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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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An Artistic Triumph of Realism
Hourou Musuko is really quite interesting in a lot of ways, but rather than write a whole analysis here, I think I'll keep it short for once. What we have here is a work with realistic characters, reaistic pacing, and realistic outcomes. In fact, it almost feels as though these events may have occurred to the author or someone close to them at some point. The characters are developed with meticulous timing and accuracy, and hardly deviate from their acceptable courses of action based on this development. This, while quite amazing, will probably be lacking in terms of entertainment for many readers. This isn't an escapist work, and as a result, the audience it attracts will probably be smaller.
I found this series very interesting. The only down parts, if I could say, is the pace which is so slow. But the fact that the whole series progresses realistically following the characters profile mades up with that evenly.
The part which I found interesting obviously the gender issue here. I'm just studying feminism recently. I know there's no slight relation of this series and feminism but there I also study gender stereotyping. On what was supposed for male, biologically, and what was supposes for female, biologically. The two protagonists of the series are against them, and specifically some of Nitori's inner thought are what really interests me, I also found on some Takatsuki's though. Even though their problem or thoughts were mostly personal and somewhat selfish that's the thing that made the series for me. Also you can realize it with ease that Nitori himself was criticizing the misogynist social construct. There's not much feminism but I would say this series is pretty interesting if we were to talk about gender related issue. I sure hope that the author has something in her mind when writing this series.
Also to mention the artist's art are surprisingly plain but beautiful. The simplistic story were in par with its simplistic art style. The most powerful part of the artist's I would say is the cover where she did so well with the, if I'm not mistaken, water color. I've read her other work, Aoi Hana, where she did it well too with the water color and the whole artwork of the series.
I would highly recommend this series. But I also found the issue is rather sensitive, well at least here in my place. Concerning the genre, I don't really know what makes up 'seinen' cause this series just had too much drama with it and its not the kind of drama you would normally found on 'male-oriented' works even though the crossdress might counts and the cute characters maybe. Its just simple 'mature (readers)-oriented' work for me, as the issue here should be handled unseriously but its quite serious. The gender-bender, LGBT, crossdress is not for fun but it's part of the theme brought by the story, it's the issue, the problem.
p.s. pardon me if I sound a bit arrogant or cocky or anything. I haven't read so much manga and I'm also a bit picky on choosing what manga I would read. If there's any disturbing argument with my comments, I apologize, Also pardon if there's many grammatical error, considering English is not my mother tongue and I'm not really on studying it.
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
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.
... Last updated on August 30th, 2010, 1:08am
Topicwise, this isn't the normal sort of manga I'd pick up. However, it has proved very interesting. Someone should really jump on this and get this licensed in the US. It is a must read for open-minded folks and may help understand folks that are different from the mainstream better. To someone that is not so libertarian-minded, this may seem very creepy. To the bigot, this would be propaganda. To me, real people with very real problems.
At first I was attracted to the beautiful watercolor in the beginning and the realistic characters. The earlier chapters were sweet simple and intriguing. However, as the manga went on, more serious issues came into play; it became a lot more intense. I couldn't stop reading; I just loved it.
More realistic than others, but...
This is one of the few manga that portray transgendered people in a way that isn't for gag/comedy purposes. It approaches it in a more serious fashion. Also, this is the first manga I've ever read that has an FTM in it, as most have only MTFs. The drama is a bit annoying sometimes, though, and it is a bit confusing because it often switches focus and time lapses aren't clear. The art is pretty, though, and it's a good read.
... Last updated on October 20th, 2008, 9:07am
The series sometimes lacks smooth transitions, making it confusing to whether a day has passed or the setting changed. The plot is interesting, however, and the art is pretty nice. However, I've been curious about the main characters sexual orientations (as cross dressing and homosexuality are not synonymous), and I'm afraid that issue may not be cleared up for some time (maybe never, as the children are still rather young).
... Last updated on November 28th, 2007, 3:19am
These have to be the most loveable characters I've yet encountered in a manga! I adore them. Both Nitori and Takatsuki are incredibly sweet, but their friends and family are wonderfully characterized, too. Every single character is created with tender care, and you can feel how much the mangaka loves them.
On a serious note, it's great to see a manga address transgenderism in a mature and understanding way. It's particularly rewarding to read about Nitori's childhood worries, and Takatsuki's insecurities. The way these two struggle with issues of gender identity is something I can relate to, since my childhood was a lot like theirs.
I really hope things turn out well for them. Such sweet kids! I know they'll grow up to be wonderful people.
... Last updated on July 17th, 2007, 9:01pm
Stick With It
This is a great series and to me, a unique one at that. It's a bit slow at the beginning, but once it gets going, it turns to be one of the most thoughtful mangas ever. The art isn't too bad either. Easy on the eyes but kinda easy on the backgrounds too. Another thing that's great is that you can actually see the characters grow up and deal with the problems that come with it. Truly great and you feel for the characters too. To whoever's scanlating these chapters, thank you! And to those reading this review, start this series and stick with it, you won't regret it!