I'm happy to bring Tommy Leung aboard today for this guest post! He'll be reviewing the comic My Girlfriend is a T-Rex. A bit about today's guest contributor:
Tommy Leung is a parasitologist / zoologist who writes a blog called Parasite of the Day where he writes about newly published research from the field of parasitology. He has also written about dinosaur parasites and parasites in the fossil record. Additionally he is an illustrator and you can see some of his work here. You can find him on Twitter @The_Episiarch.
Take it away, Tommy!
My Girlfriend is a T-Rex* is a comic / graphic novel series by artist Sanzo (さんぞう). It was originally published as an online webcomic under the title "T-REXな彼女 / T-Rex na Kanojo" and was later licensed for an English release by Seven Seas Entertainment. At its core, it is a tale of boy meets girl, but girl is a large carnivorous theropod dinosaur (sort of). While such a story would usually end rather quickly (and bloodily), in the case of My Girlfriend is a T-Rex, it turns into a tale of blossoming interspecific romance and funny dinosaurian hijinks.
In the world of My Girlfriend is a T-Rex, half-human-looking dinosaurs (imagine Centaurs or Mermaids, but with dinosaur bits in place of the horse or fish parts) live in our society, kind of like an urbanite monster girls / boys version of Dinotopia. The explanation for why the dinosaurs look the way that they do was that they had evolved to look more attractive to humans in order to survive in the modern world (a case of evolutionary mimicry?). It is an extremely silly premise, but this series makes no pretence at being anything more than a (largely) slapstick comedy featuring dinosaur monster girls / boys, and it often pokes fun at its own absurdity.
The two main characters of this series are (seemingly) ordinary college student Yuuma Asahikawa who, while taking out the trash late one night, encountered Churio, a female Tyrannosaurus rex who was riffling through the garbage. Despite the best effort of Churio to try and convince him that she is a big scary dinosaur, Yuuma looked past her sharp claws and scaly skin, and fell for her tyrannosaurian charm. Since this fateful encounter, Churio gradually made a switch from scavenging on the streets and sleeping in an abandoned factory, to becoming a somewhat more functional member of society.
The design of the dinosaurian characters in this series places it firmly within the “monster girl / people” subgenre along the likes of A Centaur’s Life, Merman in my Tub, and the very popular Everyday Life With Monster Girls / Monster Musume in featuring half-monster half-human characters in the main cast. Given My Girlfriend is a T-Rex seems like just another comic amidst many released in recent years that features the monster people gimmick, does it have what it takes to distinguish itself from the rest of the monster mash?
There are two main reasons that My Girlfriend is a T-Rex may appeal to a slightly different audience than the usual crowd who would be interested in such monster girl titles. First of all, whereas most other monster girl / people series have mainly featured mythological beings such as centaurs, merfolks, and lamia, My Girlfriend is a T-Rex is unique (as far as I am aware) in having dinosaur-based monster girls in such a slice-of-life setting (if you don’t count Bird Cafe! I guess…) - this alone may pique the interest of Palaeontology / Dinosaur Fans, which I’m guessing includes many readers of this blog. Secondly, it seems largely free of the kind of sexually suggestive (“ecchi”) content found throughout some monster girl titles such as Monster Musume, so My Girlfriend is a T-Rex may be more accessible to readers who find the more risqué aspects of Monster Musume to be off-putting.
Being the titular dinosaur of the series, most of the humour in this comic derives from Churio's antics as she attempts to adapt to modern society and all its trappings. A fair share of the jokes revolve around Churio not fully understanding her own strength as a tyrannosaur, or her instinctive responses to the situations that she finds herself in - which often comes across as being like a mix between a stray puppy and Godzilla. It is worth pointing out that unlike Churio, most of the other dinosaur / pterosaur characters in My Girlfriend is a T-Rex seem to have fully integrated with human society; they have jobs, pay bills, and live generally normal lives, and the human characters in this world seem to take that as a given. So Churio seems to be just a feral outlier.
Aside from Churio’s shenanigans, some of jokes in this series are references or parodies of dinosaurs (at least as they are perceived by the general public) and various dinosaur-based media. For example, those with a keen eye will spot a very obvious reference to Jurassic Park during a conversation between Churio and her friend, Torika, who is some sort of Velociraptor. Also the personalities of the dinosaur characters usually reflect the common popular perception of the dinosaur species that they are based upon. With that said, there are some moments where the character interactions move beyond “Archetype X based upon dinosaur species X” which give those characters a bit more depth.
While the main focus is on Churio and her interactions with Yuuma, there is also a cast of both human and dinosaur / pterosaur supporting characters who get their share of story. One noteworthy side character is Kram - a socially awkward ankylosaur who has difficulty communicating with people and conveying her emotions. Also, her best intentions are often thwarted by her own heavily armoured body. Kram’s more introverted and introspective personality acts a nice contrast to Churio’s blunt and impulsive temperament, and I hope we will see more of her in the next volume since she has appeared only in one chapter so far.
On a side note, the translation assumes that the reader has some familiarity with Japanese honorifics such as kōhai (underclassman / junior) and oniichan (“big / older brother”). While such words are familiar enough to regular manga readers or anime viewers, it might take a bit of getting used to for those who have not been exposed to such material. But, it should not be too difficult to work out what their English equivalents might be given their context.
My final verdict? My Girlfriend is a T-Rex might be one of the more accessible monster girl titles available as it avoids some of the tropes of that subgenre which people may find off-putting. While the humour in this series isn’t all that sophisticated, it works and I found it to be a really fun read. You should definitely check it out if you like the idea of a light-hearted, fish-out-of-water (or tyrannosaur out of Cretaceous?) slice-of-life comedy with a dinosaurian twist. Or if you are curious about the monster girl subgenre, but find Monster Musume too lewd or A Centaur’s Life a bit too weird, you might want to give this one a go instead, and spend an afternoon with some cute dinosaurian monster girls.
Overall score: 75/100
*Yes, I know the proper way to abbreviate Tyrannosaurus rex is T. rex - but that is the series’ official title.