Different, Yet The Same As You: A Review of 'Hourou Musuko'

 

hourou-musuko-01It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to read manga, having spent a good bit of time—and money—perusing the Japanese art form many years ago.  But, at the near insistence of one of my best friends, I started reading a series that not only had I never heard of, but is still in production.  I have tried to avoid current ongoing titles simply because I hate waiting for new releases from overseas—and I certainly can’t read kanji worth an Imperial credit chit—but this series drew my attention right away because of the subject matter:

Two school kids wanting to be the opposite gender of their genetically-born ones, because that’s who they really are.

SPOILERS BELOW


Summary (Covering up to Chapter #110)


Since there’s so much of it, I’m not going to give full details as it would make this article longer than a U.S. Senate Bill; however, if you wish to read the series, I suggest visiting www.mangareader.net/582/horou-musuko.html.


Right at the beginning, Nitori Shuuichi (Shuu) is mistaken for his slightly older sister, due to his feminine looks, by the teachers at his new school.  Not long afterward, he befriends a girl in his same grade, Takatsuki Yoshino (Yoshino), and starts to spend time with her.  The first time over at her house, Shuu sees a dress hanging up in Yoshino’s room, to which Yoshino suggests he wear because he’d look cute in it.


Very soon, a new friend is made with Chiba-san, a girl who eventually comes to have feelings for Shuu and a strong dislike for Yoshino.  One day, she catches Shuu in a dress while visiting him, but instead of being disgusted, she agrees that he looks good in female garb.  Aware that Yoshino gave him the dress, Chiba-san gives him clothes as well, which he feels unhappy about taking (and causes a problem between the three of them).  For a long while, Chiba-san doesn’t speak to anyone, but then returns as though things haven’t really changed.


Meanwhile, Yoshino states that she dislikes wearing dresses and prefers neutral or male-oriented clothing.  She goes so far as to dress in her older brother’s school uniform and rides the rail to a far off spot so no one she knows will see her walking around.  She confesses this to Shuu when she discovers he’s been wearing dresses, and the two of them start traveling on the rail every now and then for the purposes of dressing without anyone knowing them.  Not long after this starts, the two meet a transwoman named Yuki-san, who helps them understand a little about what they’re feeling.


Throughout their time in school, Shuu and Yoshino get bullied and teased because of their desire to wear opposite gender clothing, even though it’s not widely known by everyone.  Two boys in particular have become a constant problem, prompting Chiba-san to make her displeasure known by several verbal means.  Despite the teasing, the grade puts on a play in which gender roles are swapped for all participants, allowing Yoshino and Shuu to dress the way they want without being ridiculed for it. (In fact, the gender-swapping play is a recurring theme throughout the series as a way for the two to dress how they wish.)


At one point, Chiba-san makes her feelings for Shuu known, but at the same time Shuu makes his feelings for Yoshino known.  Neither Shuu nor Yoshino respond to the confessions in a positive way, and a rift between the three open up that lasts a long time.  Eventually, the trio makes up, but only after the insistence of their mutual friends.  Chiba-san’s and Shuu’s feelings continue to fester, causing some problems later on, but finally both get their own relationships with other people.


Finally, Shuu works up the courage to come to school in a girl’s uniform and is promptly sent home.  He stays home for a long time until finally building back up the courage to return, much to the enjoyment of several students who poke fun at him.  Eventually, the teasing dies down (mostly), but the desire to continue dressing as female keeps popping up in his life.  After graduating from middle school, Shuu gets a part-time job after school as a waitress, dressing the way he wants, but he still runs into people from his past that cause hardship for him.


Throughout the series, several times both Yoshino and Shuu express to themselves internally—and sometimes to each other and Chiba-san—that they really do want to be opposite genders.  Some of their friends are supportive, many of the classmates are not, and no one in either family seems to really understand; however, they keep pushing forward to become closer to what they desire and have a burning need to be: their true genders.


Personal Observations & Reactions


Perhaps this is due to my own personal experiences within transitional society, but the story of this manga is a very heartfelt and deeply thoughtful plot.  The characters feel real and have multiple levels of complexity to them—including a boy who I can only describe as a jerk turning out to be a somewhat endearing friend of one of the main characters.  I have limited, yet espoused, knowledge of several manga series, but this is the first one I’ve read that focused nearly completely on the transition of characters, and I found myself unable to put it down once I picked it up.


However, a major flaw I found within the story is that much of the time there was not great fallout from Shuu and Yoshino wanting to transition.  Sure, they were picked on, bullied, and pushed around by classmates and—in the case of Shuu’s sister—family, but nothing excessively dangerous or life-threatening like how many transpeople deal with in our society.  There are experiences in which people transition without having the horrific experiences—at least in terms of physical interaction—that we’ve all read about or seen on the news, but those same horrific experiences are what people think of when they make the connection of someone going through transition: “I wonder if they’ve ever been hurt,” is a comment that I’ve heard spoken several times by people, as though they expect for someone who has transitioned to have been through some personal, physical trauma.  While not everyone goes through such a physical interaction, nearly everyone I’ve personally known or read about who transitioned has had emotional scars accompanying them.


With that taken into consideration, though, I do believe that the story gave a very real and positive take on transpeople.  Not only did the manga explore the lives of Shuu and Yoshino and how they felt about their desire to transition, but it also looked at the experiences and feelings that their friends, family, and classmates had concerning the situation.  Some were supportive while others were downright hostile, and there were many who were just outright confused by the situation—a parable to real life if ever there was one.  Some of their friends fought over what they believed were right for Shuu and Yoshino, coming to blows with one another in verbal and physical fashion, but feelings as though they were trying to be supportive of their close friend for whom they’ve known for years.


The one thing above all else that stood out for me, however, is that there were obvious clues about the Shuu and Yoshino’s desires from the very beginning, yet their families pushed such clues to the side and never thought about them.  They liked to dress up in opposite gender clothing, and Shuu even modeled for an agency before he quit, almost always in female garb—and yet, his family never seemed to think it was wrong until he showed up to school in a girl’s uniform.  Was this just a case of the families wanting to pretend such a situation wasn’t happening due to possible disgraced honor, or was it just not a big deal to them?  If it wasn’t such a big deal, however, I would think that they would have given Shuu and Yoshino more support than just idle comments and observations; when someone comes out as trans—or several other things, for that matter—their family tends to be one of the hardest things to deal with, because of the close, emotional ties one has to family.


Final Thoughts


While this certainly isn’t my favorite manga, I quite enjoyed reading it due to the subject matter most.  Even though it is much more acceptable in present day for people to transition between genders, there is still a lot of prejudice and stigma associated with it, but not everyone really looks at the reasons why a person transitions.  Even those who are friends of a transitioning person, or say they are allies, can’t really know the situation a transitioning person really is going through, because they aren’t the ones experiencing it.  Hourou Musuko takes a look at the experiences, the thoughts, the feelings of two young people transitioning, but their situations are not universal, and should not be considered such.  While I don’t believe everyone would enjoy the series, I would recommend it for anyone who wants to read an honest, non-sensationalized telling of transitional students.

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 27 December 2018 17:06

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