Hourou Musuko has always been about growing up, but rarely have we seen it expressed more literally than it was here.
In a nice change from recent trends, we get some real focus on Takatsuki. To be blunt (because there’s no other way to say it) she’s turning out to be a real hottie. She’s always been adorable, but she’s also tall and slender and developing in womanly ways. It only makes sense that she’s attracting a lot of attention from her male classmates, but it doesn’t stop there. Chiba is certainly aware, and so is Anna (with whom Takatsuki seems to be developing a surprising friendship). When she takes Takatsuki with her to a shoot, Anna’s boss ends up making note of Takatsuki’s natural style – and odd taste in clothes.
Where this gets really interesting is that Takatsuki (and we’ve seen this for a while) is reacting quite differently to her transition than Nitorin is. In brief, she seems to be edging towards becoming comfortable with being a woman. When she hears “you should show off your body more” her natural reaction isn’t as repulsed as it was – she wonders if maybe she should. Just as it’s getting harder for Nitorin to pass as a girl, it’s getting harder for Takatsuki to pass as a boy. But what does she really want, in the long-term – is this a phase, or is she slowly accepting her body for what it is? Takatsuki has been out of the spotlight so often that it’s hard to be comfortable with what she might be feeling here, but it’s quite interesting to see her spending time with Anna, given that they both share an interest in Nitorin.
As for him, Nitorin too continues to grow – and he seems more off his game about it than Takatsuki. There’s been a lot of reason for introspection for Shu, and it continues – there’s the boy pushing him to be in the cheer squad, which would mean wearing his middle-school gakuran – which Nitorin is horrified to discover no longer fits him (“It shrunk! Or has it?”) There’s also the matter of his elementary-school reunion, which forces him to confront all that’s changed – the area around the school, his circle of friends, the girl who had a crush on him. The symbolism is thick, and it’s been piling up on Nitorin for the last few chapters.
The fact is, Nitorin’s becoming a hottie too – as witness the reaction of the girls (who seem to be the only ones who’ve showed up) at the reunion. There’s a great sense of uncertainty in the air here as both the heroes lurch into full-on young adulthood – a time which would be uncertain and difficult for anyone (lending Hourou Musuko the universality it always seems to achieve) but all the more so given their special circumstances. Where will Shimura-sensei take these characters from here? The time of decision is racing towards Nitorin faster than Takatsuki – it’s always been easier for her, and it always will be easier for her to walk the middle path. For Shu, his body is insistently telling him that if he wants to continue to live both lives he has been, the workload necessary to do so is going to increase exponentially.