Well, until I realized AIC will be doing it.
Anyway, Hourou Musuko will be adapted into an anime and will air beginning January 2011. I found out about this initially courtesy of Scamp, who has a preliminary Winter 2011 chart up, although I did dig around a bit myself to try to glean some more info on the whole thing.
First off, though, a quick summary of the manga: Shuichi Nitori and Yoshino Takatsuki are 5th graders in the same class who discover that they have something in common – they both feel uncomfortable with their sex and wish they could be the other. While they are becoming friends, they also befriend two other girls in their class, one who actively encourages Shuichi to crossdress. However, it is Yoshino with whom Shuichi shares his feelings, and the two begin keeping an exchange diary about it, as well as going on outings together while crossdressing. In doing so, the two also meet a transsexual woman named Yuki, and her boyfriend Shiina. Meanwhile, Shuichi’s older sister Maho starts modeling, and finds herself frustrated by her brother, while the usual, along with the unusual, panoply of middle school-era issues crop up for Shuichi and his friends.
I’m not doing Hourou Musuko a lot of justice with that summary, I must admit, if only because it thus far has ten published volumes and possesses a plot which thickens considerably at a fairly early point. It just isn’t something that can be summarized succinctly in a fashion that is amenable to its quality. So, let me now convince you of why you should be interested in it at all.
Hourou Musuko is probably the most sensitive treatment of gender identity that I have ever seen in manga. Generally, gender is an area for humor in manga, as evidenced by the vast fields of gender bender comedies one can find. I have run across a few that treat gender identity in a decent manner, but these are few and far between – and Hourou Musuko really has it all over them, in part due to how much time it gives to the issue, which allows for a much closer examination of it than would a single volume or a one-shot.
Hourou Musuko is by Takako Shimura, probably more familiar to folks because of her lovely Aoi Hana, the anime adaptation of which aired in the summer of 2009 and was licensed on Crunchyroll (the license has apparently lapsed since then, sadly). While Hourou Musuko isn’t yuri itself, if you enjoyed Aoi Hana, you will probably also like Hourou Musuko as it takes a similar tone and has an excellent cast of characters as well (although they are admittedly a bit younger than the ladies of Aoi Hana).
I swear Shimura has this magical ability to perfectly render the feeling of not being comfortable in one’s skin and the general experience of realizing one is different from what is socially expected of them. While I do think that her characters are occasionally a bit too accepting of difference in their peers – yes, several of Shuichi’s peers are shown as being unkind when they discover his secret, but overall their behavior comes across more as the exception not the rule – her depiction of her leads’ feelings and reactions is practically unparalleled.
I am really utterly shocked that this is getting an adaptation. I suppose I shouldn’t be, in that I never dreamed Aoi Hana would get an adaptation and it did, but if I thought the chance of Aoi Hana ever getting an anime version was remote, I never even considered the idea that Hourou Musuko could ever get one. I mean, it takes on a bunch of tropes that have become common(-ish) in anime and explodes them by treating the characters as fully realized characters and not as kink delivery devices. I just didn’t think a studio would think it was worth the investment.
However, I am already feeling a bit leery about the coming adaptation, as AIC will be handling it. I felt mildly puzzled, as I couldn’t remember anything they’d done recently. But this turned out to be completely unsurprising – of the last ten shows they handled, only one wasn’t fanservice-packed moé crap, Sasameki Koto. The others ranged from brilliant works of art such as Amagami SS to unparalleled works of genius such as Nyan Koi!. Not exactly an inspiring studio at the moment.
Well, alright – Sasameki Koto wasn’t too bad (I didn’t really like the original material, but the adaptation itself was pretty faithful), maybe they’ll use the folks who worked on that to work on this.
But it continues to get vaguely disheartening. The listed director, Ei Aoki, did do a decent job directing Ga-Rei: Zero, but has also worked on uninspiring fare such as Girls Bravo, Coyote Ragtime Show, and… Sex Demon Queen. Aoki did also direct the first Kara no Kyoukai movie, which wasn’t bad (although I myself didn’t think it was amazing), and did work on the Ah! My Goddess TV series and Petite Princess Yucie, both of which I’ve heard aren’t bad shows. Buuuut Aoki also worked on Shangri-La… and, quite frankly, it’d take quite a bit for me to be able to get past the fact that Aoki directed Girls Bravo.
The scriptwriter is a bit better looking, with Mari Okada handling these duties as well as that of series composition. While she has a number of stinkers to her name (Kuroshitsuji, Vampire Knight, Mamoru-kun ni Megami no Shukufuku wo) the good in her repertoire is more than enough to outweigh it – Red Garden, Simoun, Toradora!, and Aria: The Natural. She also did some decent work with Diamond Daydreams, Sasami: Magical Girls Club, and CANAAN, although I’m hoping for a little more Red Garden and a little less Diamond Daydreams in terms of quality.
On a front where I’m actually not drawing any conclusions from as of yet, both Yoshino and Shuichi will apparently be voiced by newcomers. While some folks don’t like it when new people voice characters, I don’t mind it too much – yeah, sometimes it’ll sound a little wooden, but I actually kind of like hearing new talent. I guess I’m kind of absorbing their own excitement about their first role, if that makes any sense.
I’ll be perfectly honest: I’d been hoping when I first saw that this was getting an adaptation that somehow the same J.C. Staff team that handled Aoi Hana would be doing this as well. I’m very disappointed in what studio will be handling it. On the other hand, I know studios will go through crap patches and recover from it (unless they’re Gonzo), so I’m trying very hard to not be totally down on it before the thing even sees the light of day. And, despite my misgivings, I am really looking forward to seeing this. It’ll also coincide nicely with the American release of the first volume of the manga, which is set to appear in February (the original release date was in December of 2010 if I am recalling it correctly).