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From Fantagraphics Books:
Fifth grade. The threshold of puberty, and the beginning of the end of childhood innocence. Nitori Shuichi and his new friend Takatsuki Yoshino enjoy happy homes and loving families, and are well-liked by their classmates. But they share a secret that further complicates a time of life that is awkward for anyone: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy...
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I highly recommend this
It's not for everyone. It relies heavily on trans* themes and is very slow paced. It spends the first four volumes in elementary, spends a large chunk on middle school, then high school passes in less than 40 chapters. It's a very realistic, soft paced manga. No mecha, magic, or goofy school antics here.
The protagonist of the manga is Nitori Shuichi, an elementary aged trans girl who transfers to a new school mid-semester. She has a temperamental sister one year older than her and two nice parents. On her first day of school she meets the secondary protagonist, Takatsuki Yoshino, who is a trans boy. The two quickly become friends and eventually learn their mutual interest to live as the opposite sex. Thus the story begins.
The manga conveys many emotions. It delicately discusses everything from bullying to dissolving friendships. It's themed around puberty and those awkward teenage years. Changing bodies, friendship changes, romance, sexuality.. All while the two protagonists are transgender kids in 2000s Japan, which adds fuel to the fire.
The art style is decent at first but will eventually evolve into Shimura's signature style. I just love her art, especially when it's colored in watercolor.
The last dozen chapters are controversial and I see why. Everything goes by incredibly swift and a dozen plot points are never filled.
Spoiler (mouse over to view)
The manga also ends on a very ambiguous note for Takatsuki. He's a model and apparently cis identified but Shimura has said it's up for the readers to figure out the genders of the protagonists. Nitori ends with a very Shimura meta "I am a girl" making it obvious where she stands but Takasuki can go a dozen ways depending on the interpretation. Mako, another trans girl Nitori's age, has plot threads created but glossed over. Maybe Shimura didn't want to spend 6+ years on the already decade old series
It was interesting
Well I started reading it before it was finished by author, and plot is interesting but a lot of time skips through me of the track often... So I put it on hold and decided to finish reading it yesterday. I really liked the ending especially reaction of the girlfriend of the main character. So I think this manga is worth it if you like Gender Bender stuff, it is not the best though.
It's really a disappointment what with this senseless love story with anna-chan then why did she started with Takatsuki Yoshino? I really was looking forward to a development but no there was just stupidity in wanting to be a girl and having a girlfriend at the same time noting but disappointment. (o-o)
Or maybe it was always boring? The story telling isn't engrossing, i think what made me like it a lot at first was the unique plot devices (e.g. exploring sexuality growing up). But it's not realistic and the plot was painfully slow, and then suddenly jumps forward in time... I find it hard to feel attached to any specific character in the story, and there are manyy sideplots developing which don't interact with the main plot (if there is one) which make it a drag to read after a while. Unfortunate...such interesting concepts to be explored. also, I think Shuu is constantly zoned out. It would be nice to see more expressions on his face.
... Last updated on September 27th, 2013, 12:19pm
Shimura Takako does an amazing job of portraying these characters and telling their story. Though it may be confusing at some parts, seeming as if there are time skips, it all fits wonderfully together. Though some may question the characters' "emotional realism," I feel like it's entirely realistic which adds to this masterpiece. As you read, you clearly watch the characters grow, physically, mentally, emotionally. I would definitely recommend this piece, though if you are sensitive about lgbt issues then be warned. However, the author deals with these topics in a very sensitive(?)/delicate(?) way. I may be slightly biased though, being questioning myself
... Last updated on July 31st, 2013, 12:39am
An insult to the trans community. Read this manga for an excessively drawn out love triangle and plastic characters, not a serious look at transphobic bigotry (in Japan or anywhere else.) Phoned in and very cheap, don't waste your time.
Observations of minor quibbles
Vol.1 Sweet story. I was actually a little confused in the beginning. Despite reading the description, I thought the boy really was a barely boyish girl and it took me awhile to recognize who the second character was suppose to be. There's one extra character that in the first volume that got so much screen time for the first half that it only added to my confusion. She basically works to push the plot but a well-told story, this story, doesn't really need her as she was used. If she had just been more conscientious, empathic. She doesn't really have an issue, other than liking to dress someone else up. Not really looking forward to where she's going with christianity either(and what for?). It takes away from the two that are the focused early on. The boys don't come off well in this story. The fathers do, but all the little boys are barely depicted and not very positively.
I usually only do a review this early when I'm thinking of quitting, but that's not the case here. I'd give this an 8.5 if I were to rate it now.
Beautiful take on gender issues
My introduction to Shimura Takako's works began with Aoi Hana, which was a very light and charming take on LGBT. Captured by sensei's pacing and storytelling style, I've decided to give Hourou Musuko a shot. As expected of Shimura Takako, the storytelling and depiction of the characters are so believable and realistic in what may appear to be a surrealistic environment. However, it has to be understood that transgender issues do exist in large numbers, and like Shuuichi and Takano, many transgenders also choose to hide their real selves in fear of rejection.
The issues and insecurities our protagonists come across evidently present themselves in real life. All the characters have their own personalities and problems, and their perspectives of the world is different. There is no doubt Shimura Takako understands how to depict the world through the eyes of believable, unique characters. Aside from the conceivable characters, the pacing of the story compliments the theme as well.
The deliberate setting of the manga to begin from the age of ten all the way to high school (and beyond), really shows how the mangaka comprehends the growth of sexuality. Where before and during puberty, individuals with "differing" sexualities will gain many doubts about themselves and worry of the world around them. This is exceptionally sensitive in a nation with a conservative culture like Japan, where homosexuals, transsexuals, and transgenders do not gain the same type of acceptance as some Western communities. The slower-than-usual pacing of this extraordinary story carefully accentuates all the different issues which may present themselves to Shuuichi, Takano, and all the other characters. As a slice-of-life depicting the real world issue which is both exterior and interior acceptance of one's sexuality, the pacing carefully draws out all the different problems an individual may step on through the sensitive period of puberty.
Hourou Musuko is a masterpiece which contains earthly, believable characters with their own realistic quirks, handling a delicate topic(in Japan, especially) with the most suitable pacing. Of course, the art is very fitting for this manga. Simple, yet beautifully so. Well done Shimura-sensei.
... Last updated on August 23rd, 2012, 2:30pm
serious, not romantic
this manga is more serious and even educative than romantic. That's why for me it is a little bit boring, though I like feminine boys and masculine girls and all this cross-dressinmg thing.
My favorite manga
This is probably a bit biased, what with knowing many people, including myself, who are LGBT.
But this is pretty much my favorite manga ever. Shuuichi and Takano are portrayed especially realistically, especially for manga, an industry which has a rather bad track record with LGBT topics. Most of the characters I absolutely adore or absolutely hate, and I love how each of their motivations are only subtly revealed. The minimalist style only helps enforce how painful everyday existence is for Shuuichi and Takano, especially when Shuuichi is confronted with the mind-numbing horror that is
Spoiler (highlight to view)
her first nocturnal emission (if that pronoun use is confusing you, you aren't paying attention)
, which was one of the most beautifully horrific moments in any work ever, in my opinion.
I am eagerly awaiting the rest of this series, although I'm a bit anxious about the anime. I don't predict it to be adapted well.