Hourou Musuko, Gender, and Orientation

Oh, look – I finally did another post.

One minor spoiler for the manga… which anime watchers may’ve figured out already anyway.

I’ve talked about this in my episode posts before, but I wanted to delve into it a little more and also address related things. I honestly believe that one of the strongest messages of Hourou Musuko is that sexual orientation is, essentially, a non-issue. People fall in love with other people… and that’s it. It’s not a big deal if they’re a girl or a boy or if they’re trans or if they’re cis. It’s just love.

Now, this isn’t to say that HM argues against there being sexual orientation. Just that it doesn’t matter much. Love is love.

But, let me go into something else before I go any further with that, because I think the entire matter of gender needs to be covered before I can really explicate upon love and orientation. Gender is a much more contentious point than orientation is, honestly, because once you begin to question gender and whether it is fixed or not, or tied to someone’s sex or not, it upsets a much, much larger system than does homosexuality. Actually, the reasons for why trans issues tend to be more divisive than homosexuality are much like the reasons for why bisexuality troubles people a whole lot more than homosexuality.

Essentially, bisexuality and transgenderism both dig at the foundations for our “orderly” system of attraction. In case you haven’t noticed, humans largely prefer dichotomies to more complicated schemes. This is due to the fact that most definitions for the various labels we affix to things define them in contrast to what they are not. For example, in America, what are minorities? Minorities are people who are not Caucasian. I bring up this one in particular since it also allows me to point out that biracial marriages were also deeply disturbing because they upset a dichotomy – what is the biracial child of a Caucasian and African-American couple? Is that child Caucasian? African-American? What are they?

Of course, it all boils back to the fact that as a species we tend to dislike ambiguity. Or, even more simply: once upon a distant time, when we were still living in caves and all that jazz, the dark was scary because we didn’t know what was in it, and in those days there was a LOT of stuff that could kill us potentially in that darkness. So, we don’t really like questions without definite answers. (And, really, the darkness is still full of lots and lots of scary stuff in many, many places.)


We define things in contrast. And, so, our systems tend toward dichotomies. If you are a gay man, then you like men. I am not a gay man; therefore, I do not need to be concerned that you will be attracted to me. Attraction complicates human relations. As such, I can feel an ease with you that I may not feel with a straight man (theoretically – I would argue that this tendency to feel more at ease with one’s same-sex peers isn’t nearly at the level it was in previous generations, at least in America; my closest friend in college was a guy, for instance, although I probably would still have felt weird changing in front of him… on the other hand, I don’t really like changing in front of anyone, male or female, so… well… guess it didn’t make a difference!). Or, even more simply, the locker room experience – one of the things brought up multiple times in the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell debate was, oh my lord, you want me to shower with the gays?!?! They’ll be checking me out! (Never mind that they were already there and studiously not checking anyone out… or that even with repeal that sexual harassment is a punishable offense.)

So, knowledge of orientation when heterosexual or homosexual puts people at ease at least since it seems predictive of future behavior. A gay girl will like girls, a straight girl will like boys.

But bisexuals throw this entire system into flux because, holy hell, they could like anyone! You, me, my neighbor Bob! They could date a girl, and then marry a man. They could be married to a man and cheat on him with a woman! How can we ever possibly pin them down?

Transgender people throw even more of a monkey wrench in, since their gender is in variance with their sex. If a woman has a crush on a transman, what does that mean for her own orientation? If he is dressing as a man but still has female sexual features, does that mean the woman is gay? Or is she straight because he appears to be a man?

Let’s actually pull one of the characters from HM into this – Nitori. Nitori feels that he is really a girl. Nitori likes girls. Does that mean that Nitori is gay, then? Or do his sexual features over-ride his gender identity, thus meaning that he is straight?

Of course, talking about Nitori and Takatsuki PERIOD brings up issues because of pronouns. I tend toward using ‘he’ for Nitori and ‘she’ for Takatsuki because of their own discussion about the usage of personal pronouns and the fact that they intend to retain the one’s they are used to already – ‘boku’ for Nitori, ‘watashi’ for Takatsuki.

Anyway, straight or gay or what? Personally, I’d say “who the fuck cares?”, but I also realize I’m better adjusted than about 85% of the population. For many these things actually kind of matter. But it does bring me back to my initial statement – that HM is making an argument for orientation not mattering much. The kids in HM certainly don’t seem to be troubled by their personal attractions. Poor Mako-chan is so far shit out of luck because he gets crushes on men and boys who aren’t interested in other men or boys, but he isn’t bothered by the fact that he’s gay.

To quote from a much earlier post:

Saori has a crush on Nitori, and likes having him dressed up in girls’ clothing. Seya had a crush on Nitori originally because he thought that he was a she, now he dates Maho, but he’s still clearly a bit thrown off by Nitori – he blushes when he sees Maho trying to strip him and also before that when in conversation with him at school. And Nitori himself has a crush on a girl who wants to be a boy and often dresses as one.

But no one is sitting around working out how this complicates their orientations at all. The only person it comes up with at all is the aforementioned Mako-chan, and his is one of the most clear-cut: he’s gay, and he thinks that may be why he wants to be a girl. As the manga progresses, this take on it strengthens.

And then there’s Yuki and Shi-chan. Unfortunately, we don’t know very much about the early part of their relationship, but we do know that Shi-chan tried his best to protect Yuki from bullies in high school when Yuki did dress as a guy but wished to be a girl. Did Yuki also get bullied for seeming to be gay? Is Shi-chan straight, gay, or bisexual?

These questions aren’t answered, and I doubt they will be – because they don’t matter. Yuki and Shi-chan love each other. The end. It is that which matters.

Saori likes Nitori but wants him in girls’ clothing. Nitori likes girls… and a girl who identifies as a boy. Seya had a crush on Nitori but ends up dating his sister. Who cares what it meant about their orientation? The feeling matters, not the gender or whether the perceived gender differed from the sex.

It is interesting to view this, also, within the larger pantheon of Takako Shimura works. In Aoi Hana, there is one character who identifies as gay, and several characters who display both heterosexual and homosexual attractions. In Happy-Go-Lucky Days, a few characters identify as gay, and one identifies as straight but does some things that are not so straight; there are also just a lot of people who are involved with people but make no statement as to their orientation.

Some of this is a reflection of society – in “modernized” societies (e.g. where it is okay to at least some extent to ID as gay), people don’t usually put a name to their orientation of their own volition unless they are gay, since it is the deviation from the standard (in this case I mean ‘deviation’ and ‘standard’ in neutral ways – most people are straight; therefore, this would be a standard, and something different from that would be a deviation; think of it like statistics – ‘deviation’ is not a bad word in that). So straight people having sex with someone of the opposite sex isn’t going to sit around and say something like “I’m straight.” The only Shimura character who does does so because his twin brother is gay, so he feels a need to establish that he is not. Even though he ends up doing some things that aren’t really heterosexual in nature… although, yeah, often people will declare their heterosexuality even more strenuously as they are behaving in non-heterosexual ways.

But there’s also a bit of idealization in all of it as well. People kicking off their shoes and just rolling with things is the way Shimura may wish things are – coming back, once again, to gender not mattering in relation to attraction – but is isn’t largely the way things are. Most people will have a crisis if they are suddenly attracted to someone outside of the purview of their orientation. Most people are not well-adjusted enough to be okay with it. It is something they will have to adjust to… or something they won’t be able to and then will have issues about.

Of course, some may counter that Shimura does have characters who identify as gay and show no evidence to the contrary. Which is true. But since for these characters the fact that they like people of the same sex doesn’t give them angst, I argue that it is further evidence that Shimura thinks gender doesn’t matter much for attraction. People just love who they love! Peace and love, man! Bring out the doughnuts!

In other words: yes, Mako-chan may only like guys, but that he does isn’t hyper-relevant. It is the emotion, not the gender, that is of importance.

WOW! That ended up being wickedly long! Remember, folks: PEACE AND RABUUU~

EDIT: I just started re-reading Shimura’s Boku wa, Onna no ko since I couldn’t really remember what went on it since I read it so long ago. The basic story is that suddenly everyone on earth switches sexes. One of the characters talks about how the love someone for who they are, so the switch in sexes doesn’t bother them, but that not everyone was able to deal with it, including their spouse.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Hourou Musuko, Gender, and Orientation




    In other aspects, I am rather disturbed at how gender and sexuality is explored in these works especially WS as such a thought exercise. I’d think of it as wankery if not for the amazing work in fleshing out the characters. It really is amazing, even just from the anime.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Since Cara and I are going to start up with Shiki reviews again, then, yes, you probably will end up wanting to read it~

      Takako Shimura is basically amazing, so, yeah, no surprises there!

  2. Aorii says:

    I’ll vote for “who the fuck cares” also~ xD
    but really, it might be human nature to fear what’s not understood or what’s not clearly defined, but that 85% of the population should work on getting adapted to modernities, not expecting modern cultural changes to swing back around for them. Although I admit, it IS an interesting question to ponder— whether Nitorin is ‘gay’ or ‘straight’. Imo though, they probably need new terminology, since this feels like trying to stuff square pegs into round holes again 😛
    and woah… didn’t know Nitori’s story was actually based on a past manga of hers, thanks (need read now~)

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Well, although I would say in defense of that 85% that they are trending to adjusting to it all – consider, for instance, the changing rate of people in American whom are in support of gay marriage. It just keeps going up, in large part due to the slow aging out of the segments of the population most opposed to it. (And I am using the US since it is the place I am most familiar with!)

      Um, not really sure how you got that Nitori’s story comes from a past manga of hers, honestly. If there is one, I have yet to come across it – Nitori is 100% new =)

      • Aorii says:

        Well, you said for Boku wa, Onna no ko that “the basic story is that suddenly everyone on earth switches sexes.”, which seems to be along the lines of Nitorin’s original idea… mmmh.

  3. Alice says:

    Hi there,

    I am not sure how far you are in the manga and I do not want to step on any toes, but I believe that Yuki and Shi’s relationship is pretty clearly defined. Shi was dressed up like a girl by his sisters when he was little and for a while he thought he wanted to be a girl. He knew Yuki in middle school, though the part about him defending her from bullies seems to have been refuted. Later he finds out she is working as an Okama (or transvestite/transsexual) in a bar and goes to meet with her until they start dating. He knows what he has gotten himself into and is either gay or bisexual but seems fairly confident being with Yuki, even when she goes to the school festival in a men’s suit.

    That said, I think the topic of sexual relationships is only just now being reached for the main characters. They talk about love and some of them are dating, but only at the middle/early-high school age where dating at most means making out every now and then. Again, not sure how far you are in the manga, but Anna clearly says that she was attracted to Shuu simply because he was a boy who said he liked her and despite his obvious femininity she was painting him with this image of manliness that was not there. When Shuu goes to school in the seifuku, she can no longer hold this image in her mind (though she managed their karaoke date somehow) and she dumps him. Later I think she comes to accept Shuu as he is, because she finds she is attracted to the person he is and not just a boy or a girl, which seems somewhat realistic.

    I also feel like Mako, who knows he is gay at this point, goes through his own fair share of shame with regards to that as well, though we do not see too much of it as he is such an auxiliary character.

    • I have read enough of the manga to know that despite the fact that Anna and Nitori do end up broken up at one point, they come around to the point where Nitori gives Anna a ring for Christmas and she’s happy to receive it… so I guess the gender thing didn’t matter after all, did it? But I didn’t want to drag that in since I wished to make this post accessible to anime-only watchers and those who have an interest in reading the manga once the anime has concluded.

      And I never said that Shi-chan doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into – just that its a non-issue.

      You may feel that Mako has had some gayngst about his homosexuality, but that doesn’t mean that he has.

  4. Janette says:

    A lot of people forget that sexuality is complicated, and simple labels don’t work. If you try to label me, I should be a lesbian. But whoops, I have a boyfriend.

    In the end, it is what it is.

  5. Pingback: Suggested Reading March 20-27th « Black and Blue Socks

  6. odorunara says:

    I always laugh/cry a little about the “showering with the gays!” thing. Hello, you have been for years, just now you might know who is who. /sigh

    I do like HM (anime) for the reason that it presents sexuality in a fluid way, and that, four episodes in, most of the cast seems pretty chill with Nitori’s and Takatsuki’s trans-ness. (Though I wonder if it’s perhaps because some of them don’t truly understand the difference between cross-dressing and being transgender.) It’s good to have media like this that treat sexual orientation/gender/sex as normal (vs. violence and death), but at the same time, it erases some of the very real issues that these children will face as teens and adults. In a way, it’s like my own world: whereas people in the circles I run in are, if not queer themselves, very attuned to queer issues, when I pop outside this world to the town where I grew up or among “normal” people, I do see the prejudice, misunderstanding, and potential for danger. I do like that HM strikes a good balance between “they’re just like us” and “they have their own issues”–it normalizes queer issues by showing that the kids are ultimately just kids, but it shows some of the problems cis-gendered people don’t have/understand, like the fear of puberty changing one fully into a body one doesn’t want.

    Peace and Love!!

  7. Pingback: » Une fille née avec un coeur de garçon. (Part2) 遊☆戯☆王 CiRCUS!

  8. “Saori likes Nitori but wants him in girls’ clothing.” – I think that Saori just plays around with a cute person the same way Anna did in the beginning. I’d say from her discussions with Nitorin and Takatsuki that she’s quite strongly heterosexual, although her feelings for Takatsuki might slide to the romantic side. And still I can imagine her freaking out, if she were to eat a pussy…

    You did an awesome work here! I have had almost the same thoughts for some time now, but I will say that although human sexuality is very complex and fluid, there are some people for whom gender is clearly a huge issue and I don’t speak only about heterosexuals. I’ve been bothered about the shower issue and I’m not sure, what opinion should I express about it. On the one hand, even if a gay/lesbian person shares the same shower and does see someone in a wanton way, I’d say ‘what’s so annoying about it’? Being the object of someone’s fantasy isn’t that uncommon and somehow is flattering in my mind. Plus nudity isn’t necessarily sth sexual. On the other hand, I wouldn’t like any silly person to drool over me. Especially boys have an immatureness concerning sizes and extreme sex talks that can be humiliating.

Comments are closed.