Hourou Musuko Episode Two

Well, someone already did a play on Wayward Son, so…

Let’s just start right into it.

I’m still not crazy about the character talking to the camera thing that they use to open this episode, although they thankfully don’t close out the episode that way. It just feels too after-school special that way… although less so with Saori, probably since she’s simply talking about her relationship with Nitori and Takatsuki, not about gender issues. However, I do feel as if Saori looks even less attractive as a character than she probably already seems, given how the book-hitting incident was rendered.

I actually really like Saori. I think she can be fairly cruel, but I also really enjoy how, well, harsh of a character she is. There are plenty of ice queen anime characters out there, but Saori’s characterization runs beyond “quiet, ignores people”, and leaves the moe out of it completely. She’s just not willing to take crap at all. I’m not sure I’d get along with her terribly well in real-life, but she’s a refreshing sort of female character.

She also contrasts with Sarashina quite a bit in the way she handles situations she doesn’t like. She’s just very calm and straightforward about it, none of the absurdity that Sarashina brings along. I do like Sarashina, too, but her character-type is a lot more common than Saori’s. I will note, though, that she doesn’t take it beyond believability.

Character I’m feeling bad for in this episode? Makoto. Poor kid. Hot for the teacher! That’s quite the first same-sex crush, isn’t it?

I’m sure a few people have fled Hourou Musuko with this episode, as what I think its true strength has become quite apparent, yet I also realize that slice-of-life makes some folks slice-of-sad (well, or slice-of-rage). Hourou Musuko handles things in such an understated manner that the entire thing ends up having a lot more impact than if everyone was screaming and throwing things. A lot of shows touching on LGBT themes often run to total melodrama, but HM avoids it by tempering its dead serious approach to these themes by having the most fraught moments be over things that most people deal with. Who hasn’t had inter-group tension over something like attraction? And who hasn’t had run-ins with people at school?

To most viewers, this comes off as a light ‘see, those people are just like everyone else’ thing. However, to some LGBT viewers, its a little more complex than that. Instead, the message becomes ‘see, those people who are like you are like everyone else’ which in turn becomes ‘you’re like everyone else’. On the face of it, not being a  little snowflake may seem a bit bleak, but this is actually a comforting thing, as many folks are used to dealing with a sense of isolation and alienation. And even if those feelings are in the past, there’s still something utterly refreshing about seeing oneself reflected in pop culture.

I also like this approach since it isn’t so angst-soaked. There are characters who are unhappy in this show. But there’s this overall positive feeling about the show; it isn’t drowning in sorrow. None of these kids are complete social outcasts. They’ve got good friends, and they overall seem to be pretty happy. In fact, their tableau of friendship right at the end made me nostalgic for middle school! Or, ha, rather, a middle school that never was! But, seriously? Making me yearn for those days again? Well, shit, they must be making it all look pretty damn good, considering I’d rather gouge out my own eye teeth with a paint scraper than go re-visit my middle school era.

So, yes, the kids have their issues. But you know what? The kids are alright. What a wonderful concept.

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12 Responses to Hourou Musuko Episode Two

  1. Caddy C says:

    I just watched the first episode of HM, but haven’t gotten to the second one yet – really looking forward to it!! 🙂 I like what you say here:

    “lot of shows touching on LGBT themes often run to total melodrama, but HM avoids it by tempering its dead serious approach to these themes by having the most fraught moments be over things that most people deal with.”

    I agree with this, even in the first episode – the incident over the dress was heartbreaking, even though in the larger scheme of things it’s only one evening out of an entire lifetime.

    You had asked in your first post on HM if any non-manga readers were a bit confused at first, and I admit that I was. But it all sorted itself out by the middle/later part of the episode.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Read the manga! Seriously, its incredibly good, and you’ll get the whole backstory on what has come before where the anime picks up the narrative. However, in admonishing you to read the manga, I will also have to say that you should pre-order the first English language volume which is set to be released in May.

      • Caddy C says:

        I’m definitely going to get the English releases – they’re going to be hardcover, which is interesting and could be very cool.

        I’d like to read the backstory, because while watching episode two I kept getting the feeling that I was missing a whole lot of story. You just kindof have to take the anime’s word that the characters have this rich history with one another, and I’d like to have seen where those relationships developed from.

        Plus, it’s confusing as hell! I don’t think that I’d really change it, but it is confusing. Like another commenter said, the story unfolds in such a way that in the beginning we are confused about the events that led to the current emotional conflict, but curious enough to keep watching. The conflicts aren’t simple and the relationships aren’t either, but somehow they’re able to make the audience care about them enough to keep going until they get to the flashback that explains the particulars.

  2. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

    This is the best post I could ever hope to read about this episode. I think you nailed it (which is just a vain way of saying your thoughts speak for mine).

    I love how it’s so angst-ridden — it’s all there oh my god it’s all there, but nothing’s overwrought and played cheaply. I think your sympathy for Saorin is pretty cool. She is perhaps the snowflake of a character in this episode. The show doesn’t sell her out. She is a vile young thing — that’s so fortunate to have the kind of friends she has.

    Also your take on the LOLGBTMAOcopter&c element is rather precious. I don’t like it so much to think in terms of messages (as intentions), but rather meanings that can be made by whoever’s watching (but that’s me). I’m all for self-affirmation, but the binary that the snowflake idea presents is that I — who am heterosexual is not special like them in a general and objective sense.

    This isn’t about a gender conflict on my part, but rather just reflecting on the idea of self-affirmation as an individual while seeking comfort in finding a group to conform with or conforms to the self’s idea of itself.

    “We’re all special” also renders special near bankrupt of useful meaning. But not completely, I think. I think anyone can look appreciatively upon the characters in this story and the genesis of identity in the face of consequence. Saorin’s is effective in this, I think:

    People will choose to be our friends despite how vile we are, maybe not because we are that special, but because they are.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      I think I’m not quite getting what you’re saying in paragraphs three through five of your comment, I must be honest. I get parts of it, but I’m being obtuse overall, I fear. I’m a bit embarrassed, as I am sure I’m just being slow (I’ve had a pretty rough work schedule this week), but could you please clarify a bit?
      The more pessimistic view of people choosing friends, of course, is that we are all a bit vile and so this is what draws us to one another. Either we are seeking like people in order to make ourselves feel less alone, or we are seeking out people we judge to be even worse than we ourselves are in order to make us feel better about our own vileness.
      I think Saori comes off a little more sympathetically in the manga since we get to know her better. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to call her a ‘nice’ person in the manga. She’s thirteen, she’s miserable, and she projects this misery outwards by being cold to people and actively hating them. Sounds like a thirteen year old!

      • If I understood correctly, a concern you raise here is that LGBT viewers may find the characters they would sympathize with not so special since they’re like everyone else.

        If indeed the LGBT people in general are not special, or, just about as special as everyone else, this is no great tragedy — even if it seems to impact self-affirmation adversely.

        Some things important to consider:

        1. There’s nothing wrong with them (LGBT)
        2. If Saorin can be very wrong and yet be loved, why not them?
        2.1. It’s because people have a great capacity to love, so by all means love everyone (which means forgive as much as one can).

      • adaywithoutme says:

        Oh, ok. Now I get what you were trying to say.
        No, I was saying that it is good to not view the characters as ‘special’ – to see them as being just like their classmates. Because seeing them as being just like their classmates is seeing them as ‘normal’. And normal means not isolated and alienated… which is a huge piece of the experience when one is an adolescent and realizing that they differ in some manner from their classmates or at least perceive that they do.
        Sorry I wasn’t clear enough in the original post.

  3. krizzlybear says:

    As someone who has never read the manga, I too had problems with keeping track of the characters that seemed to have been introduced all at once. However, the real beauty of the adaptation in itself is that the writers managed to not only be very efficient with their lines, but were very meticulous about the way the story was structured.

    For example, the backstory regarding the little triangle seemed confusing at first when it was mentioned in the second episode, but the efficiency of the writing made the lines implicit enough that we’d ride on our curiosity until they put the flashback scene. Overall, it was a bit of a bumpy transition, but considering how much material they probably needed to cover, it feels like they chose the right spots to capture the general mood of the story.

    I’m not going to read the manga for this one. If I feel that I need to read the manga to understand it, then the show fails in its storytelling. So far, they’re passing with flying colours.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Honestly, I’d recommend at least reading the manga after it finishes airing, then. The manga is extremely good. In fact, I wish everyone would read it, honestly.
      I have liked how they’ve gone about revealing prior events to the story – they haven’t drowned us in flashbacks, which would be very easy to do with the material. We’re all learning just enough to understand the story.

  4. hikaru says:

    As someone who hasn’t read the manga yet, I really really dislike Saorin. Was she always such a bitter person?

    I also don’t get if Shu’s sister gets along with him or not.

    The watercolours are starting to grow on me. Although the rainbow coloured credits are kind of annoying.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      I’ve fallen madly in love with the backgrounds. I’m not wholly sold on how the characters themselves have been rendered.

  5. Martin says:

    Heh, I’d rather gouge my eyes out than go through any part of my pre-uni school life so I’ll mightlily pleased with myself for being able to get over this stylised portrayal of middle school and enjoy it for what it is.

    Oddly, Saori’s ‘straightforwardness’ is what I like about her. The best thing about the characters in general though is that they’re all varied and individual, yet the varied-ness isn’t drawn along the usual lines of character archetypes. It really feels as though they’re based on real people.

    I’m sure there’ll be some tearjerking moments later on, but there’s a comforting and life-affirming vibe in this show that makes you think that things may actually turn out okay after all, but without sugar-coating it or dumbing down.

    I can’t wait to discover where the peculiar and strained brother/sister dynamic between Shuuichi and Maho comes from though. It’s strange…out of all the people who know his secret she’s the least understanding about it, and yet I’d expect her, as a family member, to have a less confrontational attitude towards it. Perhaps there’s a bit of jealousy there, what with the pressure on her to be a model (I recall one of my sisters jokingly complaining “why is it you can you apply eyeliner better than I can?”)? Ir’ll be interesting to find out.

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