【Manga】放浪息子 / Hourou Musuko

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

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/

2 thoughts on “【Manga】放浪息子 / Hourou Musuko

  1. I think that the treatment of the themes of transgenderism feels very natural because there is a kind of sincerity in Shimura Takako’s works that makes it feel very authentic, if not realistic. It’s a theme she writes about quite often, and I feel like she might identify strongly with several of her characters.

    It’s indeed true that even as a fan of Hourou Musuko, I failed to develop a true relation of affection for any character; if I often feel moé and/or empathic for one or the other members of the cast, it’s mainly a temporary feeling caused by Shimura’s genial arranging of glances and blushes. I must say, however, that (for personal reasons) I identify very well with Ariga Makoto, and that the last chapter made my heart skip several beats.
    On the other hand, I’m not really familiar with the idea of hating characters, except in the frequent occurrence of a series with a frustrating protagonist; that is not Hourou Musuko’s case. Most of them, even if full of human flaws, end up exhibiting problems and conflicting feelings that make them attaching.
    I also disagree about Takatsuki Yoshino’s personality, which is indeed less obvious than Ariga’s or Chiba’s, but that I find nevertheless very interesting. I think her way of struggling and her position on her own gender is very different from Nitori’s. That makes it at the same time less obvious and more interesting, because the contrast makes their relations more subtle.

    I must say that, despite being a fan of Shimura, I can’t agree with your affirmation that the character designs are recognizable. I came to like them, and I’m now in an instantly moééééé/o\ state when I catch a glimpse of any drawing by Takako Shimura (especially if the character is blushing), but on the other hand, I often find some characters very hard to recognize.

    Well, anyway, can’t wait for the next chapter!

    1. Authentic is a really good word to describe this work (and her other works too?), and I could really feel the sincerity in the manga, but there wasn’t so much of it that I was splendidly overwhelmed by it. (Does this even make sense orz)

      I don’t hate the protagonists of HM at all, but it’s the frustrating side characters (MAHO FFF, Shirai, Doi, Doi’s stupid little friend) who continually pick on the helpless kids that drive me insane. I guess they were created to be sort of the antagonists, but I really detest them through and through.
      Takatsuki might be interesting, but I find it really jarring that I’m unable to describe her personality at all, and that might be because she displays so much inconsistency in character.

      Wao, I personally thought that the character designs were really varied within the manga, and as long as the characters are shown in the manga, I could recognize them, but if they were drawn in unlabelled fanart or something of the sort, I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart because they’re ordinary looking otherwise.

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