“Suki Tokimeki to Kisu”
I’m not sure what’s more impressive – the fact that Hourou Musuko has run for ten years, or the fact that it still feels so fresh and creatively alive after all that time.
It’s not unfair to say that I tend to have a soft spot for the first loves in school romance manga and anime – I think many of us do. You can add to that the fact that I loved Yoshino Takatsuki as a character right from the beginning, and it always seemed to me that she and Nitorin were fated to be together. They always struck me as soul-mates in the truest sense of the word, completing each other and offering each other solace and comfort and the sense of never being alone. Despite all the confusion and all the challenges they were sure to face, I always thought that was going to be enough.
So then, given that, it’s fair to say that Anna had a pretty high threshold of resistance to overcome as far as this reader was concerned. That makes it all the more impressive that I now consider her among my favorite characters in manga, and it’s hard for me to imagine that she and Nitorin won’t end up together. She did it with her straightforward honesty, her decency, and her obvious deep affection for Nitorin that wasn’t swayed by the things that made him such an unusual individual. She also wasn’t swayed by his own sister’s attempts to drive them apart, and by Shuu’s own doubts about himself, and how that self fit with a relationship with her. She never pushed too hard, but she was always there – one step ahead of him, maybe, but always stopping and waiting for Nitorin to catch up.
It was a pretty fitting 10th Anniversary chapter for Hourou Musuko then – a real milestone. Maho’s constant guilt trips finally pushed Nitorin to offer to break up with Anna, in order to help with her career. Anna reacted by immediately going to Nitorin’s house and demanding to see him, which she did (fresh out of the bath). There was a complete lack of BS in this interaction – not too much talking, just enough for her to communicate to him that whatever Shuu thought her priorities were, he was her priority. There was a worried kiss on the head after she realized he’d followed her into the night still damp from the tub (fitting, as she’s always seemed so much older than he in many ways), an embarrassed pause, then a completely winning first kiss for the both of them. It was deftly written and lived up to the expectation, and I wouldn’t have changed a frame.
What’s clear here is this: Anna and Shuu care very, very deeply for each other. They’re certainly attracted to each other physically, and probably in love with each other. There’s a lot of complicated stuff still happening in the story, but those things are now a part of the equation for certain, and possibly the most important part. What this means for Shuu’s future is hard to say, but Anna seems as if she’s certainly going to be a part of it. Yuki makes a revealing comment in the chapter’s side story, a segment where Makoto goes to her - dragging a surly Chiba along as a security blanket – to ask for a job (and probably even more to try and find a life model). Chiba answers Yuki’s question about whether Takatsuki still wants to be a boy with “I don’t think she thinks that way any more.” Yuki replies “Sometimes it just works out that way”. It was said to Chiba and Makoto about Takatsuki, but like so much in Hourou Musuko, what happens with the other characters is an important for what it might reveal about Shuu.
I’ve been of a mind that Shimura-sensei might be thinking of bringing this series to a close fairly soon, but now I’m not as convinced. The last few chapters have felt re-invigorated, and there’s still so much still to explore with these characters, most obviously now Shuu and Anna. Shuu’s very identity is still an open question, and while he seems more comfortable in his skin now than he ever has, he’s still very much in discovery mode when it comes to himself and his future. It’s a fascinating journey for all of the characters, and one of the very best manga of the last decade.