juvenile expression. You notice how, even with their distinct differences, all four girls look very similar? Well… there’s a reason for that.
The story is told mostly from the perspective of our male protagonist, Teruharu Kosegawa. He’s a big fan of the in-universe parody of the super-sentai (think Power-Rangers sort of super-heroes) character known as Kamen Rider, called in the manga Kamen Raider. Anyway, Kosegawa wants to be brave, helpful, and strong like the Raider, but he knows that for one thing, heroes aren’t real, and for another, he’ll never be one since he’s just a wimpy little nerd of a guy.
One afternoon, he witnesses a girl from his class, called Motoko Gettou, being harassed by a man on the street. Now, even though he doesn’t want to get hurt, Kosegawa’s always been self-sacrificing and wants to help his shy, also-very-geeky classmate. So, he steps in and nearly gets himself killed! But just as things look bad, Motoko goes briefly unconscious, and when she awakens, removes her glasses. She then begins beating up their attacker to the point that he runs off like a little coward! Motoko makes sure that Kosegawa’s okay, then they go on to actually spend the rest of the afternoon together… Only to be further attacked by the same guy, two more times. And in each instance, Motoko’s personality changes again, as does her stature and (strangely) body composition. Eventually, she reveals to Kosegawa that she has three split personalities in her head.
Yeah. You read that right. Three other personalities, that she calls collectively Hi-Fu-Mi. These are short for the names of each personality (as well as being clever plays on Japanese short-names for the numbers 1, 2, and 3). These three other girls are:
- Hibiki. An aggressive, tomboyish girl who likes to fist-fight, and was trained to face opponents head-on. When Motoko becomes Hibiki, she takes off her glasses, lets her hair flow free, and seems to toughen her muscle structure to be thicker. She wears red-colored clothing.
- Fujiko. A strategist, and expert sword’s woman. She’s calm, clever, and very studious. But she’s a bit of a stick-in-the-mud compared to the others. When Motoko becomes Fujiko, she stands up straighter, making herself appear taller, and smooths her hair down. She wears blue-colored clothing.
- Mikiri. She loves food, and is a wrestling, grappling, and submission expert, as well as very playful and child-like girl. She’s the most trusting and youngest acting of the girls, and puts her hair up in a pony-tail. She wears the color yellow. When Motoko becomes Mikiri, she relaxes many of her muscles to allow the rest of her body be more defensive. This causes her bust, which is already on the ‘generous’ side, to expand further, causing some… clothing malfunctions.
Kosegawa comes to find out the reasons why Motoko has these personalities. They first formed after she witnessed the painful, tragic death of her mother. After coming out of a fugue state, three men appeared, all claiming to be her father- Fighter Tatsuya Rukawa, swordsman Jin Hayase, and wrestler and grappler Takezou Kuruma. All three men had romantic entanglements with Motoko’s mother around the same time, and rather than hating one another, they respected each other as fighting experts. And to help Motoko, they all shared the responsibility of raising her, including teaching her their fighting styles. The personalities emerged with each father. Hibiki takes after Rukawa, Fujiko after Jin, and Hibiki after Kuruma. They had no idea how to help the girl with these personalities, so they just tried their best to show her love, and give her stability.
Kosegawa takes it upon himself to not only keep Motoko’s secret, but also somehow help her come to terms with her past, and to make peace with it so that, per Motoko’s personal wish, all the personalities can come together. The only problems, well, aside from a secret feminine organization of assassins, warrior women from distant islands, and the pressures of high-school life, there’s the ever looming 4th personality: Zero. Zero has no limitors, and no moral code. When she starts fighting, she won’t stop until either she, or her opponent, are dead. What’s more, Kosegawa begins to develop feelings for Hi-Fu-Mi, and all the respective aspects of their personalities. Can he continue to help Motoko without losing either her or the other three girls he’s come to love?
This series has merits and lots of flaws. Being an optimist, I like to look at the good points. The major good point about the series is the strength of its lead characters- All five. Yes, I’m counting Hibiki, Fujiko, and Mikiri, as their own separate characters. The characters all go through major changes, each one growing and becoming someone new in the process. The biggest example is Kosegawa, who really does go from idolizing heroes and doubting himself, to actively being more courageous and heroic until later, when he damn-nearly dies for the sake of Motoko and the others. He just grows and grows as a person, out of the tropes of the usual ‘Every-day Schmuck’ who shows up in tons of harem and shounen stories, and in to his own unique individual. Motoko, Hibiki, Fujiko, and Mikiri soon become less like separate entities within one body, and more like sisters who have all faced a tragedy, and who want to ensure the safety of the boy they love and for each other, all while Motoko learns to stand up for herself, Hibiki accepts being more feminine, Fujiko becomes less rigid and cold, and Mikiri becomes more grownup. It is an utterly beautiful progression that doesn’t happen over-night. We’ve also got several female characters who are strong, quite a few that are incredibly independant, and who have passed the Beschdel Test multiple times. If you don’t know what that test is, it essentially comes down to: Is there more than one woman in this? Do they talk about more stuff than just a man/relationships? This series does that. Bravo!
There are down-sides, though. Given that Kosegawa is in love with four women (nevermind they’re ONE person with four distinct personalities … and one homicidal monster), and pursued by 3 others (eventually), this DOES count as a harem manga (meaning a manga with a story-line about one guy who is romantically connected or pursued by multiple women). With that in mind, it is also filled to the brim with fan-service, bare breasts, and a dozen other things that are supposed to entice men, and especially teenage boys. In spite of the strong personalities of the emotionally and physically women, this is at its core a series aimed for guys.
The main issue with this series is the premise behind Motoko and Hi-Fu-Mi. As compelling as it is, it is taking advantage of a very enigmatic, very hard to recognize mental disorder. Multiple Personalities, or Dissiociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a very hard disorder to diagnose. Many pyschologists and mental-health professionals disagree on its authenticity as a disorder. Those who have shown (possible) genuine symptoms of this disorder have gone through severe trauma to cause this, and they most certainly do NOT develop super-strength. If you want genuine, medically backed info on Multiple Personality Disorder, then DON’T read this manga.
I suppose in the end, this manga ends up being as confused as Motoko. While it is an enjoyable read, has great characters and character arcs for each of them, the narrative itself suffers from its own form of identity disorder: It’s either an action manga, a harem manga, a psychological thriller, or a highschool coming-of-age story.
But for all the faults, I still enjoyed the manga. Three and a half stars! Pick it up, and you’ll find it’s worth the read.