Hourou Musuko Episode One

Yeah, guess I’m blogging this.

Shiki turned out to be ridiculously fun for me to blog… which shows me that I can do episodic blogging sans wailing and gnashing of my teeth! Fairly amazing, that. Historically, even for shows which I enjoyed, episodic blogging has proven to be tiresome and dull, so I have largely steered clear of them. Even now I feel a bit leery of it, as I can’t help but feel it takes away from my long-ass posts on things no one cares about (hey there, Jigoku Shoujo). But some shows just pick at me enough to make me feel a desire to do this, I suppose; it seems only now that I am giving in to that desire.

Anyway, I found the first episode of Hourou Musuko to be interesting in demonstrating the approach that AIC is taking to the original material. HM is only slated for eleven episodes, but the manga currently occupies ten bound volumes with a few chapters that have yet to make it into book form. So there’s quite a bit to work with here, and they will only be able to scratch the surface at minimum. Hence, the decision to have the anime start about half-way through the story is a pretty smart move – they can do flashbacks to fill in the gaps, and they’ll also have a decent chance of actually covering a lot of what comes after the current half-way mark. Good job there, AIC.

On the other hand, I may’ve thought this worked well, but did anyone who hasn’t read the manga feel lost at all? I’ve got the background to know all of what is going on, but I have to remember that not everyone does. What say ye, non-readers?

I’m not sure, on the other hand, about the fourth wall breaking that bookends the episode. I can understand why they opted for this, but at the same time I dislike the vague traces of after-school special that lingers about them. One of the things that’s so great about the manga is that it never seems like someone is saying “Look! LGBT kids! See how normal they are!”; instead, we just watch them more naturally, and thus come to that conclusion by our own selves in a subconscious manner. But, hey, I’m nitpicking.

If I’m nitpicking on that, though, let me nitpick a wee more – I didn’t like the scene involving Saori whacking that kid over the head with the textbook. In the manga, Saori does this after a classmate is being much, much crueler to Nitori and Takatsuki. Here she just kind of looks like a crazy bitch. And, yeah, Saori does tend towards being a bit bitchy at points in the manga, but its mediated by us knowing her much more intimately than we do via the anime thus far. I think it would’ve worked better had she just stood up, told him to shut up, said she hated gossip-mongerers, and then left the room.

But these are fairly minor details. Throughout watching, I felt like crying, honestly. In a totally good way, though – AIC did a wonderful job with this first episode, and it just made me feel so happy. When I’d read about AIC doing the adaptation, I had felt a bit leery over the whole thing. After all, AIC isn’t really known for, uh, being thoughtful in its depictions of… well… anything, really. AIC has been a constant stream of boobs and panties since 2006 (with a couple of exceptions such as Sasameki Koto and Bamboo Blade), so seeing that they were being given the helm for a manga about LGBT kids and their friends and experiences was fairly troublesome. So, kudos to AIC for basically blowing me away on that count.

I also want to commend AIC on the art and animation used here. I’m not entirely happy with the way the character designs were rendered, although I don’t think its really possible to make me happy with that since I am so completely in love with Takako Shimura’s art. But some of these scenes were simply gorgeous, especially those which involved cherryblossoms. I am such a sap for those.

I am curious as to why Crunchyroll is carrying this show as opposed to Funimation. Funimation, after all, signed a contract with the noitaminA block to carry their content via streaming, so it seems odd that Crunchyroll got one of the noitaminA shows this time around. Does Funi just figure that they don’t want the DVD rights for it since it probably wouldn’t sell particularly well, so its fine if someone else has the streaming rights? But, then again, I don’t think Kuragehime has much of a broad appeal, either, and they snagged the rights for that. Crunchyroll had Aoi Hana, but that was from a different studio; the only thing in common is the original creator on that. So, color me confused, but utterly lacking in any real potential reasoning for the entire thing.

To go back a bit, to the crying thing. This was just… so good. And, in a way, it goes beyond the merits of the anime by itself. Its just seeing something like this actually in a TV anime format. To know that this is really airing, even if it is on the anime snob’s favorite programming block. Because the themes tackled here are so serious, and are *so* important to a lot of lonely folks out there. And, yes, to a lot of not-lonely folks, too, but I think it makes more of a difference to the people who feel isolated and alone. Because it is saying “Look, you’re not alone. And, no, you’re not weird, either.”

And, yes, a fictional story can do that. I know that may sound ridiculous – after all, these people aren’t actually real. But even if they aren’t, they make the world seem less empty anyway. Essentially, these characters exist as ‘normal people’ because someone out there thought they should exist as normal people, and because that same someone thinks that real life people like these characters are normal. This thought process isn’t exactly conscious, by the way. Its less thought-through than that consciously, its much more instantaneous and simple than that. Its this sudden lightning bolt-style sensation that one isn’t so alone as they have generally felt.

This is admittedly kind of hard to explain. Its the sort of feeling that one has to have experienced themselves to really and truly get. The best I can say is to try to think of a time where you had felt terribly, terribly alone for a long while, only to have a moment where it suddenly hit you that you weren’t. That’s what I mean, that kind of sensation.

By the way, I’ve talked with some folks who have said that they don’t really like BL and yuri as standalone genres. I mention that since Hourou Musuko, although it isn’t either BL or yuri, could potentially be dismissed by this same attitude, as the premise here is that there are these two kids who are transgender. But this is a demonstration of how such a thing should be used as a premise, because this isn’t a fetishization of the matter. Instead, it is an examination of the affects that their identity has on their own selves and on those around them and their relationships with others. And it is also about the formation of that very identity. This is the missing link from a lot of BL and yuri, and it is why much of those genres are so exploitative at base, because its just used as a hook, as a way to titillate the audience. I’m not arguing that all BL and yuri must deal directly with identity formation, but I think including identity as a theme in more of the manga from this genre would be a solid move. However, if I go any further on this line, I’ll just be looping back into my post on queer identity in manga, so I would suggest just reading that instead of having me re-state it all here.

So! Looks like Hourou Musuko is off to a good start. I look forward to next week.

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15 Responses to Hourou Musuko Episode One

  1. otou-san says:

    One of the things that’s so great about the manga is that it never seems like someone is saying “Look! LGBT kids! See how normal they are!”; instead, we just watch them more naturally, and thus come to that conclusion by our own selves in a subconscious manner. But, hey, I’m nitpicking.

    I don’t think that’s a nitpick; I think that’s crucial. Because it relates to this:

    But this is a demonstration of how such a thing should be used as a premise, because this isn’t a fetishization of the matter.

    Commendable, although I can see why people would dismiss BL, yuri, shoujo-ai, whatever — it usually is played for titillation in anime, or worse, for laughs (or both). Seriously addressing issues that could be construed as LGBT is not something that the medium is particularly well known for. So yeah, I welcome a manga and anime progressive enough to get to the emotional core. I guess I will have to check this out because I love seeing anything that differs from the norm.

    I am curious as to why Crunchyroll is carrying this show as opposed to Funimation. Funimation, after all, signed a contract with the noitaminA block to carry their content via streaming

    Not sure the answer to this, I don’t know how the deal works, but I wondered that myself. But CR also carried Sora no Woto, so who knows.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      So Ra No Wo To, though, was an Anime no Chikara project, not a noitaminA slot one.
      If you’re gonna check out the Hourou Musuko anime, I strongly suggest checking out the manga. Its one of my favorites, and you’ll get all the background on what comes before the events of the anime.

  2. Elineas says:

    Considering the only thing I knew about the show was the initial premise and chapter one of the manga, I’d say I held on fine. I was slightly confused with similar character designs for the first 10 minutes, but otherwise everything falls into place pretty quickly. The bookends actually do help place the plot in perspective in that regard. Then again, take my view with a grain of salt; I’m known to catch on to confusing plotlines more quickly than others :/.

    Otherwise, from a non-manga reader standpoint, that was fantastic. I’m awed by the care that is put into each character, and when they’re propped by stunning production values on all other fronts, it’s hard to do anything but let your jaw drop. The character designs have lingering traces of having been lifted out of still shots and into animation, which may be what is bothering you, but I think it gives the show an extra bit of charm. Then again, I haven’t read the manga, so I don’t have something to compare. Now let’s hope AIC doesn’t drop the ball.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      I don’t think AIC will drop the ball, at least, with giving it a serious adaptation. This was basically my main concern – can AIC be serious? I believe this first episode proves that.
      Now, as for whether they can manage to put enough into eleven episodes that it isn’t confusing and the ending doesn’t seem abrupt or rushed? Well, we’ll have to wait on that. My hopes have been raised, though.

  3. Scamp says:

    Non-manga reader thoughts about the character introductions was that they introduced rather too many characters early on. It was hard to tell one shiny-headed character from the next, especially when I wasn’t sure what gender each of them were. However I did get the main two after a while and understood what was going on with the two, so a success there

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Ok, thanks for the input. Like I said, I had prior knowledge, so I thought it worked well, but I’m biased in that regard.

  4. Chartfag says:

    This is a great post I have to say – and it does highlight the main thing that makes Hourou Musuko so brilliant, that it takes an often ridiculed subject and allows you to sympathise with it so much more, looking through the eyes of real and likeable characters.

    I imagine it draws its fair share of people who like the concept in a more fetished way, but it still distinctly makes it clear that it’s not a sensationalist hook, and becomes more accessible through that.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      I’m absolutely sure that a bunch of folks turned in hoping for trap lulz, even if the trailer didn’t indicate any likelihood of such a thing. People see what they want in things, after all. My guess is that a lot of those people will end up dropping out fairly quickly, but maybe some will actually stick around and get something out of it. We shall see (or not, ha)!

  5. Jo says:

    As a non-manga reader I didn’t think it was too confusing, although I did have to go back to the class-room introductions to get their names again.
    I thought it was a wonderful start to the series so much that I want to start reading the manga for it. The show seems to be able to portray the feelings of confusion and longing felt by the children quite realistically and it makes you feel for them. You can see although there is a bit of awkwardness between the friends, their relationship/bonds with each other made during elementary school is strong enough to support each other now that they’re in middle school especially with the changes that comes with that. I liked that.
    The only little bit I didn’t like about it was their hair was way too shiny. Other than that, I really enjoyed this first episode.

    =)

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Yeah, I’ll be honest that I wasn’t crazy about the way the character designs were adapted. On the other hand, I’m not sure Shimura’s art adapts well to the screen – its too light for that, if that makes sense. I think I may’ve liked J.C. Staff’s approach better, although I know I disliked theirs as well XD

  6. ariannasterling says:

    I was lost in terms of the who-is-who thing for awhile. I mostly figured it out by the end, but that did get to me in the beginning. I guess though, with only 11 episodes to work with, they have to throw you in somewhere other than the very beginning and be not-so-nice about introductions. Other than that, strong start.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Ch-check out the manga, seriously. Its been scanlated at least through chapter 88.

  7. Shinmaru says:

    Just to chime in as another person who has not read the manga, I didn’t think the first episode was overly confusing. Maybe the assumptions I took away are wrong, but I think AIC did a solid job at hinting at the relationships between characters and where they stand now. Obviously I don’t know all the details; however, I can at least sense the nature of how these kids relate to each other (the ones who have histories, anyway, haha).

    Anyway, I think as a primer for what will come later, this episode was pretty good. Absolutely gorgeous — AIC out JC Staff’d JC Staff with the watercolor style here. It struck me as more intense visually than anything JC Staff has done in the same sort of style (including Aoi Hana). I thought the “lightness” of the presentation complemented the emotional turbulence pretty well.

  8. Martin says:

    I’m kinda glad Crunchyroll are hosting this, because I can get my money’s worth out of my premium membership now that Squid Girl and Panty & Stocking have finished! Joking aside, I really like the first episode. But yeah, I’m not familiar with the manga so I felt like the story hit the ground running…it’ll need a second viewing before I can watch ep 2 and be comfortable with knowing the characters and their motives. By all means blog this episodically, because it’s pretty short and I’m sure you can get a lot out of the characterisation.

    Am I the only one who just thinks the cross-dressing thing will turn out to be more of an aesthetic thing though? It’s just that the whole experience of this made me think “everything about this episode is so cute and pretty…even the male lead!” I suppose I don’t want to dwell too much over the clothing preferences of the two protagonists when it’s such a lovingly-realised coming-of-age story overall. The cross-dressing is unusual and refreshing for sure, but drawing too much attention to that alone would make me feel like I’m disregarding the other things it’s trying to say.

    I can’t say how it recreates the original artist’s vision, but it does look lovely. Realistic portrayal of their emotions, gentle pacing…I think I’ll like it a lot.

  9. odorunara says:

    I really want to check this out now–thanks for the recommendation!

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