Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hourou Musuko - 111

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“Sprout”

It occurs to me that in many a series, Suehiro Anna could have been the character everyone loves to hate.  She’s pretty, she’s successful, and she’s an interloper – not only does she arrive in the middle of the story, but she winds up stealing the protagonist from his childhood friend, who also happens to be his soul mate.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the hanging.  I grew to love Anna – and I don’t think I’m alone in that.  In fact it didn’t take very long after her introduction for me to get past the instinctive distrust and really grow fond of her.  She’s a terrific character and a terrific person, and this chapter largely focuses on her – specifically, the challenges of her relationship with Nitorin.

Before that, we get a brief visit from Sasa-chan – still short and still obsessed about it.  As with so much in Hourou Musuko the feelings of one character start a daisy chain that winds up back with Shuu in the end, and here it starts with Sasa’s visit to Takatsuki – whom she points out is “looking more adult than ever”.  Takatsuki is continuing to waver about this whole looking like a woman thing, but Anna is encouraging her to discover her own sense of style.  In that odd and mischievous way she has, Anna takes Takatsuki along on a planned meetup with Nitorin, and he compliments her on her long hair and new look in that completely feckless Shuu way, because, well – he’s Shuu.

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Anna’s planned sleepover at Nitoin’s house is nominally “to hang out with Maho”, and while that does happen, it’s clear that Anna has other thoughts on her mind.  I don’t especially care for Maho urging Anna to break up with Shuu at every opportunity, and I don’t think Maho is someone Anna should be taking relationship advice from – her constant bullying of the kindly Seya isn’t exactly a model of a healthy teen romance.  Just because she’s so jealous she can’t bear the thought of Seya complimenting another girl, does that mean Anna should feel the same way?

The truth of the matter is that Anna is well aware that Nitorin is hardly a conventional boy in any way.  He can tell a girl (or a woman) they look beautiful without dissolving into stammering shyness, and Anna would indeed like it if he reserved those words for her.  More than that, I think, is that Anna is simply ready to take their relationship to the next level.  There’s a certain contradiction to her relationship with Shuu – the things that make him unique are what draws her to him, but she also craves a conventional boyfriend.

I don’t think we’ve seen any evidence that Nitorin isn’t thinking about a physical relationship just as Anna is, but that’s only part of the issue here.  When Anna haltingly asks him not to compliment other girls, part of it is a result of the seeds Maho planted in her head, but I think more than anything she just wants a stamp of ownership on Nitorin’s affections – she wants to know how he feels, and that what he feels is desire for her.  And she deserves that – the next big question of the series may well be whether or not Shuu is able to satisfy that need (and perhaps certain others) and whether the two of them will survive as a couple and take their relationship to the next level.

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7 comments:

  1. No comments? This was one of the best chapters in a while in my opinion. I love the emphasis on the relationship between Shuu and Anna.

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  2. I could barely get a comment on my posts for the anime, never mind the manga. It's sad, but this series has a pretty limited audience in English.

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  3. Ugh, I wish so badly the series had more readers, because it is one of the most touching, brilliantly paced, peaceful, and thoughtful looks into, not just transexuals, crossdressers, and whatever ridiculously label people want to put on it, but relationships and the thoughts of children as they grow. It's amazingly well written and never rushed or played up for excess drama.

    It my favorite slice of life manga, tied with Yokohama for first place. I just adore everything about it.

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  4. I don't care what you call them, these are indeed great characters. Especially Nitorin - one of the best leads in any series, adult, child or teen. He's a beautiful soul.

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  5. Oh man, I am so far behind on this, I need to catch up.

    I do wish that Fantagraphics would pull their finger out and release more often than twice a year, and while I do like the big hardbacks, I can't help thinking they're shooting themselves in the foot by not offering a paperback option at a lower price which might be more attractive to the casual reader.

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  6. so, Shuu's boss is an old classmate of Yuki? I had to go back just to make sure this is the same character from before - haven't seen her and Shi for a while. I like how Shimura sensei never drops a character, and they all get a chance to grow even when not in connection to the main plot (like 98% of what goes on with Ebina). I wish we could get more of Seya than just mentioning, though - he's a pricne

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    1. Actually, I didn't make that connection until you mentioned it. Good catch.

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