Austen Crowder

Transgender Comics: Misfile

Filed By Austen Crowder | July 16, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Transgender & Intersex
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I assure you, my two-week hiatus from posting transgender comics was, erm, disciplined properly. As punishment, Bil forced me to sit through a twenty-four hour marathon of Bleach whilst he made bleating, fanboyish comments about Cowboy Bebop. The Horror! The Horror! I'll be striking awkward poses for months!

Speaking of Anime, here's Misfile.

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A boy and a girl living in a mountain town are caught up in a divine mistake. The girl's history is misplaced, and because of this she loses the last two years of her life. The boy, filed in the wrong cabinet, becomes a girl. Nobody, save for the angel, the boy, and the girl, know that any mistake was made; to the outside world, they are as they always have been: two young ladies in high school. It can be summed up with a simple equation: funny premise + gender-bending + manga styling = good comic. There's no easier way to put it. It's a good mix of gender stereotypes, honest drama, and romantic comedy that keeps the pages turning.

The setup is pretty simple. Rumisiel, a drunken, no-good angel, accidentally spills the life files of Emily and Ash, a girl and boy in a Canadian high school. In a hurry to fix the problem, he quickly tosses the papers back into files, hoping that nobody would see his mistake. This doesn't turn out to be the case; he misfiles their information, and is banished from heaven for being such a screwup. The natural outcropping of this mistake, of course, is that Emily goes back to being a sophomore in high school, and Ash, the tough-as-nails mountain street racer, is turned into a girl.

Following so far? Good.

The story that unfolds is a nice mix of comedy, drama, self-searching, and general manga-esque tomfoolery. Everybody knows everybody, and everyone is comfortable letting people stay in houses to make the plot move forward. (Rumisiel, for example, claims to be Ash's "boyfriend," much to Ash's chagrin, and Ash's father is all too happy to let the angel stay at the house for an indefinate period of time.) Through it all, Ash must deal with his new identity as a female, complete with all the social complexities and historical inconsistencies that may entail. Thus, the plot unfolds:

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All the low-hanging gender-change fruits are collected within the first few hundred strips. Ash has her period. Ash becomes the grease monkey girl, and is reviled for it by other girls at school. Ash makes female friends, but finds it hard not to act on old male habits. (The romantic tension between Ash and Emily gets so thick, you could cut it with a knife!) You name it, Ash learns to do it. But through it all, there's this creeping feeling of "I'm losing part of myself with each passing day," which is handled pretty deftly in the early going. It's a nice touch, when taken in the larger context of the racer's life.

Also notable is how the plot weaves in bad spiritual juju surrounding Ash and Emily's everyday life. In her first big race as a girl, Ash's opponent runs off the road, and Ramisiel saves the guy's life before destroying his car. Later, when Ash races the "Kamikaze Girl," Ramisel and Vash bind a vengeful spirit hanging onto Ash's opponent. It's very, very manga, and anyone who has spent time reading manga or watching anime will feel right at home with Misfile's plot conventions and story arcs; they are self-contained and often resemble individual issues of some greater whole.

All in all, Misfile is a great read. Even without the gender change mechanic, the story is well worth perusing. It's also long -- last I checked, there were over a thousand panels in the archive. It reads very quickly, though, and the storytelling keeps up at a good clip. There's rarely a dull moment when living in a Misfile.


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Misfile takes place in the USA, not Canada. Ash and Emily claim that the angel is an exchange student from Canada in order to explain his sudden arrival in town.