Many of you have, over the last few years, written in to tell me about Shimura Takako’s series Hourou Musuko, Wandering Son, to ask me when I would review it, to remind me to add it to the News Reports.
As many of you have noticed, I have not reviewed it as of yet. The reason for this is relatively simple – while Hourou Musuko is undoubtedly a masterpiece, it’s not really Yuri.
But, it *is* a masterpiece and a masterpiece dealing with gender transitioning, which is something that manga and anime typically play for laughs at best, rather than handling it with any seriousness or sensitivity. So, I guess it’s time to review this series, already. ^_^
My problem now is – I don’t know what to really say about it, other than it is one of the very finest, most beautiful anime series I have ever watched.
Hourou Musuko is not the first time Shimura has dealt with gender in a story. Her Boku ha Onna no Ko was the first time I ever encountered her work. I was not overwhelmed by any of the stories in that collection – certainly nothing in it impressed me the way Aoi Hana did. But Hourou Musuko is something amazing, even compared to that.
Somewhere after Boku ha Onna no Ko ( the cover of which has a cameo as a poster in the Hourou Musuko anime,) Shimura reached deep into herself and found a real story – a touching story – a painful and beautiful story – about two young people grappling with the fact that they are born into the wrong bodies. Hourou Musuko is emotionally gripping in a way that very, very few anime ever can hope to be. Shu-chan, the mtf heroine and Yoshino, the ftm hero, are people I would gladly spend more time with.
Art, music, voice acting was all sublime. I can say nothing but “wow” about it.
In this short anime, there were two scenes that really stood out to me – the scene where Yoshino gives Shu-chan her name and said that she’d take his, which was so touching I honestly couldn’t speak for an hour afterwards. And the scene during the school festival, when the kids all go into another class’s horror house, just to be able to gain catharsis by screaming.
As for Yuri. Well, the anime begins with the 33rd chapter of the story, as Shu-chan begins middle school, so I believe we skipped one potential Yuri relationship. I will, when the manga touches upon it, mention it. In the anime, however, I’d like to talk about Yoshino and Saori. They don’t really have a relationship, but by the end of the anime, there is some very tentative movement in that direction, IMHO. Of course, as Yoshino is a boy, temporarily in a girl’s body, this would not be a lesbian relationship, even if it were to exist. As Saori had some feelings for Shin-chan, who also feels he has been given the wrong body, it seems to me that any relationship that developed between Saori and Yoshino could legitimately be labeled Queer. Shu-chan has a relationship with a girl that, as Niki points out in the comments, isn’t being perceived as lesbian yet, but is clearly another Queer relationship.
Because this series is a masterpiece, it did terribly in the TV ratings for that slot. This cannot really be a surprise, precisely because everything really is on a standard curve of deviation. That means that the good will be appreciated by less people than the average – and the stunningly excellent will only ever be appreciated by a few. Nonetheless, this anime was stunningly excellent and, as I contemplate reading the manga, for the first time, I find myself frightened by it a bit. It might just be too good. I have always managed my expectations of manga and anime, and don’t want to see my ability to find balance compromised. On the other hand, I don’t want to be disappointed, either. So, I find myself in the position of convincing myself to not expect too much, but also not to let Shimura’s fully blossomed genius ruin anything else for me.
By the time I finish the manga, I fear that all that will be left for me to read and enjoy will be Aoi Hana and GUNJO.
Anyway…if you haven’t watch the anime yet, do. It’s a masterpiece.
And then buy the manga, which is being put out by Fantagraphics. Don’t forget to buy an extra copy for your library – they *need* this book.
Art – 9
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 0
Service – 0
Overall – 9
This, more than any series I have ever reviewed here is a LGBTQ masterwork. In the future that I want to inhabit, it will be considered a classic.