NG Life (NG meaning No Good, as far as I can find), has been serialized in Japan's Hana to Yume publication since 2006. The main character, Keidai Saeki, is a high school student who has a serious condition - he remembers his past life of an Italian gladiator named Sirix. Though many of Sirix's friends and rivals have been reincarnated around him, none remember their past life in Pompeii. Then to add insult to injury, Sirix's best guy friend has been reborn as a woman, and his wife -"tah-dah"- she's reborn as a man! Confused yet? It gets crazier. In current time, Keidai meets Yuuma, a middle school boy who lives across the street. He recognizes Yuuma's soul as being his past wife, Serena, and his heart beats madly for him. This plays havoc with Keidai's emotions. Then Yuuma gets a crush on Keidai's girl pal Serizawa, who was once Sirix's best male friend, Loleus, in past life. Only, the Serizawa of current times really likes Keidai. Confused now?
In this story we have a nice little love triangle with Keidai (frustratingly) crushing on Yuuma, Yuuma crushing Serizawa, and Serizawa crushing on Keidai. The whole situation is maddening for Keidai since no one remembers the past, yet he is constantly haunted by dreams of his past life. Especially of leaving Serena, on the day of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and never getting to return to her again. Now when they are finally reunited, she's a he. Not to mention the fact that his best friend has romantic feelings for him, and he unknowingly hurts her time and again by emphasizing their friendship. I don't know how the main character can retain his sanity. Even his best friends question it, because they don't remember their past lives. Oh, and did I mention that Keidai's parents are actually his little sister and main rival from his past life? That just adds more kindling to the fire.
This story is emotionally chaotic, and if you hate love triangles, you definitely DON'T want to read it. The characters are pretty flat at this point, since they've just been introduced. Trying to make the connections between past lives and current lives wasn't too difficult, but Kusanagi's insertion of flashbacks isn't always smooth. So far the plot mostly evokes sympathy for Keidai, whether it's because he's emotionally strung out, or because you wonder if he really might be crazy. The plot also jacks with your own emotions for the characters. The mangaka first gets you empathizing with Sirix to get back with Serena, then she pulls you the other direction when Serizawa shows how she feels about Keidai. It leaves you confused about how you want the love triangle to work out, which I'm sure is the author's intention. The art work is fitting for the piece; nothing is really striking, or feels out of place. Kusinagi had to do her research for the setting of Pompeii. I think she does a good job of making Yuuma look feminine and masculine in the right places, without distorting his character. As far as romantic moments, there's only one true moment in the first novel, and it's surprising who it happens between.
Will I continue to read it? That's a hard call at this point. On one hand, I know that in book 2, another person who remembers the past life comes along, and that might add more to the story. On the other hand, the emotional drama and chaos of the love triangle is very taxing. It can be frustrating and at times silly. Hmm...maybe I've already decided. Hehe.
NG Life vol. 1 is available from Tokyopop, with vol. 2 being released in July.