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.