【Manga】放浪息子 / Hourou Musuko

Found out about this slightly overlooked manga thanks to Enthousiaste on Twitter. Thank you!

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NITORI Shuuichi (short-haired boy), who is the protagonist, and his elementary school friend CHIBA Saori (black-haired girl). (Illust: 志村貴子)

Title: 放浪息子 (Hourou Musuko/Transient Son)
Author: 志村貴子 (SHIMURA Takako)
Volumes: 9+ (78 chapters at the time of posting)
Genre: Seinen (Drama, Slice of Life, Gender Bender)
Status: Ongoing, scanlated by Kotonoha (Ch.1-34) and anonymous (35+)
My Rating: 7.7/10

Fifth-grader NITORI Shuuichi is a very girly boy, and his friend TAKATSUKI Yoshino happens to be a very boyish girl. Nitori wishes he was born a girl, and Takatsuki wishes she was born as a boy. They soon find out about each others’ odd wishes, and throughout the course of growing up together, they’re made to question their genuine wishes of becoming the opposite gender.

Despite being based on the theme of transgenderism, this manga felt more to me like a regular life drama/growing up story than anything else. We have a relatively large, memorable, and diverse cast, and the character interactions are usually developed through childhood classmates or crushes, which makes the manga pretty easy to relate to. There’s also a lot of internal agonizing about personal issues and friendship problems too. The instances of actually showing them doing something kind of controversial things (cross-dressing, befriending a transvestite) are pretty few and far between, and mostly come off as trivial or even not-as-ordinary child’s play. I do enjoy seeing the issue addressed, and to do it this subtly makes it seem more realistic and accessible, but on the other hand, it just seems so insignificant at times. I’ll admit that it made me very curious about non-fiction Japanese crossdressers, though.

As for the cast of characters, they are all unique and impressionable, but I wholly failed to develop any real attachment to any of them, even after reading 78 chapters. I also found myself hating about 80% of all the characters in the manga (especially the secondary classmate characters, who are almost all absolutely detestable.), and if I didn’t hate a character, I was indifferent to them, save for two or three. The only character who I can say I actually like seeing was the gorgeous CHIBA Saori, whom I despised at first, but after seeing some much-needed character development (and fashion), she became my favourite. Having a slightly despotic and weird personality helps as well. A close second is Yuki, who steals almost every scene she appears in, and a distant third is Takatsuki, who looks awesome, but lacks a definable personality for the most part.

The artwork looks exactly like it’s from a children’s storybook, with round faces and eyes on all the characters (even for the teenagers and adults!), lots of white space and clean lines, as well as a watercolour-like colouring style for the covers. (Those familiar with Shimura’s other work, like Aoi Hana/Sweet Blue Flowers, would not be surprised about this.) The art is incredibly fitting and impeccable, and Shimura’s lovely fashion sense along with the simple but recognizable character designs also makes (mostly) everyone look attractive and recognizable.

Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hōrō_Musuko
Scanlation at Onemanga: http://www.onemanga.com/Hourou_Musuko/

RE:Kimi ni Todoke 4

I swear I’m not obsessed with this series.

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Does that look like the face of a terrible mastermind to you!!

Another superb episode titled “Rumours” that follows chapter 4 of the manga exactly, with select modified scenes from Chapter 5 and about two anime-original scenes. Unlike the last episode, episode 4’s tone was quite heavy, with only three or four humourous scenes, but being the high quality shoujo that Kimi ni Todoke is, it’s not overly dramatic or silly at all, and is pretty easy to relate to. The internal agonies of the four main characters here are slightly heartwrenching(?), and the episode might make one break out in a few tears if one is highly sensitive to the plights of our dear characters. If I remember correctly, the manga version of this arc drove me insane with grief or whatever it was for a few minutes.

Gist(?) of the episode: Continuing from Episode 3, the drama being brought up here is that Sawako is supposedly spreading rumours about Sano and Yoshida, and that she’s also a terrible mastermind who commands Kazehaya with Sano and Yoshida backing her up. Obviously that’s not the case, and Sano and Yoshida don’t believe the rumours, but the two start to have their doubts after seeing a few things that test their confidence in the matter. Sano and Yoshida ask Sawako what she thinks of them, she half-replies that she “doesn’t like them, but…”, and the two just cut her off and assume that Sawako really doesn’t like them. Sawako notices that her friends look down, and after hearing the rumours about how she herself is supposedly making Sano, Yoshida, and Kazehaya miserable, she decides that the best action to take is to avoid her three friends so she doesn’t hurt them anymore. This avoidance technique makes the three sad and worsens the situation.

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Production I.G. is so Incredibly Great that it looks nice even in crapres.

The next episode is called 決意 (Ketsui/Decision), which has the same title as Chapter 6 in the manga. Ketsui also happens to be the title of a very good shmup by CAVE, but that has nothing to do with this series (Unfortunately!).

On another note, the Kimi ni Todoke DS game (育てる思い/Sodateru Omoi/Nurturing Feelings) came out last week! I haven’t played it, but it basically puts you in Sawako’s shoes as you go through all the manga scenarios, with a few original scenes written especially for the game. The limited first press edition version comes with a cellphone strap with a Sawako charm on the end that changes colour depending on how much light it gets. (Termed as a UV strap)

【Touhou PV】 Bad Apple!! 影絵 (Bad Apple!! Shadow Art PV)

I try my best to avoid posting insubstantial material, but this is far too incredible.

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Posted on October 27th, 2009 by an anonymous uploader (with an account name of あにら/anira), this is an entirely black and white PV with the silhouettes of moving 3D models choreographed to Alstroemeria Records’ Bad Apple!! Touhou vocal arrange song, sung by nomico. The PV maker used the storyboard drawn on MS Paint by someone called MMM, who posted his story board video in June 2008, and fully fleshed out the whole video, making incredible sense of a mostly poorly-drawn, vague plan. The video is currently 1st on the hourly rankings at the time of posting.

The fluidity of this PV is nothing short of impeccable, and might as well have been a professional work, though I guess that’s what Touhou seems to elicit a lot from its super large fanbase. I’ve watched this about 3 times now, and I will probably keep watching it a few more times. I’ve embedded a Youtube video on the bottom of this post, but don’t forget to take a look at the comparison as well if you have a niconico account. (Links below)

【東方】Bad Apple!! PV【影絵】
Nico | Youtube
Original Storyboard | Comparison (Both are niconico only)

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